Maslanka Weekly: Best of the Web – No. 7, Tribute

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

Exactly one year ago today, the world lost David Maslanka to a short battle with colon cancer. His wife, Alison Matthews, died only a month earlier from kidney failure. This week, we pay special tribute to David and Alison as we remember them through David’s music.

Symphony No. 4

With the prolific output of David Maslanka, it is dangerous to select one work to honor his life and memory. Each piece he ever wrote received equal thought, meditation, and devotion. But with hundreds and hundreds of performances across all parts of the earth, Symphony No. 4 has resounded with hundreds of thousands – perhaps even millions – of listeners. According to the composer, “The central driving force (of the music) is the spontaneous rise of the impulse to shout for the joy of life. I feel it is the powerful voice of the Earth that comes to me from my adopted western Montana, and the high plains and mountains of central Idaho. My personal experience of the voice is one of being helpless and torn open by the power of the thing that wants to be expressed – the welling-up shout that cannot be denied. I am set aquiver and am forced to shout and sing. The response in the voice of the Earth is the answering shout of thanksgiving, and the shout of praise.” Watch below as Jerry Junkin and The University of Texas Wind Ensemble give an emotional rendering of this symphony.

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Song Book for Alto Saxophone and Marimba, Movement VI, “Song for Alison”

We honor the life and memory of Alison Matthews with Song Book for Alto Saxophone and Marimba, Movement VI, “Song for Alison.” Alison Matthews was David’s wife, companion, and “rock.” Maslanka said “she has been a grounding influence on me for many years. She is not a musician, but has, through her kindness, steadiness, and love, provided a safe haven for my flights of fancy.” 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. Watch below and proceed to 12:50 as Nathan Nabb and Brad Meyer give a stunning rendition of this music.

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Symphony No. 10: The River of Time

David Maslanka passed away while writing Symphony No. 10. At his request, David’s son Matthew completed the composition based on his father’s sketches. Below are excerpts from Matthew’s own account of this process:

“At the time of his death, my father had fully completed the first movement and half of the second. The remainder of the second movement and the whole of the fourth movement were sketched out. The third movement (‘the hard node’) had an opening sketched, but the rest was in fragments. Dad asked me to finish the work if he were unable to complete it. I drew on my long experience working with dad and his music to first understand the sketches and then to piece them together.

Dad titled the completed first movement after his wife and my mother: ‘Alison.’ He was writing as my mother was dying of an immune disorder in the spring of 2017. This movement may be seen through that lens, with bitter rage at the coming loss and a beautiful song full of love.

I have named the subsequent movements. The second movement’s title, ‘Mother and Boy Watching the River of Time,’ comes from my father’s final pencil sketch of the same name. It depicts two small figures sitting on a river bank in front of a forest and mountain foothills. The music is largely a transcription of the second movement of the euphonium sonata he wrote for me, Song Lines

The third movement posed a special challenge. The movement was both at the emotional center of the symphony and the least finished. One tune, marked ‘The Song at the Heart of it All’ in the sketch, became the heart of the work and of the symphony. The full statement of the theme may be found at bar 174, with a quiet restatement in the solo euphonium at bar 217. It is a pure expression of love: my love for my father, his love for me, my mother, sister, and brother, and by extension, love for humanity. The restatement of the opening material, though at first comforting, becomes jarring and unsettled, rising to a dissonant roar. The euphonium soloist is left to scream, ‘why?!’ at a world that seems content to keep spinning.

The third movement became my response to the deaths of my mother and father. It is not what dad would have written; rather, it is a synthesis of my mind and his, colored by extraordinary pain and loss. I have named the movement after my father.

The fourth movement, ‘One Breath in Peace,’ is the acceptance and ability to move forward after loss. The long solo lines for oboe reflect and extend the bookending chorale, ‘Jesu, der du meine Seele.’ Dad’s customary morning practice was to play one chorale from the Bach 371 Chorales. He would sing each line as he played along on the piano. In this way, he came to deeply understand these miniature jewels of western music. I have closed the symphony with the last statement of the chorale, with the pianist singing the tenor line. I hope you will hear his voice in it.”

Watch below as Scott Hagen and the University of Utah Wind Ensemble give a heartwarming premiere of this incredible music. The euphonium soloist is Matthew Maslanka.

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We are pleased to announce that the studio recording of Symphony No. 10 is available for pre-order NOW from Mark Custom Records. The street date for the physical and digital album is Sept. 21 but physical pre-orders will ship Sept. 1. The record will hit streaming services in April 2020.

The Music of David Maslanka, Vol. 4: Symphony No. 10 also includes excellent performances of First Light and The Seeker. The album is the result of three days of intense recording sessions with Scott Hagen and the University of Utah Wind Ensemble, with engineering by Mark Morette (Mark Custom) and editing/mastering by David St. Onge (DMS Productions).

We are very proud of this project and can’t wait for you to hear it. Click on the album below or right here to order it directly from Mark Custom.

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