Maslanka Weekly: Best of the Web – No. 99, Even More New Performances of Chamber Music

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

With ten symphonies, sixteen concertos, and many large works for wind ensemble, most people are unaware that David Maslanka wrote over sixty pieces of chamber music. Much of this music is well-known and played throughout the world.

This week, we feature three new performances of chamber works: Quintet for Winds No. 3, Song Book for Alto Saxophone and Marimba, and Sonata for Bassoon and Piano.

Quintet for Winds No. 3 – III. Very Fast

From David’s Program Note:

In recent years I have developed an abiding interest in the Bach Chorales, singing and playing them daily as warm-up for my composing time, and making my own four-part settings in the old style. The chorales now regularly find their way into my music, and have become a significant “leaping off” point for me.

The first movement of Quintet No. 3 opens with the chorale “Ihr Gestim ihr hohlen Lufte” (“Your stars, your cavernous sky.”) The movement is a “continuous play” kind of piece. After the chorale there is a sharply contrasting first theme, which works its way over time into a second theme, and this becomes the subject of a short and very pushy set of variations. There is a restatement of the first theme, and the movement ends with a blunt presentation of a new chorale: “Christe, der du bist Tag und Licht” (Christ, you are day and light.”)

In the second movement, the chorale “Ermuntre dich, mein schwacher Geist” (“Take courage, my weak spirit”) serves as a backdrop for an impassioned flute soliloquy. This is an intimate and personal music. The movement closes with a simple and uninterrupted statement of the chorale.

The third movement is exceptionally demanding for the performers because of its speed and length. It is something of a sonata form. However, the second theme, which sounds like a chorale melody, becomes the subject of a set of variations. The movement finishes with a partial recapitulation and an extended coda.

Watch below as Fifth Inversion give a marvelous performance of Movement III.

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Songbook for Alto Saxophone and Marimba – IV. Serious Music – In Memoriam Arthur Cohn

From David’s Program Note:

Song Book was commissioned by Steven Jordheim and Dane Richeson of the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music, and was composed in the summer of 1998.

The Bach four-part chorales have become a central part of my music study. Playing and singing a few of them each day has become my way of making the transition into composing time. I sing the soprano, alto, tenor, and bass successively while playing all the parts at the keyboard. At this writing I am on my ninth pass through the collection. Which each pass I am drawn deeper into the relationship of line to line – how one borrowed melody (the chorale tune) generates three other beautiful melodies in the same space, and how all parts together generate a pattern of harmonic movement. I am fascinated by the process of the pieces and they have become a strong influence on my composing. 

Three chorale melodies appear in Song Book. I have taken them quite out of their liturgical context. Their titles inspire an emotional response in me, and out of this comes a music that expands on the original tune. My feeling for quotation is twofold. First, when a pre-existing melody comes to mind or hand while I am writing a new piece, it is a suggestion that the tune has something more to say, and that it will unfold differently in the new context. Secondly it allows for the process of “going underneath” the old tune to find something quite different and new. I let this happen because it seems that deeper connections are trying to work themselves out over many years and across many pieces. Folk and jazz artists do this as standard procedure.

Watch below as Adam Pelandini (Alto Saxophone) and Erin Cone (Marimba) give a beautiful performance of this music.

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Sonata for Bassoon and Piano

From David’s Program Note:

Sonata for Bassoon and Piano is in four movements. The first two are organized as a recitative and aria. The third follows the same pattern but contains both elements in the single movement. The finale is an energetic romp that gives a nod to two of my favorite composers: Poulenc and Shostakovich. The music is lighthearted and fun, but with a fierce edge.

Watch below as Conor Bell (Bassoon) and Minjung Seo (Piano) give a superior performance of the entire work.

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