February 2007

Maslanka - A Child’s Garden of Dreams; In memoriam; Symphony No. 4
Dallas Wind Symphony, Jerry Junkin cond.
Reference Recordings RR-108
Format: CD
Released: 2006

by Richard Freed

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

While one wants to avoid cliché, the fact is that David Maslanka’s music has been a secret too well kept from most mainstream concert-goers. It is certainly well known among musicians, though, and especially admired by the grateful ones who make up our bands and symphonic wind ensembles. Maslanka understands the character of this medium down to the ground; his writing for it is truly symphonic, always substantial and filled with original thought.

The inspiration for the expansive five-movement Child’s Garden of Dreams was found not in the poems of Robert Louis Stevenson but in a case study in Carl Jung’s Man and His Symbols. The work, introduced in 1981, was so well received that Maslanka followed up with a "Book 2" for full orchestra eight years later. Both of the other works here make prominent use of Bach chorales (a favored stimulus for Maslanka) -- one in the 1989 In memoriam, and two in the single-movement Symphony No. 4, the composer’s response, in 1994, to portions of Carl Sandburg’s Lincoln biography, citing also the "Old Hundredth." All three of these meaty works were commissioned by or for university-based wind ensembles -- an impressive demonstration of how productive a factor this performing resource has become in the musical life of our time.

Jerry Junkin and his troops must have made the composer very happy with these stunning performances, and this elegantly presented disc, sustaining Reference Recordings’ fabulous standards for both sonic splendor and all-round elegant presentation, is sure to register as a happy discovery for listeners to whom the material is new.