Mak Grgic: Cinema Verismo

July 28, 2014

In his solo recording debut, Slovenian guitarist Mak Grgic finds the classical spirit in film favorites.



Many of this month's CD of the Week selections have contemplated (to one degree or another) the notion of homage. This week, Mak Grgic, a Slovenian classical guitarist, brings us Cinema Verismo. In this unique album, he highlights original arrangements of classical pieces written specifically for or featured prominently in popular cinema. Grgic spotlights Nino Rota’s "Godfather’s Waltz" from The Godfather, Ennio Morricone’s theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and two songs from West Side Story, among many others.

(photo ourtesy of Mak Grgic)

Grgic is undeniably versatile, calling upon a performance repertoire that has spanned a wide variety of genres, from avant-garde to more traditional repertoire like Brahms. According to USC's Thornton School of Music (where Grgic is currently earning a doctorate in classical guitar), in his solo debut he "wanted to transcend the idea that classical music is stiff or boring" without losing sight of the importance of the tradition and legacy of classical music.

What he produces is something far from a traditional recapitulation of any familiar pieces. "I was transfixed by the variety of sounds and colors that Mak infuses into his refined guitar playing," Martin Chalifour, Principal Concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic  explained. "He surmounts the obstacle of emulating an orchestra with a single instrument, always creating the illusion of many voices singing in unity — all executed with gorgeous tone and panache."

In addition to its variety of films it references, Cinema Verismo features a wide array of rare and unusual handcrafted guitars. According to Grgic, "every guitar has its own tone, its own atmosphere." More than simple mechanics, "the difference in instruments makes such an impact on the recording." Through this range of instrumental colors, Grgic is able to preseve the familiarity of  the music, even while trancending it.

There is always power and nostalgia behind any homage. Cinema Verismo captures the emotional essence of the films and harnesses that power to create a musical experience that is both satisfyingly complex and accessible. 

For more information and to purchase this recording, visit the ArkivMusic.

For other albums featured as CD of the Week, click here.


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