Robert Maggio: String Quartets

Brilliantly performed by the world-class Corigliano and Borromeo String Quartets, this album by Robert Maggio was highly praised in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Lyrical, passionate, melodic, and rhythmically charged chamber music, featuring soulful variations on American and Italian folk songs; brilliantly performed by the world-class Corigliano and Borromeo String Quartets.

Compositions on this Album

Songbook for Annamaria (String Quartet No. 1)

Rain and Ash (String Quartet No. 2)


When composer Robert Maggio unveiled his “Songbook for Annamaria” using American folk song in a string quartet roughly a decade ago, the idea initially seemed suspicious, but it worked because the composer refused to be bullied by the source material. Whether employing “Shenandoah” or “All the Pretty Little Horses,” the tunes were used as musical fodder with little or no reference to the often-used iconography they represent. Now that the piece is recorded on Maggio’s own label, along with the more recent and also excellent “Rain” and “Ash” (2008), it seems even more enlightened alongside Marc O’Connor’s recent forays into the classical world. O’Connor tends to the graphically descriptive and consciously evokes Americana, while Maggio’s more integrated approach feels more honest and sincere. One catches shards of the songs, but the main appeal is the composer’s musical invention, subtle wit, and theatrical timing that even renders the music’s autobiographical elements irrelevant. You don’t need to know how the music was inspired by his adopted daughter, parents, and partner. You just want to hear it again, particularly in performances as fine as these.

David Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Inquirer

When last heard from, Robert Maggio (b. 1964) was a professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania, having attended Yale. There is no biographical information here except for aspects of his private life, to which both of these string quartets are intimately related. The first is a four-movement work that is basically built on the concept of four well-known old tunes that were favorites of his adopted daughter. The tunes are sometimes fairly directly quoted but are surrounded with concepts that contribute to several moments of real emotional meaning, particularly for me at the end of the slow movement, where Maggio hits on a series of chords that make me see visions of mystery that I have never seen before. They feel right and he takes care not to interrupt them or go on too long. Thanks, Robert, I think you have something special there.

The other quartet refers to his civil union with is life partner and to the later death of his father and is also a moving and well-contrasted work. Both the performing groups play with sensitivity.

The music is an ear-holding combination of melodic concepts with rhythmic activity. Unlike some recent composers, he has a good sense of timing and contrast, making these two string quartets immediately satisfying to the senses, making the listener feel that he as been joined to the music, rather than argued with.

Robert Maggio has taken here to publishing his own productions. Like some other self-producers, he seems to go for short discs. I hope his price is low, therefore, attractive as this music is.

 D. Moore, American Record Guide, March 1, 2012