Maslanka Weekly: Best of the Web – No. 97, Playing in Quarantine

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

We are living in a very interesting time. Virtually all the concerts and recitals planned for the spring of this year have been postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19. While we are not physically able to gather together to make music with one another, we are able to utilize technology to accomplish amazing things.

Many musicians have used this time of “social distancing” to come up with creative ways of performing music. This week, we feature three amazing examples of how talented musicians have used technology to play David’s music and make it available on the internet for us to enjoy.

Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano

From David’s Program Note:

The Sonata was commissioned by the North American Saxophone alliance for its 1989 convention. It is in three large movements. The first is lyrical and reflective, with sudden energetic bursts. The song-like and soulful second movement is a broad soliloquy with its roots in the expressive madrigal style of the sixteenth century. The third is a large rondo that is at times fierce, mournful, playful, and turbulent, and at the end, ethereal.

Watch below as Carolyn Braus, Alto Saxophone gives a brilliant virtual lecture recital in partial fulfillment of degree requirements for the Doctor of Music degree at the University of Maryland, College Park. What she does with technology will astound you! Thank you also to Jessica McKee, Piano.

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Recitation Book – IV. Meditation on the Gregorian Chant O Salutaris Hostia (O Salvation’s Victim)

I have loved Italian madrigals since my student days. Recitation Book for saxophone quartet feels something like a madrigal collection, but with a grand finale. My approach to composing is vocal, and the singing quality of saxophones is one of their fine strengths. The movements in this piece are relatively brief and intimate songs.

Much of my recent music draws its inspiration from the distant past. An old melody pushes open a door in my mind and a parallel world or dream makes its way out. Each piece in this set found its inspiration in that way.

The title, “Recitation Book,” implies a set of lessons. I don’t want to say explicitly what each “lesson” means, but the titles of the pieces circle around the theme of death, which for me implies the passing of the old, and the coming of the new.

I have not only quoted a number of old melodies in Recitation Book, but two whole brief pieces as well. This first is J.S. Bach’s four-part chorale Jesu, meine Freude, and the second is an arrangement for the four saxophones of the five-voiced madrigal Ecco, morirò dunque by Gesualdo di Venosa.

My acquaintance with the Masato Kumoi Saxophone Quartet began several years ago when I received a CD in the mail. When recordings come unbidden I am generally prepared for something less than I want to hear. But this rendition of Mountain Roads (my first composition for saxophone quartet) was the finest performance of the piece that I had ever heard. Since then the Kumoi Quartet has performed the piece many times, and they have promoted it widely among players in Japan. In 2004, Masato Kumoi commissioned me to write another quartet especially for his group.

Watch below as Amy Green, Soprano Saxophone and Stephen Shepherd, Tenor Saxophone perform the Soprano/Tenor duet from Movement IV – Meditation on the Gregorian Chant O Salutaris Hostia (O Salvation’s Victim). This couple has uploaded a duet to YouTube every working day from the beginning of UK’s COVID-19 Lockdown. 

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Quintet for Winds No. 4

The last of David’s four works for wind quintet, this quintet is in three movements: I. “Slow,” II. “A Lullaby, Inward and Hesitant,” and III. “Very Fast.” Premiered in 2008 by the Florida Wind Quintet, this relatively unknown work is a jewel in the wind quintet repertoire featuring David at the height of his compositional mastery.

Watch below as David Cook gives a transcribed performance of Movement II on members of the clarinet family.

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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