Reflections on a Journey, the new album by Novi Sad-based composer and pianist Kosta Jevtić, is a collection of music indebted to the ever-inspirational aesthetics of the Mediterranean. A quick scan of the tracklist reveals this on a surface level – “Chiostro del Paradiso” opens the album with an allusion to the Amalfi coast, while later tracks are named for Greek and Italian islands and figures – and an immersive listen confirms it. Jevtić makes music for temperate climates, for coastlines drenched in warm sunshine, constantly balanced out by cool breezes. Though the pieces vary in terms of mood and texture, the album overall is unwaveringly serene. Jevtić’s reflections are ones of rosy retrospection.
That is all a fine start, if somewhat de rigueur for an album of contemporary classical piano solo music. Finding what sets such a work apart from its cohort is perhaps more complex, and often somewhat hard to pinpoint, being more about affect than structure – two qualities of a performance joined together by the technique with which an artist executes a given piece in this case.
Jevtić’s technique is top-notch in terms of both feeling and skill. The contrasts between hands on each piece he plays here are richly satisfying, strong fundamentals adorned with flourishes that run the gamut from majestic to dreamlike. Every dynamic is carefully considered, every note held until it reaches its end gradually, like a deep and cleansing breath. It’s the organic style of playing that comes from an emotional connection between player and instrument, the kind of expression that makes a performance exceptional. While it’s to be expected from musicians devoted enough to their craft to make a career of it, such sincerity is always a wonderful thing to behold.
Soothing enough throughout that one could arguably place it in the dubious category of new age music, Reflections on a Journey is nonetheless more nuanced than your standard spa soundtrack. That is because of Jevtić’s aforementioned genuine delivery and the emotional depth he brings to each track. Even the languid optimism of “Chiostro Del Paradiso” has a melancholy to it. “Sweet Sun of Southern Lands” is, for its unquestionably upbeat title, marked by a sense of suspense throughout.
A personal favorite for me is “Sappho’s Dream”. Clocking in at six minutes, the composition makes time to explore the stranger elements of sleep, a somnambulant wandering through shadows and scattered light. Jevtić builds, first introducing a motif that delicately tiptoes across high notes and then bringing to it a more bottom-heavy storyline, more motion, more action, until the piece winds down to a final, solid resolution.
A Mediterranean climate is a clement one, regularly gentle, never extreme. Changes within one tend to be subtler than those found inland. That is what Kosta Jevtić captures in Reflections on a Journey. As risky as a solo piano recording is – the performer is continuously exposed, the structure so simple that the execution must be perfect – Jevtić here makes the most of the format’s capacity for expression, both of feeling and skill. His heart-on-sleeve tribute to land and sea is as thoughtfully crafted as it is calming and well worth a concerted listen.