Mak Grgic’s Microtonal Guitar Recital

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

As far as recordings go, guitarist Mak Grgic seems to wear several hats; his Cinema Verismo, for example, was a carefully thought out and artfully executed “crossover” program devoted to music from the movies. On the other hand, the four substantial compositions included in the present release testify to Grgic’s passion for contemporary classical music.

Grgic mostly intersperses these pieces with ravishingly interpreted short pieces by Renaissance lutenist/composer Francesco da Milano, and concludes his program with the Bach D minor Chaconne in Andres Segovia’s classic 1935 transcription. Grgic features five different guitars throughout the recital, employing different temperaments from work to work, just in case you think he forgot to tune up! Grgic’s excellent booklet notes both identify and spell out the specifics for each tuning.

On to the music: Georgi Dimitrov’s Sub Rosa begins with a leisurely movement laced with sparse lyrical lines and strategic harmonics. The second movement is quicker, gaunter, and more angular, yet ultimately falls back into gentle lyricism and a soft concluding G major chord. Alternating slow and fast movements comprise Sean Hayward’s Through the Fog. Its attractions include some lovely microtonal ostinatos, single-line toccata-like passages in uneven meter, and flamenco-inspired strumming. John Schneider’s Prelude & Fugato is methodical and well made, although I find the contrapuntal style too arid for my taste. However, the textural and dynamic contrasts throughout Hakki Cengiz Eren’s Three Portals hold sustained interest, especially in the final piece’s brash dissonant dyads and tension-filled silences. The Bach stands out for Grgic’s fluid tempo relationships, plus his ability to shape melodic and harmonic strands in clear and colorful perspective. In short, a stimulating program that ought to attract listeners beyond just guitar specialists and temperament mavens.

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Recording Details:

Album Title: Makrotonal
Reference Recording: None for this collection

Works by Weiss, Milano, Bach, Dimitrov, Hayward, Schneider, & Eren

  • Mak Grgic (guitars)

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