David Maslanka lives in western Montana and has devoted his life entirely to composing. He is responsible for nearly 30 works for wind ensemble – more likely to get performed than works for symphony orchestra. His latest symphony is his seventh. Strong melody is an important part of his style, and he has a particularly strong attraction to Bach chorales.
The Child’s Garden is not exactly music for children; it has some very loud and forceful sections. Its inspiration is actually the writings of Carl Jung – specifically the troubling and symbolic dreams of an eight-year-old girl. In Memoriam puts a Bach chorale thru many different variations.
Maslanka’s Fourth Symphony uses a very large band – including piano, organ and an expanded percussion department – and his skilled writing makes the listener forget there are no strings at all involved in the mix. He sought to depict the rugged open spaces of western Montana and central Idaho. Two Bach chorales are used, but the main thematic element tying the symphony together is the Doxology -“Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow.” He selected it both for its major role in Christian heritage as well as its historical use during the funeral journey across the country of Abraham Lincoln’s body. The familiar theme is transformed into many guises, including a fanfare, lyrical sections, a humoresque and even jazzy passage.
The half-hour work is in one continuous movement and the final portion is a powerful peroration of brass and percussion that is overpowering in effect. Keith O. Johnson’s engineering is equal to the task, and I found this standard disc just about as transparent, wide range and hi-res as most stereo SACDs. It’s good to have Reference Recordings back in earnest and making such a strong statement with this release for both accessible new music and the finest audiophile engineering!
– John Sunier