DAVID MASLANKA: Symphony No. 9 – Illinois State University Wind Sym./ Stephen E. Steele – Albany TROY1360, 74:50 *****:
You may or may not be familiar with David Maslanka’s compositions. He has written extensively for wind ensemble, including six symphonies, a mass, 12 concertos and various concert pieces. He has also composed chamber, orchestral and choral pieces.
This Symphony No. 9 is the first piece I have heard by him, and what an extraordinary creation he has here. The symphony’s best description is by Maslanka who is quoted in the accompanying booklet,”Symphony No. 9 is a large collection of instrumental songs. There are many influences and underlying elements, but most of them cannot be explained in words. Rather than try, I will simply list some of the things at work: Time…Water…Nature…Grace.”
The symphony opens with a reading by John Koch of W.S. Merwin’s poem, “Secrets.” There are movements consisting of one or more chorale melodies (from the 371 Four-part Chorales by J.S. Bach) or other songs.
- Shall We Gather at the River – I Thank You God for All Your Good Works
- Now All Lies under Thee
- Fantasia on I Thank You God…
- Fantasia on O Sacred Head Now Wounded
Using tonal music, Maslanka has taken familiar tunes and worked extensively with them, not unlike what Charles Ives did with his incorporation of New England patriotic melodies in some of his works.
The huge wind symphony is impressive in its own right (nearly 70 wind players), with a palette of vast proportions. The dynamic range of the recording is large and clear and packs quite an impact when the full orchestra is at play. You don’t have to be a lover of wind instruments to enjoy this disc. It is a showpiece first class.
Maslanka’s background is impressive. David Maslanka was born in 1943 in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He currently lives and composes in Missoula, Montana. His education includes Oberlin College, the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, and Michigan State University. He has been on the faculties of the State University of New York (Genesco), Sara Lawrence College, New York University and Kingsborough College of the City University of New York.
There is no question that this is recommended for sound system demonstrations and for those who enjoy modern classical music that has recognizable melodies.