Maslanka Weekly: Best of the Web – No. 105, Amazing Performances from China

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

David’s music for winds is especially well known. Among his more than 150 works are over 50 pieces for wind ensemble, including eight symphonies, seventeen concertos, a Mass, and many concert pieces. His chamber music includes four wind quintets, five saxophone quartets, and many works for solo instrument and piano. In addition, he has written a variety of orchestral and choral pieces.

This week, we feature three amazing performances from China: Alex and the Phantom Band, Tone Studies, and Mother Earth.

Alex and the Phantom Band

Like Benjamin Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the OrchestraAlex and the Phantom Band was written as a young listener’s introduction to the instruments of the band. Maslanka explained that “Alex, in search of a flute to give his father for a birthday present, is swept off into a musical dream world where he finds a shabby old theater, the home of ‘His Majesty’s Royal Band.’ Alex climbs to the conductor’s podium and sees the glittering instruments spread before him – living instruments, but no players! He picks up the baton and points. Each instrument and section responds with its characteristic sounds. Overwhelmed, Alex faints away…to come awake in his own bed, and in his pajama pocket an ancient mahogany flute for his father’s birthday. Alex is an engaging and satisfying musical adventure for the young of all ages.” It is noteworthy that the narrator’s text to Alex and the Phantom Band was adapted from the story The Thirteenth Hour by Kathryn Maslanka, David’s daughter.

Watch below as Adrian Schneider leads the Dunshan Symphonic Wind Orchestra in an enchanting performance of this music. The text is read in Mandarin.

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Tone Studies

According to David, “Tone Studies is a set of six pieces which are for the most part slow and quiet. There is no really fast music in the whole piece, and only two fortissimo passages. I chose the title Tone Studies because each movement, and in fact each moment, offers a large number of choices about quality of sound, choices that will evolve with deepening study. The key to successful performance for both pianist and saxophonist is patience – patience with tempi, patience with fermatas, patient and careful listening into tones produced by each instrument and by the two together. It is very easy to play without deep listening. This music asks and requires that you listen deeply. When you do, a special settled heart energy arises through the performance.”

Watch below as Li-Fong Chen (Alto Saxophone) and Jenny Lin (Piano) give a beautiful rendition of this piece.

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Mother Earth

From David’s Program Note:

Mother Earth was composed for the South Dearborn High School Band of Aurora, Indiana, Brian Silvey, conductor. The commission was for a three-minute fanfare piece. Each piece takes on a reason for being all its own, and Mother Earth is no exception. It became an urgent message from Our Mother to treat her more kindly! My reading at the time of writing this music was For a Future to be Possible by the Vietnamese monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh. He believes that the only way forward is to be extremely alive and aware in our present moment, to become awake to the needs of our beloved planet, and to respond to it as a living entity. Music making allows us to come immediately awake. It is an instant connection to the powerful wellspring of our creativity, and opens our minds to the solution of any number of problems, including that of our damaged environment. My little piece does not solve the problem! But it is a living call to the wide-awake life, and it continues to be performed by young people around the world.

Watch below as Lio Kuok Man leads the Macau Wind Symphony in a spectacular rendition of this work.

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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