Maslanka Weekly: Best of the Web – No. 100, More New Performances of Percussion Music

Maslanka Weekly highlights excellent performances of David Maslanka’s music from around the web. 

David Maslanka’s percussion works are well-known and performed throughout the world. In particular, his works for solo marimba and percussion ensemble have become staples in the concert repertoire.

This week, we feature three new outstanding performances of some of David’s works for percussion: Crown of Thorns, Hohner, and This is the World.

Crown of Thorns

From David’s Program Note:

The title Crown of Thorns is an obvious reference to Christ’s crown of thorns, but the name first came to me as a possible title for a piece from seeing a plant called “Crown of Thorns” at the New York Botanical Gardens. Crown of Thorns is a rambling, thorny desert plant from the Middle East, with small green leaves, and small, pretty red flowers. The rambling, interweaving, vine-like stems suggested music to me.

As I meditated on the words “Crown of Thorns”, and on the plant, and on the idea of a work for keyboard percussion ensemble, the following image arose:

a darkening sky
seven stars are visible:
the seven-starred halo
the golden light
the hands of blessing

The seven-starred halo is a transcended image of the crown of thorns. It is the crown of highest spiritual power arrived at through the greatest depth of suffering. The imagery is Christian, but the experience transcends religion, and is universal. The music is at times sober and reflective, but more often filled with a liberated energy and joy.

Watch below as the V.R. Eaton High School Percussion Ensemble gives a magnificent performance of this music.

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From David’s Program Note:

Bob Hohner was one of my closest friends and musical companions. He was one of the very few people I know who didn’t want a recording of music that he was to perform. It was his joy to discover musical sound. It was his insistent and persistent effort with Arcadia II: Concerto for Marimba and Percussion Ensemble that rescued this “failed” piece from oblivion, and started a long collaboration between us. I wrote Montana Music: Three Dances for Percussion for him, and then In Lonely Fields for Percussion and Orchestra. He recorded Arcadia IIMontana Music, and Crown of Thorns, and we were started on yet another composing project when he died. That project was to have been a “Symphony for Percussion.” I had a flash vision of a stage full of percussion, a large percussion orchestra – sections of marimbas and vibraphones – and lots of players, and I heard them playing a full-scale symphony.

The project came to a halt with Bob’s death, but I decided for his memorial piece that I would write at least one movement of this work, using all of the percussion forces available at the time at Central Michigan University. It is offered in memory of Bob, whose dedicated life as performer, teacher and friend touched, and continues to touch, many thousands of people.

Watch below as the Singapore Wind Symphony Percussion Ensemble gives a powerful rendering of this work.

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This is the World

From David’s Program Note:

This is the World is a set of largely interior tone poems for a two-piano, two-percussion ensemble. The music is spacious and patient, with simple rhythms, slow harmonies, expansive and touching melodies, and moments of ferocity, whimsy, and grandeur. Although old-time Chorale melodies play an important role in this music, the Nighthawks painting of Edward Hopper is foundational to the whole piece. This painting from 1942 touches something enduring about the American heart and experience, specifically an element of darkness, estrangement, and waiting which I wish to see brought forward and transformed in our time. We are at the cusp of enormous change.

Watch below as David Barco Hernández & Edgar Alan Portillo López (Piano) and Brian Fernando Flores Garcia & Eduardo Lozano Pino (Percussion) give a sensational performance of the entirety of this piece.

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We would love to hear from you! If you know of any outstanding performances of David Maslanka’s music on the web, please email us at