Mak Grgić’s Balkanisms

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

Mak Grgić’s guitar artistry resists pigeonholing. His previous two CDs were respectively devoted to film-inspired music and works employing various tuning systems. Grgić now turns up with a disc devoted to new compositions and arrangements of traditional pieces by Balkan composers. Everything about this release is stimulating, from the music itself to Grgić’s well-paced running order and his technically dazzling, musically impassioned performances.

If you like flamenco, you’ll find an exciting virtuosic parallel in Miroslav Tadić’s flamboyant Chicho. By contrast, Dusan Bogdanović’s relatively understated Levantine Suite benefits from Grgić’s caressing, finely honed legato touch. I also like how in the second of Boris Papandopulo’s Croatian Dances Grgić holds the deliberate tempo resolutely steady, creating tension through varied articulation alone.

Selections from Vojislav Ivonović’s Café Pieces arguably go on a bit long for what they have to say musically, yet Grgić certainly sells them; his impeccable comic timing of the speed-ups and slow-downs in “A Funny Waltz” is a case in point. Lazar Ostojić’s Stairway to the Balkans is basically a 12-minute fantasia combining bits and pieces of various “stairway” songs. I wager that Ostojić cobbled it together while keeping both Grgić’s classical chops and idiomatic feeling for pop idioms in mind. To me, this kind of crossover pastiche holds little appeal and staying power, yet Grgić clearly knows his audience. His communicative gifts further shine in a beautiful pair of traditional dances that close this highly recommendable release.

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Recording Details:

Album Title: Balkanisms: Guitar Music from the Balkans
Reference Recording: None for this collection

Miroslav Tadić: Jovka; Chicho
Dusan Bogdanović: Levantine Suite
Jonce Hristovski (arr. Tadić): Macedonian Girl
Boris Papandopulo: Three Croatian Dances
Vojislav Ivonović: Café Pieces (excerpts)
Lazar Ostojić: Stairway to the Balkans
Traditional: Rustemul; Walk Dance (arr. Tadić)

  • Mak Grgić (guitar)

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