Maslanka Weekly: Best of the Web – No. 113, Amazing New Student Performances

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

When composer Garrett Hope asked David’s son, Matthew, about the accessibility of his father’s music, Matthew replied, “There’s this idea that Dad’s music is stupendously difficult. This is not without merit…but I feel like it is really important to let people know the music is able to be played. It is not as hard as you think it is.”

Every year, more and more young musicians and student ensembles are not only playing David’s music, but playing it with a maturity and a level of mastery that is virtually unprecedented. Here at Maslanka Weekly, we try to feature these performances as often as possible.

This week, we are excited to feature three amazing new student performances of David’s music: Give Us This Day, Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Wind Ensemble, and The Seeker.

Give Us This Day

From David Maslanka’s original Program Note:

The words “Give us this day” are, of course, from the Lord’s Prayer, but the inspiration for this music is Buddhist. I have recently read a book by the Vietnamese Bhuddist monk Thich Nhat Hahn (pronounced “Tick Nat Hahn”) entitled For a Future to be Possible. His premise is that a future for the planet is only possible if individuals become deeply mindful of themselves, deeply connected to who they really are. While this is not a new idea, and something that is an ongoing struggle for everyone, in my estimation it is the issue for world peace. For me, writing music, and working with people to perform music, are two of those points of deep mindfulness.

Music makes the connection to reality, and by reality I mean a true awakeness and awareness. Give Us This Day gives us this very moment of awakeness and awareness so that we can build a future in the face of a most dangerous and difficult time.

I chose the subtitle, “Short Symphony for Wind Ensemble,” because the music is not programmatic in nature. It has a full-blown symphonic character, even though there are only two movements. The music of the slower first movement is deeply searching, while that of the highly energized second movement is at times both joyful and sternly sober. The piece ends with a modal setting of the choral melody “Vater Unser in Himmelreich” (Our Father in Heaven) – No. 110 from the 371 four-part chorales by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Watch below as Felix Hauswirth leads the 2019 WYBF Wind Orchestra in a fantastic performance of this work.

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Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Wind Ensemble – I. Song: “Fire in the Earth”

From David’s Program Note:

This concerto turned out to be a good deal larger than I would reasonably want. As I got into the composing, the ideas became insistent: none of them would be left out! The format of Songs and Interludes arises from my other recent works for saxophones (Mountain Roads for saxophone quartet and Song Book for Alto Saxophone and Marimba) and suggests a music that is more intimate than symphonic. There is a strong spiritual overtone with quotes from Bach Chorales, and from my own works, Hell’s Gate and Mass. A story is hinted at which has the Crucifixion right smack in the middle – the climax of the third movement quotes the “Crucifixus” from the Mass. I don’t know what the story is, only that it wants to be music, and not words.

I. Song: “Fire in the Earth”

Walking through a Montana field on a brilliant late fall day, three images came in rapid succession: a distant row of red plant stems caught by the morning sun, snow on the surrounding high mountains, green grass at my feet. The following poetic image came:

Fire in the earth
Snow in the heavens
New green grass in the middle of November

This is a quiet, emotional music – sometimes not so quiet – contained by a very simple song form.

Watch below as Mitchell Flynn, Alto Saxophone plays Movement I. Song: “Fire in the Earth” from the Concerto.

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The Seeker

From David’s Program Note:

The Seeker is subtitled “a symphonic movement.” It opens with a slow melody that feels like an Appalachian folk song. It transitions suddenly and sharply into the main body of the work, an energetic and exuberant romp at a very speedy tempo. The opening melody returns in the context of a chorale, my recomposition of “Christe, der du bist der Tag und Licht” (Christ, you who are day and light) from the 371 Four-Part Chorales of Bach. The movement concludes with a partial recap of the fast music, and a very brief coda.

Watch below as the Justice High School Wind Ensemble gives a terrific performance of this music.

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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