IN: Reviews

Tales from Woodstock’s Hispanic Woods


Mak Grgić’ (Anthony Avellano photo)
Meagan Martin

Slovenian guitarist Mak Grgić performed a (mostly) solo concert at Maverick Concerts on Saturday; the first half, “Tales of the Hispanic World,” from a gracious beginning to flashy close, featured works by Isaac Albéniz, Francisco Tárrega, and Alberto Ginastera in keeping with the theme for the Maverick’s season, “Latin Voices.”

In the congenial opening Spanish set, Grgić’s pleasure in the genre was evident both in his playing and his casual and inviting on-stage demeanor. The repertoire and interpretations made much of the expressive range of the instrument, of the diversity of sound of which the guitar is capable, of arpeggiation that ranged from the nostalgic to the ferocious. Grgić keenly brought out the subtleties of voicing; inner voices were unmistakable, the harmonics clear and bell-like. He could fill the hall with even the softest sounds.

 Short pieces by Albéniz and Tárrega were similar in form and familiar in melodic and harmonic language. Grgić made them his own in volume, phrasing, and expressiveness. In particular, he took some of the da capo sections and the final reiterations of the opening material at a miraculously soft volume. The audience obliged and responded with appreciative silence and rapt attention.

Grgić—who is also a competitive mathematician and martial artist—ended the first half with Ginastera’s Guitar Sonata, Op. 47, his last major work before his death in 1983. It draws on the folk and indigenous music of his native Argentina (much as Copland incorporated local American tropes) but makes it timely and personal. The work required numerous distinctive percussive effects on various parts of the instrument’s body, which Grgić executed using various part of the hand. Metallic strumming close to the head of the guitar and below the sound hole, close to the bridge, got our attention, and demonstrated the guitar’s wide range of sonorities.

In his first performance of Sir William Walton’s Five Bagatelle, Grgić seemed more comfortable and confident than he had been with the Latin modes.

A set of three short pieces by the Serbian guitarist and composer Miroslav Tadić made a graceful transition back to the Spanish mode. Manuel de Falla composed his Seven Spanish Popular Songs in Paris at the brink of World War One. They have remained popular and firmly in the repertoire ever since. American mezzo soprano Meagan Martin joined Grgić in refreshing these old favorites with elegance, wit, and spirit, reminding us that we were once young!

Mary Fairchild lives in Rosendale, New York, after a long career as a host at WQXR, WNYC, WMHT (Schenectady), and WPLN (Nashville). She has for some 20 years been writing program notes for Vladimir Feltsman’s PianoSummer at New Paltz. Before being called by Kalliope, the Muse of Eloquence and of Writing About Music, she worked as a financial editor and manager of investor relations in Wall Street.

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