Maslanka Weekly: Best of the Web – No. 10, The Saxophone Ensemble & The Wind Ensemble

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

With fourteen compositions featuring the saxophone or saxophone quartet, David Maslanka was one of the foremost composers of classical saxophone music in our day. His saxophone pieces are well-known and performed around the world. Many know about his Saxophone Sonata and Saxophone Concerto. Many are also familiar with his works for saxophone quartet. But did you know that David loved to feature saxophone ensembles with or within the wind ensemble? This week, we feature stellar performances of three such pieces: Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Wind Ensemble, Hell’s Gate, and Movement II from Symphony No. 2.

Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Wind Ensemble

Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Wind Ensemble is in three movements, with a duration of approximately 33 minutes. It is for a one-on-a-part ensemble of 24 winds and brass, plus double bass, piano, timpani, and four percussionists. According to Maslanka, “The first two movements are somewhat parallel in nature. Both have a ‘seeker’ quality, starting and ending very intimately, but discovering an issue of great emotional and spiritual intensity. The third movement begins in the same mode, but quickly reveals itself to be an energetic dance movement with patterning and melodic unfolding reminiscent of the Baroque. This movement is engagingly good natured and by the end, turns jolly, mysterious, fierce, and triumphant.” Watch below as Glenn Price leads the Oasis Saxophone Quartet and the University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music Wind Symphony in a gripping performance of this music.

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Hell’s Gate

Hell’s Gate was written for solo saxophone trio (alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, & baritone saxophone) and wind ensemble. Maslanka says, “The piece is something of a soul journey, the soul being represented by the trio of solo saxophones, and especially the solo alto saxophone. The soul is plunged willy-nilly into the fierce struggle of life. It survives, and responds with a deeply mournful and upwardly struggling and yearning attitude. With this attitude come first visions of the religious nature of the human being, and first hints of wholeness. Life overtakes, and the struggle is joined in earnest. The soul is driven to the extremes of its ability to endure, until in the middle of this there is a memory of the early vision of wholeness. The soul responds in agony, and then bursts into full and passionate awareness of its own nature. Reconciled to its connection, the soul opens to the full power of its earthly life.” Watch below as Gary Hill leads members of the Zzyzx Saxophone Quartet and the Arizona State University Wind Ensemble in a thrilling performance of this work.

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Symphony No. 2, Movement II

The second movement of Symphony No. 2 features a saxophone quintet (soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, & bass saxophone) playing alone and then with sparse accompaniment. According to Maslanka, “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.’ (When) the body of the movement was completed, 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.” Watch below and proceed to 10:20 as Kevin Michael Holzman leads The Eastman Wind Ensemble in a beautiful rendition of this music.

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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