DAVID MASLANKA (1943-2017): Symphony No. 10 “The River of Time”, First Light, The Seeker.
Catalogue Number: 11U063
Label: Mark Records
Description: Maslanka's deeply moving 10th Symphony was his swan song; he did not, in fact, live to complete it. As a major symphonist - and unquestionably one of the pre-eminent wind orchestra composers of our time - Maslanka could have made this the crowning achievement of his career, having, as he was all too aware (vide his 2017 note in the booklet) gotten past the "9th Symphony curse" and having formulated a beautiful, visionary programme for his 10th (ibid). Alas, it was not to be; in 2017 he suffered the devastating loss of his wife to illness, followed by the rapid progression of the cancer that killed him a month later. He entrusted the completion of the symphony to his composer son, Matthew, and the composite work that emerged is arguably all the more powerful for its internal dialogue between two composers, as spiritually linked as is possible, both using the same music to deal with immeasurable loss. The first movement was complete, and combines the most tender of love songs to Maslanka's wife, Alison, for whom he titled the movement, punctuated by monumental pillars of despair and anger. The second movement, half-completed, half in short score, contains much material from the euphonium sonata that Maslanka wrote for his son; this movement was titled "Mother and Boy Watching the River of Time" by Maslanka fils, after a late pencil drawing of his father's. The movement has episodes of spiritual calm and grandeur, and like the first movement it sounds thoroughly Maslankan. The third movement was the least complete, but existed as sketches. It was clearly intended to be the heart of the work, but seems to have given the elder Maslanka some trouble, as it did his son, who freely admits in his extensive and revealing essay on the task of realising his father's sketches that it '... is not what dad would have written; rather, it is a synthesis of his mind and mine, colored by extraordinary pain and loss." It is audibly not what Maslanka père would have written, but it is emotionally wrenching and almost unbearably moving, and honours the elder Maslanka through its use of his themes, treated in chorale fashion; his powerful propulsive momentum, and close, though not slavish, adherence to his overall harmonic language and sumptuous orchestration. The finale, sketched in full, makes use of a Bach chorale, which is presented and extended in simple textures and extended melodic lines, leading to a final gentle farewell. The shorter works, from the previous year, are typical Maslanka in every way; a contrast of darkness and light, and a view of the spiritual quest in Buddhist terms, combining solemnity with mischievous, down-to-earth humor. University of Utah Wind Ensemble; Scott Hagen.