Maslanka Weekly highlights excellent performances of David Maslanka’s music from around the web.
The music of David Maslanka runs the gamut of emotion. From walking on exalted mountains to swimming in the depths of despair, David’s music tells of the human condition. However bleak his music may sometimes seem, there is always the sense that hope is never fully lost. In fact, there are many times his music breaks off into “Shouts of Praise” and we are left dancing and shouting out our own hymns of gratitude.
This week, we feature performances of three works that give Shouts of Praise: Hosannas, “Overture” from Mountain Roads, and Morning Star.
From David’s Program Note:
Hosanna – a shout of praise.
The psychologist Carl Jung has described the first half of life as devoted to the establishment of self and of place in the world, and the second half as the journey towards God. Once past the age of 70, which Gary and I both are, this focus becomes intent. With it comes an attitude of surprise, acceptance and praise – the shout of praise – for all that is. Everything is divine, and it is our clear, sharp intention to bring this understanding to the generations coming up behind us. It is my pleasure and honor to offer this music to my friend, Gary Green, as he moves onward in his music making, teaching, and mentoring – his service to the world.
This music shows once again my long-time engagement with J.S. Bach’s 371 Four-Part Chorales. I have been singing these pieces almost daily for nearly 25 years, and composing my own chorales in the old style. The practice has become an ever deepening meditative prayer. The melodies and titles are certainly Christian in origin, yet I have come to see and feel them as a deep expression of a common humanity, transcending origin and label. Their attitudes in this composition are centered and quiet, opening the space for self reflection and the voice of praise.
Chorale melodies are the basis for the first, third, and fifth movements:
You are three in one
O Sacred Head now wounded
Jesus, You, who have rescued my soul
The final movement of Hosannas is a transcription of my 1988 composition A Litany for Courage and the Seasons. The original was for SATB chorus, clarinet, and vibraphone. The poem is by my long-time friend, Richard Beale.
Watch below as Gary Green leads Tony Boutte (Tenor) and The University of Miami Frost Wind Ensemble in the premiere performance of this work from April 26th, 2015.
Mountain Roads – I. Overture
From David’s Program Note:
The music of Mountain Roads is a very personal statement. I feel very deeply about every bit of it. The musical plan of it follows the model a Baroque cantata, and style and content reflect my years of study of the Bach chorales, and of Bach in general. Obviously there are no words in my “cantata” but the music revolves entirely around two chorale melodies. The main one is “Alle menschen mussen sterben” (All men must die) and the second is “Wo soll ich fliehen?” (Where shall I run to?)
Movements I, III, IV, V, and VI are all a large evolutionary process on “Alle menschen mussen sterben.” “Wo soll ich fliehen” appears in part in the first movement, and is given it’s full exposition in Movement II. The actual melody of “Alle menschen mussen sterben” does not appear until the four variations of the chorale that end the sixth movement.
The title Mountain Roads comes from a dream that I had while writing this piece. In it I was part of a work crew making new roads in high mountain country. It was springtime, the weather was clear, sunny and comfortable, although there was still snow on the ground. The effect of the place was exhilarating as only mountain wilderness can be. It seemed to me that the dream was a beautiful metaphor for new life and new spiritual opening.
The paradox embodied in this exuberant and uplifting music lies in the title of the main chorale “All men must die,” and further reinforced by the second chorale “Where shall I run to?” The first title suggests the inevitability of death, but is neither morbid nor about mass destruction. The idea of death is not so much about final end as about change. The process of growth is constantly about “dying” to one way of thinking or feeling, and opening to another. After all is said and done, there is the fact of physical death. The awareness of that fact points up our deep attachment to all the forms of this life. It makes experience of all things both deeply sweet and deeply sad. It also suggests the inevitable release of all the forms that we know, and the movement toward whatever exists beyond form.
Watch below as the Xenon Saxophone Quartet gives a terrific performance of Movement I, “Overture.”
From David’s Program Note:
Morning Star was commissioned by the Grand Ledge (Michigan) High School Wind Symphony, Michael Kaufman, conductor, and premiered by them in May of 1997. Mike asked me to write a piece for the inauguration of the new concert hall being built at Grand Ledge High. Well, the hall wasn’t finished, and the piece was premiered in the old gym – the gymnauseum as it was called – and we had a good time anyway.
Morning Star was a surprise to me. In planning for the piece I came up with a great many ideas – enough for three or four pieces. When it came time to compose the piece I suddenly discorded all of that material and went with a little tune that came to mind. The result is a happy piece, a concept which does not usually attach itself to my music.
Morning Star is about beginnings: the dawning of a new day, the opening of a new hall, the beginning of adult life for the young people who premiered the piece, and for those who are playing it now.
Watch below as the Stevenson High School Honor Band gives a rousing performance of this music.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.