The e mail read:

´Here are the responses of the five questions you asked for, from each member of the ensemble, with Melina’s in the attached PDF. I had already seen the other interviews you did with the Russian girls, Iya Zhmaeva and Natalija Nicolaeva who performed Souvenirs Romantica in the Tias venue where you later saw us play, too! I found their interview when searching information about the place where we were going to perform, and came across Sidetracks and Detours all across the arts for the first time. I don’t remember if I then sent you soundcloud links but, just in case, these are three of the pieces we played, two are from a concert in El Hierro and the video is from another one in Gran Canaria. I hope you and your dear ones are well. We’re fine here at home, but miss so much going out for a stroll. There are so many things that we take for granted until we don’t have them, aren’t they?

Kind regards, Ernesto Mateo, musician in Maximum Ensemble.´

So why not join us as we meet all four members of Maximum Ensemble in following sidetracks and detours all across the arts and meander through their music. Then, when you´ve read the interview below have a listen to.´

Regular readers may well recall a recent review on these pages of a concert in Tias by Maximum Ensemble. It was in fact the last concert we saw before the lockdown on the island of Lanzarote but fortunately we managed to have a brief conversation with pianist and leader of the group, Ernest Mateo, after the performance. He kindly agreed to take part in the all across the arts ´five bums at the bar´ interview, so called for reasons we have explained far too often to repeat here.

Maximum Ensemble in Tias

Ernesto and his three female fellow group members had delivered a performance we described in our review as being of ´gentle, searching and often introspective sounds.´

The following interview illustrates the great enjoyment each performer takes from delivering such concerts and exactly how much making music means to them. It might also serve to remind us, in these lockdown days, how much we are looking forward to hearing live music again. To turn Ernesto´s observation back into Joni Mitchell´s wry comment in song, ´don´t it always seem to go, that you don´t know what you´ve got ´till its gone?´

Each band member submitted their own individual answers to the questions from Messrs. Who, What, When, Where, Why and gave us a fascinating insight into not only what first brings a band together but also what commonalities keep them together.

Our first responses came from Ernesto himself, and gave us the framework on which to place the answers that followed from his colleagues.

Ernesto Matteo

WHO is Ernesto Mateo and how did you arrive in Maximum Ensemble?

´I’m a pianist and composer from Gran Canaria. I have taught different matters at the Canarias’ conservatories in the last decade (Improvisation, Piano, Harmony, Electronics, Composition…). I created this ensemble when I was working at the Tenerife Conservatory as a piano accompanist. I had a concert and invited some of my pupils to collaborate playing some “not-conservatory” music. We enjoyed very much working together, so we decided to look for new repertoire and tour the islands.´

WHAT role does your instrument undertake in the kind of ensemble music you play?

´Our instrumentation is unusual, with three high instruments and only the piano for providing the low register. So, when we play as a quartet I tend to have a supporting role. But we play in some other configurations seeking for variety: solo, duos, and trios.´

WHEN do you first remember taking notice of music?

´There was this episode of “The Pink Panther” in which an orchestra tried to rehearse Beethoven’s 5th symphony. I liked the music so much that my parents took me to the music school of my town. I chose the piano because they told me that “with this instrument you can play the music from that cartoon´.

WHERE does your music take you, geographically as well as spiritually or imaginatively?

´I like abstract music, so I don’t feel like transported to other places when I play. I think music it’s a different kind of magic, I don’t know if it connects you with nature or sound or what, but when I am surrounded by sound it’s like I’m out of this world.´ 

WHY does this music still have relevance in a world of ´pop´ music?

´I think that music can be appealing at a superficial, sensorial level, but when you go beyond that first level, it’s really satisfying to find that “there’s more meat”. In my opinion, this kind of music allows every people to find something for them: it’s more or less “easy listening” but it is also deep and moving. Also, pop and rock has taken a lot of elements from classical music so it’s easy to relate with it.´ 

We then made the same enquiries of flautist, Elisa Bartolomé by asking the identical questions, beginning with


WHO is Elisa Bartolomé and how did you arrive in Maximum Ensemble?

´Elisa Bartolomé Gómez is a conservatory flute student who loves music, including everything that this term means: different instruments, sounds, ways to express feelings and to capture the audience attention. Ernesto was my teacher some years ago. He wanted to release his CD, so he prepared a concert in which he not only played his music, but also performed some pieces from other composers in which I was lucky to participate.´ 

WHAT role does your instrument undertake in the kind of ensemble music you play?

´Depending on the piece. Sometimes my instrument has the lead role, sometimes it helps with the harmony and other times it just adds a different colour to the atmosphere.´

WHEN do you first remember taking notice of music?

´My family is the kind of family that have lunch together on Sundays and spends the afternoon playing guitar, piano and singing. So I don’t remember exactly when I first noticed music: it has always been in my life ever since I can remember.

WHERE does your music take you, geographically as well as spiritually or imaginatively?

´I guess it depends again on the piece and sometimes in the mood I have that day. There are moments when we play a piece and it takes me to the most isolated scene and other days I can feel supported, like if something is having my back, with the exactly same piece.´

´That’s what I found most interesting and exiting about music. Your brain and heart are free to feel and think whatever. There’s no judgment, just joy and freedom.´

WHY does this music still have relevance in a world of ´pop´music

´Because music shakes our body, our souls. It’s not about good or bad music, old or actual music. It’s about how does music make you feel. 

You can enjoy listening to bachata, to baroque music, to rock and to minimalist music at the same time. It’s the magic aspect of music. It doesn’t have limits of any type.´

We loved Elisa´s reference to ´joy and freedom´ especially as it arrived in these troubled times. No doubt that is a feeling we are all looking forward to share again as soon as possible, anmd with that in mind we read the responses that had alco come in from violin player , Melina Túbaro


WHO is Melina Túbaro and how did you arrive in Maximum Ensemble?

´Melina was a violin student in the Conservatory of the Canary Islands, in Tenerife. There was a concert with music written by women composers, and Ernesto, who was my teacher at that time, asked me for play one piece composed by Barbara Heller, called “Lalai”.

After that, I was interested in playing more pieces of this style, more contemporary, music that wasn´t in the scheduling of classes, so Ernesto ask me for playing this kind of music, and obviously I said “yes”. Then, we were in something called Maximum Ensemble !´

WHAT role does your instrument undertake in the kind of ensemble music you play?

´In general all the members play the part that each one wants; there isn’t a principal role for one person, and a second one for another one. All pieces have different instruments, so if I play a duet with the piano and I have the melody, in another piece I’ll play accompaniment or a second voice with the other girls of the group. We play the paper what we want or what we prefer.´

WHEN do you first remember taking notice of music?

´Well, my father plays the violin too, and my mother adores the music, so I listened and saw the music very earlier in my house. I think I was four or five old when my father gave me my first violin class, he taught me a little song and after that, the rest is history.´

WHERE does your music take you, geographically as well as spiritually or imaginatively?

´Depending on the piece, the feeling it generates is different, of course. For example, “Struggle For Pleasure”, is a piece that we play in our group, and is one of my favourites because it makes me feel power, forces me to keep playing, and my soul deeply enjoys being on the same stage with all the members of Maximum Ensemble. I feel it like a hymn of power and happiness, being in that moment, that place, and sharing it all with the people you are playing with. No matter how many times we play together, I will never get tired of it.´

WHY does this music still have relevance in a world of ´pop´ music?

´It has relevance because minimalist music is a style of music that when you listen or play it, you can really enjoy it and understand all the pieces. For me that thing is very important, because you buy and listen to pop music because is easier to understand and more “light”. That kind of music enters more easily than Mozart’s or Scarlatti’s pieces. In the form of the composition, the scheme of the piece is easier for the public. It is accessible to the entire population, from the little babies to elderly humans.´

Coincidentally, the answers we open last are those from the lady who was the last person to join the current line up of Maximum Ensemble.

Having heard Ernesto speak of the music of Beethoven and The Pink Panther in the same sentence, and then Elisa talk about joy and freedom, and then Melisa mentioning ´a hymn of love and happiness,´ we know we are speaking with musicians who love their work. We were, by now, really looking forward to hearing what Laura had to say.

Laura Diaz

WHO is Laura Díaz and how did you arrive in Maximum Ensemble?

´I am the last member who arrived to the Ensemble. I had just come to live in Tenerife. The proposal to play with Maximum Ensemble was too interesting. Making beautiful music with friends? Of course, yes!´

WHAT role does your instrument undertake in the kind of ensemble music you play?

´Well, in this kind of music, even though your instrument is “melodic” it does not mean that always you are going to play melody. We play several pieces where the violin, which I play, makes colours, effects, accompaniment… that is the fun.

WHEN do you first remember taking notice of music?

´When I was three years old. I remember seeing my father playing piano and I always tried to play when he was practicing. Finally he gave me a little casio keyboard for me. I am sure that I started to love music because I saw my father happy playing pieces by The Beatles, Modern talking Latin music,…´

WHERE does your music take you, geographically as well as spiritually or imaginatively?

´Depends. Mostly I play early music and that is incredible: it takes me to those big palaces from seventeen century, and it also connects me with the nature, Brandenburg concerts is the best descriptions of political ideas,… Music is so open. This is a difficult question but in general music takes me to happy places.´

WHY does this music still have relevance in a world of ´pop´ music

Minimalism and pop music belong to the same century. They live together and share many common points like: repetitive patterns, “consonant” harmony, small motives,…´

Insert photo M E So, we learn through this interview that the four members of Maximum Ensemble speak as they play: each is independent and autonomous with their own views and yet if you read what they are saying they are speaking in the same harmony that is inherent in their music. We can hear small motifs in the words as we can in their music, and I felt the same way after hearing their worlds as I did after hearing their music live at that concert in Tias. There are profound thoughts here, worn lightly and shared with ´joy and freedom.´

We here at all across the arts can´t wait for the next time, whenever it might be, that Maximum Ensemble return to renew their musical friendship with Lanzarote.

Meanwhile, you can learn even more about them at


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