Maslanka Weekly: Best of the Web – No. 2, The Piano

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

Because the piano was the main instrument David Maslanka played in his career as a composer, it is no surprise that the instrument finds its way into many of his works. We begin our second week of this series featuring compositions in which Maslanka featured the piano as a solo instrument.


Concerto No. 3 is in one large movement and features a setting of the Bach Chorale melody, Als vierzig Tag’ nach Ostern (Forty Days After Easter). David said “Some years ago I used this melody as the basis for a movement of another piece, This is the World, for two pianos and two percussionists. The essence of the movement is solo piano with vibraphone. It is an extremely inward and beautiful movement. I gave it the title, ‘Do You Know My Name?,’ the implication being, ‘do you truly know who I am; do you see my soul?’” Watch below as Matthew Westgate leads Nadine Shank (Piano) and the University of Massachusetts Amherst Wind Ensemble in an outstanding performance of Concerto No. 3 from December 6, 2017.

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Beloved is the last of the few pieces Maslanka wrote exclusively for the piano. He said, (The music) feels both personal and larger than personal. It has the quality of one side of a conversation – what you have to say to your beloved, especially one departed. Watch below as Nicholas Phillips gives a stunning performance of Beloved from February 9, 2014.

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Like the Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Song Book for Flute, Concerto No. 2 is in five movements with each movement being song-like and having a programmatic backdrop. Movement 5, “Groucho’s Dance,” comes from a story Maslanka read in the Sarah Lawrence Magazine in which Groucho Marx visits the town in Germany where his mother had been born, and instead of getting to visit his mother’s grave, takes a taxi to Berlin and dances the Charleston on Adolf Hitler’s grave. According to Maslanka, “When I read this story, I was electrified. To me, this single gesture is a defining moment in the twentieth century, and in what it means to be fully human.” On the music itself Maslanka said, “(It is) a free-wheeling romp. It is fast and energetic, with a bit of a biting and sarcastic edge.” Watch below as Tobias Mahl leads Uschi Reifenberg and the Sinfonisches Blasorchester Mannheim in a stirring rendition of this music from January 13, 2018.

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