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Jorge MOREL (b. 1931)
Celil Refik Kaya (guitar)
rec. September 2015, St John Chrysostom Church, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada,
NAXOS 8.573514 [66:09]

Andrés Segovia claimed that ‘God has placed a finger on his brow,’ and bestowed upon him the epithet: Prince of the Guitar- the King’s position was already occupied. Despite the Maestro’s ebullience, his favoured pupil has never won a guitar competition, nor has he ever even placed in one. The reason is very simple: John Williams has never entered a guitar competition. His refusal, as a young player, to do so, caused antipathy with Segovia.

Of more recent years John Williams has been overtly critical of guitar competitions, or indeed competitions for any instrument, because he believes music cannot be evaluated like a race. He feels winning is a matter of taste in most cases, and there are often many other equally deserving competitors other than the First Place recipient. Williams believes a fairer system is to have a select group of finalists, each of whom receives the same reward and status.

Each year the Guitar Foundation of America (GFA) hosts an esteemed International Competition (ICAC). Should one look for validation of John Williams’ attitude, the 2016 GFA Competition is a case in point. The Fourth Prize Winner was the young Turkish guitarist Cecil Refik Kaya (CRK). Having extensively reviewed his playing across a wide range of material, a good example of which is this music by Castelnuovo-Tedesco (review) and also those placed ahead of him, one must conjecture: how did this happen? As John Williams believes, this is pretty much a matter of taste, and there are usually others equally deserving than the First Prize Winner, of which there can only be one. It should be noted that CRK has also won other international guitar competitions.

CRK began his study of the guitar at age six. Born in Istanbul in 1991, his initial guitar influences were from his father. Principal early teachers include Josuf Dogan Buyukogut, Raffi Arslanyan and Soner Egesel. Aged 19 he earned his music degree from Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University State Conservatory, Istanbul with the Highest Honour Award, and was granted the ‘Excellence’ Scholarship from the Turkish Educational Foundation. During his Bachelors’ Degree he studied composition with Turkish composer Mehmet Nemutlu. He completed his Master of Music Degree at Mannes College NY City under Michael Newman, Sharon Isbin, and Frederic Hand. He now holds the Harrington Fellowship and a teaching assistantship at the University of Texas and is a candidate of the Doctor of Musical Arts programme in the class of Adam Holzman at the Austin Butler School of Music.

The programme on the review disc is entirely from the pen of Argentinian guitarist/composer Jorge Morel with one exception: the last track is Morel’s arrangement of the piano composition Misionera by Fernando Bustamante. Interestingly, this composition has been almost totally adopted by guitarists with the vast majority of renditions on YouTube being played by guitarists. That said, to hear it played well on the instrument, for which it was originally composed is a treat.

Born in 1931, Morel has legendary status among guitarists. Although centred on the principles of the classical guitar, his style is also very strongly influenced by the popular music of his native country, which he plays with unique bravura. Few would argue about the title of his 1968 recording, A Complete Guitarist, RCA (LSP 3953). Not only does he demonstrate amazing technical facility and musicality, but also the ability to make superior solo guitar arrangements of music such as I Feel Pretty and America from West Side Story.

Having heard many ‘cover’ versions of Morel’s music over the years, none quite manages to equal renditions by the composer (review). Classical guitarists, as a group, frequently struggle with the rhythmic nuances found in South American native music. This observation is in no way intended to discount the playing of CRK on the review disc. He plays with high technical command and musical understanding. Were it not that Morel was such an active recorder of his own music, the reference standard would not be so challenging. The review disc does however include five Morel compositions which are world première recordings (4,5,6,14,15).

Just how well CRK plays this music can be gleaned from the comments of the composer:
‘I am happy and honoured to have CRK performing my music on this CD. Not only his technical ability, which is wonderful, but the feeling he puts in each piece is what I always hope for.
Thank you Celil for giving me such a great honour, and such a great pleasure.’
This is a most enjoyable programme with some new treasures to delight. The playing is splendid in every sense by one of the outstanding young virtuosos of the guitar. As past experience has attested to, his final place in the guitar firmament will be strongly influenced by circumstance, fashion and the ‘taste’ of those elected to judge what is good, and not so good.

On this occasion CRK elected to play an instrument by the New Jersey, USA, luthier Garrett Lee.

Zane Turner
Disc contents
Jorge MOREL (b. 1931)
Danza Brasilera [2:36]
Milonga del Viento [3:30]
Danza in E minor [3:45]
Otro Tango, Buenos Aires [4:31]
Prelude [3:09]
Celil’s Dance [3:48]
Sonatina [12:01]
Romance Criollo [4:30]
Homage to Latin Music [8:42]
Little Rhapsody [5:27]
Pampero [2:55]
A Mi Barrio [3:28]
Giga Criolla [4:17]
Fernando BUSTAMANTE (1915-1979)
Misionera (arr. J. Morel) [2:46]



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