Maslanka Weekly: Best of the Web – No. 52, Premiers

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

Premiers are some of the most exciting moments in the concert hall. Anticipation is in the air. A new work is about to be born; a new creation is about to come into life. We become witnesses to history!

This week, we feature recordings and/or videos of three of David’s premiers: Saint Francis, Symphony No. 2, and Hurtling Through Space at an Unimaginable Speed. Were you fortunate enough to witness a premier performances of one of David’s works? Were you lucky enough to actually have the honor of premiering his music?

Saint Francis

From David’s Program Note:

In 800 years, all the actual details of the life of St. Francis have faded to white, and there has emerged St. Francis the icon of childlike gentleness, the little flower, the one who talks to the birds and the animals, who has a brother sun and a sister moon. However, under this benign and smiling image lies the true nature: the fierce and unshakable determination to imitate the way and being of Christ as closely as possible: radical poverty, physical abasement, following the vision of the Holy Mother, complete dependence on the perceived will of God – to the extent that the stigmata of Christ appeared spontaneously on his body, and he was said to have ascended into the air while praying.

Why St. Francis as the subject of this piece of music?

Some years ago I had a dream of St. Francis. It began with me being in the presence of a metal object that looked vaguely human in form, but was thousands of degrees hot. Touching it would be fatal … I touched it! It changed into the figure of St. Francis dressed as a Chinese peasant. Holding his hands on either side were an African and an Asian child. For me this was an indication for my life path of opening the lives of young people through music. Larry Gookin has had a long-time fascination with St. Francis, and he and Karen have visited Assisi and communed with that spirit. The heated compassion of St. Francis is mirrored in Larry’s lifelong devotion to the movement of young lives through music. This new piece is a tribute to Larry’s devotion. It is both a summation and an open door to the future.

Watch below as Larry Gookin leads the Central Washington University Wind Ensemble in a moving premiere of this music from July 7, 2015.

I. Quite Slow


II. Flowing

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Symphony No. 2

From David’s Program Note:

Symphony No. 2 was commissioned by the Big Ten Band Directors Association in 1983. I was asked to write a major work for full band. The Symphony was given its premiere at the 1987 CBDNA Convention in Evanston, Illinois. The performing group was the combined Symphonic Band and Symphonic Wind Ensemble of Northwestern University under the direction of John P. Paynter.

The first movement is in sonata form. It travels with gathering force to a climax area halfway through, and then dissolves suddenly into a heated fantasia. A very simple restatement of the opening theme and a brief coda finish the movement. This music is deeply personal for me, dealing with issues of loss, resignation, and acceptance.

The second movement opens with an arrangement of “Deep River,” a traditional African-American melody. The words of the song read in part: “Deep River, my home is over Jordan. Deep River, Lord, I want to cross over to camp ground.” The composition of this movement involved for me two meaningful coincidences. The body of the movement was completed, and then I came across Deep River while working on another project. The song and my composition fit as if made for each other, so I brought the song into the Symphony. The last notes were put onto the score of this movement almost to the hour of the space shuttle Challenger disaster. The power of these coincidences was such that I have dedicated this music to the memory of the astronauts who lost their lives: Francis R. Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Judith A. Resnick, Ellison S. Onizuka, Gregory B. Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe.

The finale of this Symphony is once again in sonata form. There are three broad theme areas occupying more than a third of the movement, a development based primarily on themes one and three, a recapitulation (minus the third theme area), and a brief coda. The underlying impulse of this movement is an exuberant, insistent outpouring of energy, demanding a high level of playing precision and physical endurance from the performers.

Watch below as John P. Paynter leads the combined Symphonic Band and Symphonic Wind Ensemble of Northwestern University in a magnificent premiere of this symphony from February 28, 1987.

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Hurtling Through Space at an Unimaginable Speed

From David’s Program Note:

The impetus for this piece was a cartoon that I doodled some few years ago at a concert: “Hurtling through space at an unimaginable speed” – which is what we are doing on planet Earth.

Considered abstractly this is a terrifying idea. Who knows where we are going, what we might hit, what might hit us? Earth and its life are the tiniest of tiny specks in a universe of billions of galaxies. What we don’t know about all this dwarfs into the ridiculous what we do know. It “smalls” us!

On the other hand, we are not separate from the universe. Our living minds and bodies are a manifestation of the same life force that brings us the sun, the moon, the planets, the stars, and the weirdness of the idea of time. It is not inimical to us. At the core of the core of the core of the all-that-is, is the heart of love.

Watch below as the Youth Performing Arts School Percussion Ensemble gives the premiere of this music from early 2012.

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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