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ClassicsOnline Home » SLEEPER: Trumpet Concerto / MASLANKA: Symphony No. 3
Thomas Sleeper enjoys a dual career as composer and conductor. His music has been described as ‘hauntingly mysterious’ and ‘richly lyrical’, and includes three operas, four concertos, an orchestral suite and three orchestral song cycles. Sleeper’s Trumpet Concerto was written for conductor Gary Green and soloist Craig Morris, who perform it here. David Maslanka has written a wide variety of chamber, orchestral and choral pieces, but it is his works for winds and percussion for which he is particularly well known. Of his Symphony No. 3 the composer has written, ‘The impetus for this piece was in part my leaving university life and moving from New York City to the Rocky Mountains of Western Montana... Animal and Indian spirits still echo strongly in this land, and these elements have found their way into my music.’
Thomas Sleeper (b. 1956): Trumpet Concerto
David Maslanka (b. 1943): Symphony No. 3
Thomas Sleeper: Trumpet Concerto
Thomas Sleeper enjoys an active dual career as composer and conductor. His early musical training with Daryl F. Rauscher of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra has influenced the "charged lyricism" and "singing" qualities found in his music today. Sleeper began his professional career as a member of Fermata, a group of composer / performers who presented an annual series of interdisciplinary concerts throughout the state of Texas. At the age of 22 he was appointed Associate Conductor of the Dallas Civic Symphony and the SMU Chamber Orchestra and Opera Theatre, where he began studies with James Rives-Jones. While in graduate school at the Meadows School of the Arts, he founded Perspectives, a contemporary music ensemble, which became part of that division's curriculum. An active guest conductor in the United States and abroad, he has appeared with numerous orchestras including the Central Philharmonic of China, San Juan (Argentina) Symphony Orchestra, Ruse State Philharmonic and the China-Wuhan Symphony, which appointed him Artistic Advisor in 1993. A strong advocate of new music, Sleeper has conducted the premières of numerous works by American composers, including Henry Brant, Carlos Surinach, Robert Xavier Rodriguez and Thomas Ludwig. He has recorded on the Albany, Centaur, Cane, Irida and Vienna Modern Master labels, with excellent reviews in Fanfare and The American Record Guide. Sleeper's compositions have been performed throughout the United States, and in Europe, Asia and South America. Recent performances of his work include the Concerto for Horn and Orchestra, with Stefan Jezierski, of the Berlin Philharmonic; String Quartet No. 2, by the Bergonzi String Quartet; Adagio, for orchestra by the Shanghai Broadcasting Symphony and Sleeper's orchestration of Brahms's Clarinet Sonata Opus 120, No. 2, by the Ruse State Philharmonic in Bulgaria.
Sleeper currently resides in Miami, Florida, where he is Director of Orchestral Activities and Conductor of the University of Miami Symphony Orchestra and Opera Theater and Music Director of the Florida Youth Orchestra.
Professor Gary Green, friend and colleague, asked me to write something for him as he neared the "autumn" of his career. I was honored, thrilled and daunted by the weight of such a task and struggled with ideas and concepts for over two years. I began sketches for several wind and percussion works and finally settled on a set of songs for soprano and wind ensemble. While working on the songs I had a very numinous dream as observer: In the midst of a terrible storm I caught glimpses of a frightening creature – a great dark angel with mottled wings and scales, snake-like eyes and clawed hands. With each flash of lightning, the image shifted from this to something sentient and cherubic to what one would "normally" consider "angelic" and back. Within all of this, I remember an intense brass fanfare with distinctive pitch content. I called Gary up that day and proposed a trumpet concerto for our newest faculty member – Craig Morris. We got in contact with Craig, who graciously agreed to risk his Miami première on an unknown work, and the decision was made to go ahead without looking back.
Concerto for Trumpet is scored for expanded orchestral wind and percussion section and therefore can easily be performed by either wind ensemble or orchestra. Each of the three movements explores a different relationship between the trumpet and wind ensemble. Despite the vivid dream which inspired the work, it is not programmatic in any real sense. The movements have "end titles" that are personal but not intended to tell any particular story. Concerto for Trumpet is gratefully dedicated to Gary Green.
The first movement, "…falling angels", begins with a violent explosion of themes from the winds and percussion. The solo trumpet interrupts all of this and begins a more lyric exposition of the melodic materials in various chamber settings. An accompanied cadenza transforms into a double development which builds to the opening trumpet theme but does not actually resolve and return any other materials until the final movement.
Movement two, "…the river Lethe" explores two main melodic ideas with the trumpet integrated into the ensemble rather than as protagonist. The opening English horn melody, which is not heard again until the end of the third movement, does provide harmonic materials which are heard throughout the second. The other melodic idea, presented in the solo trumpet and brass goes through continuous development, being deconstructed and transformed, until the climactic renewal at the end where it collapses in on itself.
Movement three, "…cthonic dance" begins as a fun, asymmetric romp for the trumpet but quickly turns into a rhythmic tour de force for the entire ensemble gathering speed towards an unusual trumpet cadenza. The movement might have been a fully fledged rondo were it not for the sudden interruption by the "…falling angels" brass fanfares. These herald the actual return and resolution of the first movement themes now in a more settled and intimate chamber setting while the solo trumpet finally returns to the opening theme of the second movement. This calm does not last too long and is transformed back into the third movement themes with the smooth suddenness of an afternoon tropical storm. Through call and response, the trumpet leads the ensemble onto a final climax.
David Maslanka: Symphony No. 3
David Maslanka was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1943. He attended the Oberlin College conservatory where he studied composition with Joseph Wood. He spent a year at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, and did graduate work in composition at Michigan State University with H. Owen Reed. Maslanka's works for winds and percussion have become especially well known. They include, among others, A Child's Garden of Dreams for Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Concerto for Piano, Winds and Percussion, the Second, Third and Fourth Symphonies, Mass for soloists, chorus, boys chorus, wind orchestra and organ, and the two Wind Quintets. Percussion works include Variations of 'Lost Love' and My Lady White: for solo marimba, and three ensemble works: Arcadia II: Concerto for Marimba and Percussion Ensemble, Crown of Thorns, and Montana Music: Three Dances for Percussion. In addition he has written a wide variety of chamber, orchestral, and choral pieces. David Maslanka's compositions are published by Carl Fischer, Inc., Kjos Music Company, Marimba Productions, Inc., the North American Saxophone Alliance, and OU Percussion Press, and have been recorded on the Albany, Cambria, CRI, Mark, Novisse, and Klavier labels. He has served on the faculties of the State University of New York at Geneseo, Sarah Lawrence College, New York University, and Kingsborough College of the City University of New York. He now lives in Missoula, Montana. David Maslanka is a member of ASCAP.
Symphony No. 3 was commissioned by the University of Connecticut Wind Ensemble, Gary Green, conductor. I was asked to write a "major" piece yet not necessarily one as big as this. It is hard to say why a given music emerges at a given time. In my composing life there have been "sign-post" pieces – large works that have erupted at fairly regular, though unpredictable, intervals. The impetus for this piece was in part my leaving university life and moving from New York City to the Rocky Mountains of Western Montana. The mountains and the sky are a living presence. Animal and Indian spirits still echo strongly in this land, and these elements have found their way into my music.
I am very grateful to Gary Green and the University of Connecticut for sponsoring the composition of Symphony No. 3. I am especially thankful to Gary Green for his ardent championing of my work in recent years and for his avid interest in the development of this new piece. His wonderful enthusiasm has sparked the creative process in a special way.
Symphony No. 3 is in five movements and runs approximately 45 minutes. The first movement is in a moderate tempo and follows one of my favorite schemes. It starts with the simplest scale materials and evolves a steady unbroken line from start to finish. It is in sonata form, tightly woven in character, giving it something of a Baroque feel. The movement is forceful and unrelenting for most of its duration, but ends quietly.
The second movement is a serene and beautiful "nature" music, mostly for small combinations of instruments. I am intrigued with the magical quality of sustained pure colors. Musical sound is colorful and structural at the same time. I love a music that allows the listener to develop an intense reverie through sustained sounds, while at the same time being carried through the structure of the piece. Time and timelessness join in a powerful way, each informing and illuminating the other.
The third movement is a fierce and bristling fast movement that maintains its high energy from start to finish. It is also in a sonata form. The development section is a fugue which rises in power to a huge climax area. The music is fixed largely in the tonality of A minor; first and second themes are in A minor. The development begins and ends in the home key, as does the recapitulation. This unmoving tonal scheme emerged and would not be derailed so I had to let it happen. The tonal fixation seems to underline the character of fierce power.
The fourth and fifth movements are both lamentations though not particularly slow or "down" in spirit. It is hard to describe opposites existing in the same space and time. The music is joyous yet sorrowful, recognizing the complementary nature of life and death. These movements – indeed the entire Symphony – have grown out of my perceptions of natural forces, especially the strong currents of old life that exist here in Montana. The music is a lamentation for the loss of the old direct contact with life of the earth, yet a recognition that these values still exist and can be brought back into meaningful focus. The fourth movement does not have an easily-labeled traditional form. The music moves through a series of song-like episodes, much as one might move through mountain meadows and across hills, natural vistas of great beauty appearing and dissolving as one goes. About two-thirds the way through is the song of the "Golden Light". The fifth movement might be called "Song of the Summer Day". The character of lament is there, but the creative winds rise and bring an ecstatic vision of the natural beauty and life force. The movement ends with the lament transformed into a song of quiet joy.
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