The Petar Jankovic Ensemble (PJE) is no stranger to the pages of Guitar International, and has recently released a follow up to their highly acclaimed debut, From Spain to Tango. (Com)Passionate, the sophomore effort by PJE is a masterful recording which features a new dynamic, atmosphere, and more mature context for the group.
(Com)Passionate showcases the PJE within a true chamber music setting, a role that has rarely ever been achieved on the classical guitar. The repertoire on this recording goes far beyond what has been for so long associated with the classical guitar, and the listener is treated to music by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975), Claude Debussy (1862-1918), and a world premiere by Eliot Bark (b. 1980).
A special mention has to be given to Eliot Bark for his brilliant arrangements of all the music on this CD, and he also composed the title track (Com)Passionate Music, which is a two movement work. The opening movement “Passionate” is an energetic, rhythmic, and exciting piece that will no doubt grab the listener’s attention. This movement features some very aggressive playing, percussive string snapping, banging on the guitar, and is all tied together with some very intuitive, expressive, and precise ensemble playing.
The second movement, ‘Passionate,’ is a heartfelt piece of lyrical beauty, and one that you can tell each member of the PJE feels really special about. There is a ‘blue’ harmony motive within the movement giving the listener something familiar to grab hold of while the piece crescendos and weaves around a warm and serene atmosphere to. The PJE gives one of their most beautiful and heartfelt performances of this World Premiere.
Some of the more challenging music on the recording are the six Preludes and Fugues op. 87 by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975). The “Fugue No.1 in C major” showcases the incredible talent within the ensemble and especially in the cello part. Kyra Saltman (cello) plays with a deep and resonating tone perfectly setting the mood for her partners to follow and build upon, there is a real dialogue amongst the parts within these works.
A stand out on the recording is “Jimbo’s Lullaby” by Claude Debussy (1862-1918) from his Children’s Corner Suite. A piece which is often associated with solo piano playing, the PJE really augment this work and bring it to life. Again, a special mention has to be given to Eliot Bark for such an arrangement of this great work. It is playful, and Debussy’s use of the pentatonic scale gives it a moment of the sounds that come from the East. Maria Storm (Violn), Azusa Tashiro (Violin), and Amanda Grimm (Viola) all play with exceptional tone and subtlety on this track which really adds depth, and perfectly captures the spirit of Debussy’s music.
There is no doubt that the PJE has matured quite a bit since their first recording, and (Com)Passionate) offers some of the most realistic chamber music featuring the guitar. There are those familiar sounds of the guitar which we all love, but there is much more of the European tradition of the String Quartet on this recording, and the repertoire featured is exactly what the PJE needed to tackle in order to take their place at the top of the classical music world.
By Brad Conroy