We’re very pleased to announce the release of Mak Grgić‘s CD Cinema Verismo, which we recorded right here in the GSI showroom. Mak worked closely with GSI president David Collett to find the perfect instruments for the pieces we recorded, and the result is a beautiful recording that showcases Mak’s musicianship as well as some beautiful and historic guitars.
In addition to Mak’s own 1966 Ramirez 1a, several of GSI’s instruments were used to create this record, including:
And also be sure to check out some photos of the recording sessions at GSI.
Here are David Collett’s liner notes about the guitars played:
The musical pieces selected for this recording are unified thematically in the sense that all are taken from film soundtracks. However, a quick listen reveals that the actual pieces themselves vary widely in musical style from another such that it was more than justified to use a selection of very different sounding guitars to help enhance the nuances between the pieces.
Two of the three Spanish pieces (which are also part of the standard classical guitar repertoire even though both were originally written for the piano) – the “Asturias” of Isaac Albeniz and “Spanish Dance No. 5” of Enrique Granados are played on the most “Spanish” guitar we could find – an instrument built in 1989 by the late Miguel Rodriguez of Cordoba, deep in the south of Spain (Andalucia). This guitar has great power, almost a wild, aggressive quality that is very fitting for these two selections, especially the driving, rapid-fire arpeggio sections of the Albeniz, with which the album opens.
The other Spanish piece, “Volverino” has a more “flamenco” quality to it so we chose our only flamenco guitar for this recording, which was the obvious and appropriate choice. Arcangel Fernandez is legendary for having apprenticed in the 1950’s with Marcelo Barbero – arguably the most famous flamenco builder in history. This Arcangel guitar has a bright, woody sound with a quick attack and short sustain that brings out the dance-like and percussive elements of flamenco styled music, as can be heard in this selection with its rasgueado, tambora and picado techniques.
The guitar that makes the most appearances is Mak’s personal instrument – a classical guitar made in 1966 in the famous Jose Ramirez workshop in Madrid, Spain. This is arguably the most iconic Spanish guitar of the twentieth century, played by guitarists of all genres from Sting (pop) to Andrés Segovia (classical), Chet Atkins (fingerstyle) to Sabicas (flamenco) and Lee Ritenour (jazz) to Eric Clapton (rock). And so in similar eclectic spirit we have a variety of selections which fall nicely into the timbres of this versatile guitar – the 3 selections from the late baroque era from Johann Sebastian Bach (Prelude from BWV 1007, Sheep May Safely Graze and Air on the G String) all the way up to the twentieth century with the Leonard Bernstein’s medley of “Somewhere” and “Tonight” from West Side Story and “Gabriel’s Oboe” written by the great Ennio Morricone for the powerful 1986 film “The Mission”. Lastly is the evocative “Cavatina” written by Stanley Myers – the only piece on this entire album originally written for guitar, featuring in “The Deer Hunter”. Mak plays it here with pizzicato bass – an interesting take on this now-classic staple of the guitar repertoire.
Perhaps the most intimate-sounding instrument on this recording is a guitar made in 1860 in the south of Spain by the father of the modern guitar, Antonio de Torres. It’s pensive, introverted yet very beautiful and dreamy sound is best captured in the two most delicate selections on the album – the beautiful operatic “Intermezzo” of Pietro Mascagni’s masterpiece “Cavalleria Rusticana” which featured in Raging Bull. Then there is the equally beautiful and haunting “Godfather’s Waltz” by Nino Rota.
Three other guitars make single appearances for the remaining 3 selections – first is a French guitar made in 1956 by Parisian luthier Robert Bouchet (also regarded as the founder of the French school of guitar making), a guitar which has an almost “bouncy” quality – each note sounds like it’s being launched from a springboard, and this helps evoke the synthetic energy made famous in the original “Chariots of Fire” by Vangelis with its memorable melody and pulsing rhythm. Next is Tomaso Albinoni’s neo-baroque “Adagio” which is played on a guitar made by the leading French maker of our time, Daniel Friederich. This guitar has great style and sophistication – clear fundamental at the core of every note yet a rich texture of overtones spread across the entire register, providing the listener something like the aural equivalent of chocolate silk. Lastly is an instrument built in 1928 in Barcelona, Spain by Francisco Simplicio. His guitars have been admired by more Italian collectors, players and aficionados than anywhere else in the world over the past several decades so it is fitting that Italian composer Ennio Morricone’s famous theme from “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” should be played on this guitar, which has a very “antiquey”, almost “dry” quality to the sound – perhaps evoking the barren landscape in this great spaghetti western classic.
David Collett, Guitar Salon International
MORE ABOUT MAK:
Mak Grgić, whose playing has been called “superb” by the Washington Post “has quickly established himself as one of the up-and-coming performers in the guitar genre, brings us Cinema Verismo, from Marquis Music, a new approach to programming solo guitar music. With brilliant performances of age-old classical selections, such as Asturias and Danza espanola No.5, along with beloved movie scores from The Godfather, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Volver, The Mission, West Side Story and Chariots of Fire. Mak “displays a powerful expressive range in this highly inventive concert” which combines bravura, precision and deep expression.
Scott Tennant of LAGQ, was quoted as saying, “Grgić performs these film classics with a mastery that will make cinema buffs fall in love with the guitar, and make guitar fans fall in love with this recording.” Grgić is a true lover of cinema, taking the listener down memory lane and bringing back beloved music used to highlight moments from film that for many are unforgettable. One will be astonished by the reocording’s flow and beauty as well as the striking quality of sound achieved on the variety of guitars used in this recording.
CRITIC REVIEWS ON CINEMA VERISMO:
I was transfixed by the variety of sounds and colors that Mak infuses into his refined guitar playing. Mr. Grgić surmounts the obstacle of emulating an orchestra with a single instrument, all executed with gorgeous tone and panache . I highly recommend for anyone to find a quiet moment to listen to it all, and enjoy. - Martin Chalifour, Principal Concertmaster, Los Angeles Philharmonic
In his official debut solo CD, Cinema Verismo, Mak Grgić performs these film classics with a mastery that will make cinema buffs fall in love with the guitar, and make guitar fans fall in love with this recording! – Scott Tennant, Los Angeles Guitar Quartet
The Da Camera Society of Los Angeles continues to be proud of our association with guitarist Mak Grgić, as represented through this beautiful recording. Cinema Verismo will delight the ears of listeners! – Kelly Garrison, General Director, The Da Camera Society of Mount St. Mary’s College, Los Angeles
Mak Grgić displays a powerful expressive range in this highly inventive recording. He is an immensely talented musician who imbues every note with intelligence and beauty. – Brian Head, Artistic Director at Guitar Foundation of America; USC Thornton School of Music Assistant Dean for Curriculum and Chair for Classical Guitar Department
Cinema Verismo showcases the vast and deep interpretive skills of Mak Grgić. His compelling musicianship brings imagination and life to familiar tunes, allowing the listener to hear them with the right balance of nostalgia of an old friend combined with a refreshing new perspective. – Martha Masters, President, Guitar Foundation of America
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