02.15.18Fleeting Realms Review in Fanfare

January/February 2018 Issue
Review by Ronald E. Grames

This is an unusual grab-bag of works — not even all chamber music by the usual definition . . . that doesn't diminish a bit the high quality of music and music-making to be found on this intriguing release.

David Maki's improvisational "Five Impromptus for Two," for piano four hands, offers its own mischief and charm as well . . . starting out with aggressive angularity, but exploring as well tenderness, poignancy, and some get-down jazziness.

. . . throughout, the performances by the artists listed above are committed, technically exemplary, and highly expressive.

Given the fine variety of music offered, it's hard to imagine anyone not making some agreeable discoveries.

02.05.15Tamarack review in American Record Guide

Jan/Feb 2015 Issue
Review by David Moore

Duo XXI is the name of this violin and cello duo. Here they present us with a varied program of recent works by composers from all over America. All but one of the composers take under ten minutes to make an impression. First we meet David Maki, an Illinois boy whose five-movement suite separates three duos with two solos. The music develops several different references to tamarack trees and is quite lovely.

...

The performing is effective and the program full of variety and action. I enjoyed it very much.

05.12.14Out of the Woods review in Fanfare

May/June 2014 Issue
Review by Lynn René Bayley

Michael Lee’s liner notes for this remarkable disc indicate that Anthony Stoops “wants nothing less than to enlarge and intensify a corpus of solo double bass music that he hopes will solemnize the double bass as an important solo instrument…[yet] Oddly Stoops has indicated his knowledge that his mission will fail, just as the similar missions of past virtuosi of the instrument have failed." My own personal comment to this is that if all classical bassists had a tone as rich, warm, round, and beautiful as Stoops’s, and if the compositions for that instrument were on as high a level as most of the works heard here, it just might succeed.

For Stoops has, to my ear, the most richly beautiful bass tone since the late jazz master Charles Mingus, who is paid tribute to on this CD in an eight-minute work by Marvin Lamb. His notes stream effortlessly from top to bottom of his range, the highest notes having the beautiful sound of a cello. I have not heard its like in 40 years. And that is always half the battle, to make the instrument itself sound pleasing and mellifluous to the ear.

David Maki’s little suite, Out of the Woods, reflects the composer’s own background as both a classical and jazz pianist. The title, say the notes, refers to the wide leaps necessary to play this “complex, jazz-informed tour de force." Every single movement is a small gem; the music bounces and propels itself through the use of real jazz rhythms, the lack of improvisation notwithstanding. Maki’s own piano solo in the last movement, titled “Circles," has a sort of Jaki Byard feel to it, and throughout Stoops’s bass alternately thrusts and sings in both a musical and lyrical fashion.

. . .

The sum total is a disc that, on the face of it, could have been either painful or a bore to listen to, but ended up being a real delight.

05.12.14Out of the Woods review in American Record Guide

May/June 2014 Issue
Review by David Moore

David Maki's four-movement suite "Out of the Woods" is an expressively satisfying composition that pulls us in various directions, all relatively tonally comprehensible.

. . .

This is a relatively easy listening program. (...) I enjoyed it and I suspect you would, too.

03.22.11Blue Refracted review in Fanfare

May/June 2011 Issue
Review by David DeBoor Canfield

World premiere recordings of six new works by five unfamiliar (to me, at least) composers: Ah, the joy of discovery afforded by being a Fanfare reviewer! I am happy to report at the outset that this batch of new works has made this particular voyage of discovery a pleasant one, for the music is invariably arresting and interesting. There is rather little written for the string duo of violin and cello, at least compared with the mediums of the string quartet, quintet, or trio. Likely, this is because of the comparatively sparse textures permitted by only two players. Or so one would think. On this CD, the combination of the talents of the composers and performers often would lead one to imagine that there are easily three or four people involved in making this music. Judging by their photos, all of the composers would seem to be near contemporaries, born somewhere in the vicinity of the 1970s. For some reason, their biographies omit in most cases their year of birth, and I’ve been unable to extricate this information from the Internet.

. . .

David Maki also includes the University of Iowa in his pedigree, although he finished up his studies obtaining his doctorate from the University of Michigan. In addition to his compositional activities and his teaching at Northern Illinois University, he also has formed a piano duo with pianist Ashley Mack, creating the unique name of the Maki-Mack Duo. Somehow, with that name, I picture them featuring works such as Weill’s Mack the Knife in recitals given on Mackinac Island —but I digress. Blue Refracted takes its title from the fact that instead of the usual interplay in traditional counterpoint, the motivic ideas, rhythms, and various intervallic relationships are “refracted," that is, altered, as they pass back and forth between cello and violin. The “Blue" comes in because of the brooding characteristic of some of the motives. The work opens with a plaintive solo in the cello, which receives a “refracted" response from the violin, accompanied by skillful counterpoint in the cello. The tempo picks up considerably in the middle section, which makes use of Bartók pizzicati. This section generates a considerable amount of excitement, and the piece winds down with material similar to its opening.

. . .

Each of the composers represented on this CD is good enough to warrant having an entire CD devoted to his music. I would welcome the chance to hear and review more music by any of them. In the meantime, I can recommend this CD as a good demonstration of the talent present in the younger generation of American composers

03.06.11Ilta review in American Record Guide

March/April 2011 issue

...Maki, based in Illinois, and born in 1966, is currently a professor at Northern Illinois University. "Ilta" means "night" or "evening" in Finnish, and was inspired by the white nights he experienced on a visit there in the summer. "Ilta" is meditative and beautiful, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik for our time. The performance is atmospheric, and the alto flute is soulful. Various types of percussion ching like twinkling stars and ring like clouds that glow in waning night.

07.13.09Midwest American Piano Project review in American Record Guide

July/August 2009 issue
Review by Jack Sullivan

This is mostly interesting new piano music by composers connected to the American Midwest, superbly played and recorded. Some of it – Joseph Dangerfield’s Two Geometric Etudes and Luke Dahn’s Downward Courses, for example – sounds forbiddingly abstract in concept, but the actual sounds are enticing. The collection opens with David Karl Gommper’s 2001 Homage to WA (William Albright), an appropriately varied tribute to an eclectic composer that opens somberly with bell-like sonorities and ends rowdily with a “bluesy riff". David Maki’s Lake Sonata is a vivid piece of tone painting, with two languid, introspective movements called ‘flowing’ and ‘floating, lonely’ followed by two aggressive romps called ‘driving, with intensity’ and ‘violent’. Even more meditative than Maki’s opening sections, John Allemeier’s Quiet Music is an exercise in rapturous attenuation.

Stacey Barelos, a DMA student in piano and composition at the University of Wisconsin, plays with authority and poetic nuance, her beautiful tone captured vividly in this warm recording made at the University of Iowa. One of her works, Free and Unticketed is an inventive homage to Debussy, Cowell, and other 20th Century masters yet has its own personality. “Although there are no direct quotations", she writes in the excellent notes, “I felt as though I was still getting something for free." Lots of composers have done this, of course, particularly the ones she refers to; despite the fetish for originality in the 20th Century, music is full of “unticketed" gestures; it’s what keeps the art flowing and alive.

06.09.09Lake Sonata review in Allmusic.com

Allmusic.com 
Review by James Manheim

"Midwest American Piano Project" might seem a title indicative of some attempt to define commonality among the contemporary composers featured on this disc, but it's hard to discern (and nor do the notes by University of Saskatchewan professor Gregory Marion suggest) specifically Midwestern traits in the music ...The most "Midwestern" and perhaps the most enjoyable work of the group is the four-movement Lake Sonata of David Maki, another composer associated with the
University of Michigan's program. The sonata's water imagery might be characterized as neo- impressionist, but the phases of the lake's existence are shown in fresh and unusual ways.
 

06.09.09Lake Sonata review in Fanfare

Stacey Barelos: Midwest American Piano Project
Review by Robert Carl

The title of this collection could be off-putting to some who will
brace behind their coastal defenses (Left and Right). But
they’d miss a good show. This disc is testimony to how much substantial
music is growing in our backyards, throughout every
corner of the nation. Indeed, the only sad thing one ponders is
how many very good composers there are out there, and how hard
it is for any to get the recognition they deserve as a result.

This project has David Karl Gompper (b. 1955) as its godfather,
since most of the other composers studied with him at University of Iowa.
And Gompper comes off as a composer of substance and obviously
a teacher of distinction. His own piece, Hommage à W. A.
(2001), does not refer to Mozart, as a casual perusal might
suggest, but rather to William Albright, the composer and
organist who taught at the University of Michigan, was a
master of ragtime, and died at the unnatural age of 54. Full of
stirring fanfare figures (without ever getting bombastic),
polytonal harmonies, sparkling passagework, and cakewalking
dance material, it’s a compact tour de force.

Gompper’s students’ music is similarly thoughtful, expressive,
and crafted. The 2007 Lake Sonata of David Maki (b. 1966) is
the most limpid and impressionistic work on the program, but
its four short movements combine to form a convincing formal
progression from lovely stasis to a rather noble apotheosis.
Downward Courses (2006) by Luke Dahn (b. 1976) is the most
overtly modernistic work on the program, with its angular
motives and expressionistic explosions. And while it says the
least to me of the set, it is still blessed with a vigorous
rhythmic sense. Quiet Music (2006) by John Allemeier (b.
1970) has a sweet sense of mystery—pointillistic melodies
above a tolling pedal at the outset, developing into a quirky
little dance that just as easily evaporates into the opening
texture.

Stacey Barelos (b. 1978) is, of course, the soloist for the
recording, and her 2007 Free and Unticketed is a subtly
colored sound poem structured around a little waltz. Joseph
Dangerfield (b. 1977) is represented by two short works he
calls Geometric Etudes: “Eadem mutto resurgo" (2003) and
“Tryglyph" (2007). These are knotty and gnomic, but happily
still expressive, especially the second, which ends with richly
consonant bass chords rotating beneath a starry sonic
firmament.

Barelos is a marvelous pianist. I’m struck by the variety of
colors she can simultaneously coax from the instrument,
helping to clarify complex textures and bring out the dialogues
inherent in the music’s counterpoint.

Gregory Marion’s program notes are for me the only flaw in
the production. They provide a far too extensive analytic
exegesis, which tends to obscure the individual character of
each piece, and makes the program seem far grayer than it
actually is. I would have preferred to have the composers give
us their own impressions, which I suspect would have been
much more helpful and to the point. But this aside, a very
pleasant surprise, and for me, this one’s a keeper.