Two Quartets —1993

Two Quartets (desire, movement, love, stillness) was commissioned by flutist Bart Feller, who premiered the work with Kathleen Nester, flute, Fred Sherry, cello, and Jonathan Spitz, cello. This impressive ensemble, conducted by Bradley Lubman, recorded Two Quartets on Robert Maggio’s debut album, Seven Mad Gods.


  1. desire, movement
  2. love, stillness

Program Notes

Two Quartets (desire, movement, love, stillness) is a very personal study of and meditation on the dualities of mind and of heart, which also probes the special dualities inherent in its unique instrumentation. This large-scale (20-minute) work features a gradually evolving structure that reflects a spiritual journey, exploring emotional transformation, from distortion and distraction to resolution and focus. “desire, movement” opens with fairly aggressive, kinetic music which, after several minutes, subsides and slowly turns inward, becoming private and reflective. “love, stillness” opens with a passionate duet for the flutes which gives way to a plaintive duet for the two cellos. The music then moves through contrasting landscapes toward a culmination—the passage near the end of “love, stillness” where all four instruments converge in the upper register, playing the same melody, finally all in the same orbit, yet somewhat out of alignment.  This culmination offers neither an answer nor a definition; rather it is what one finds in removing interference and noise—the empty space in which clarity exists.

The titles refer to T. S. Eliot’s provocative reflections on desire and love in “Burnt Norton” from FOUR QUARTETS. For Eliot, desire—the obsession, the excess movement, the acute awareness of the passage of time (the state of the fast music in “desire, movement”)—is not desirable. Love, on the other hand, is a form of meditation, stillness, the harvesting of energy, timeless and undesiring (the state toward which the music continually moves).


Maggio’s music speaks directly in a comprehensible language of dark-hued colors which often touch the heart.

T.J. Medrek, The TAB

The real find on the disc is the young Philadelphia composer Robert Maggio’s Desire-Movement… This is a composer whose career merits close attention.

Roger Oyster, Gay and Lesbian Literature in Print

…a now turbulent, now serene work, pits bright soaring flights of flutes against the dusky, brusque rumbling of cellos before joining their voices in empathy.

Bruce Michael-Gelbert, New York Native

…minimalistic yet achingly romantic

Tom Samiljan, Time Out New York

Two Quartets is memorable for, among other things, the soaring flute and cello pyrotechnics and for the lovely way instruments blend to achieve a wide range of effects.

Ken Keuffel Jr., The Pennsylvania Gazette

Two Quartets (desire, movement, love, stillness), for two flutes and two cellos, is also a very personal piece, this time a study of and meditation on duality. The piece explores the dualities of mind and of heart, while also probing the special dualities inherent in its unique instrumentation.

Stephen Hicken, American Record Guide, January 1, 1997

The clear standout of the disc [Seven Mad Gods] is Two Quartets, two pieces for two flutes (Bart Feller and Kathleen Nester) with two cellos (Fred Sherry and Jonathan Spitz), loosely based on texts by T.S. Eliot. Maggio has made an incontestable contribution to the repertory here, impressive in its technical and formal command, almost frightening in its cool intensity of speech.

Russell Platt, Strings, May 1, 1997

‘Desire, movement,’ with its pairs of soaring flutes and rumbling cellos, sparring, then collaborating, is heard [in Two Quartets]. In ‘love, stillness,’ the other panel of the diptych, the four instruments spin in their own peaceful, complementary and contrast, but still independent orbits—the flutes arcing and blazing, the cellos swelling and surging—before calmly coming together. I hear something of a Benjamin Britten influence—particularly the Britten of the Peter Grimes ‘Sea Interludes,’ with their depictions of sea birds and sorrow—in this music.

Bruce-Michael Gelbert, New York Native, August 19, 1996

Maggio’s highly attractive ‘Desire-Movement’ [from Two Quartets] is played by pairs of flutes and cellos, but sounds richer in blend than that…how he manages that, I know not.

Heuwell Tircuit, In Tune, July 1, 1996