Upon listening to Angel of Mercy by David Maslanka, I find it a very pleasing read. It is a fine piece of music that has the distinction of the low woodwind (bassoon) part that has this Bach chorale like setting. It is very soothing in the way that it is played and written in the music.
The Bach chorale like setting ends with a flurry of wind and brass activity. If you take a look at the score (which is hand written) the notes pass through to everyone in the band. This goes on for about the next two pages almost back to back with brief pauses in between. Apparently, this a new piece because Kurrent Music doesn’t have it. Upon searching YouTube for it, it is non-existent. It was originally written in 2016 for an annual band convention—albeit the Minnesota Music Educators Midwinter Clinic. It is a dazzling score that has times of deep reflection, coupled with times of dancing and whimsy. It’s all the surprise one could hope for in a new work for band.
The composer has been so ingrained into singing the chorales of Bach in all four voices at least 23 times. This is summarized directly from his website— an article on the piece. The introduction to the piece makes one per clamped, maybe even provoked to jealousy over the stunning beauty of just the beginning section of the piece alone. I enjoy Maslanka’s use of the piano in all of his band works. I once believed that piano was not in the standard instrumentation for symphonic band, but this proves me wrong. I can tell much love goes into a piece like this. The breadth of expression is boundless and the heights that the composer goes to to convey his point are extraordinary.
One could say that this is definitely a piece for those who are more advanced collegiate players. This would not go over at a normal high school festival because of the level of difficulty, at most it would be best for the most advanced high school bands. It’s definitely a winner either way.
The sudden changes in the piece peer our ears and eyes to be at attention constantly which is good. It keeps one from being bored. This piece makes me want to know more about bassoon and contrabassoon writing. The inflections of the instrument are stunning and the long tones are beautiful. The frequent tempo changes keep one on one’s toes. It is definitely a jaw-dropping show stealer. Take a listen on Sound Cloud here.