Celil Refik Kaya, of Turkey, emerged victorious in the finals of the
JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Competition in Kleinhans Music Hall
on Saturday night.
Petrit Ceku, of Croatia, came in second, and Ekachai Jearakul, of Thailand, was third.
Kaya's prize is $10,000, a valuable Spanish guitar and engagements
with the Round Top Music Festival in Texas and the Virginia Symphony.
Ceku took the $3,500 second prize, and Jearakul took the $1,000 third prize.
The three guitarists who made the cut for the finals did their best to influence the seven judges' decision.
But the judges weren't the only ones they needed to persuade, because
the audience was choosing their favorite performer via the ballot box
and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra had their own Musicians Choice
Award to hand out.
Though Kaya won the competition, Ceku won musicians and audience awards as the top guitarist in separate voting.
Before the three began their efforts, the judges — all professional
guitarists — banded together to play arrangements of two pieces (Ernesto
Nazareth's "Brejeiro" and Stepan Rak's "Rumba") for the audience. It
was a pleasant-enough diversion but they could have used a more forceful
boost from the sound system to make the kind of impact they deserved.
This year, a twist was added to the competition's format. In addition
to each guitarist having to perform a concerto from a selected list,
each got a chance to play a solo piece best demonstrating their
Thailand's Jearakul, the first guitarist to take the stage, and Ceku,
the Croatian, who had the third slot, chose safe, audience-friendly,
well-known works by Joaquin Rodrigo that needed a bit of "oomph" to make
them stand out from the thousands of performances each piece had
acquired through the years.
Jearakul's take on the "Fantasia para un Gentilhombre" and Ceku's
performance of the "Concierto de Aranjuez" both had their points, with
the former being more straightforward and contained in his
interpretation and the latter a bit more physical and outwardly
Ennio Morricone's "Love Theme from Cinema Paradiso" was a
pleasant-enough solo piece for Jearakul to end up with but Ceku's
rendition of Isaac Albeniz's more familiar "Malaguena" was greeted with a
bit more enthusiasm by the audience.
Kaya, the competition's winner and the youngest among the finalists
also was the one who, it could be said, may have taken the biggest
chances. Roberto Sierra's "Folia" is an intensely focused piece that
deserves more performances. The fact that Kaya's choice made "Folia" a
New York premiere was a point in his favor because there were no
preconceptions that the audience could make about the piece. Sierra's
presence in the audience was another bonus.
As a solo piece, Kaya chose Astor Piazzolla's "Primavera Porteno,"
one of the four tango-oriented works that made up Piazzolla's musical
portrait of the seasons in Buenos Aires.
The one constant throughout the evening was Falletta's conducting and
the way the BPO responded to her every gesture. Both of them are gems
in Western New York's musical life and it was good to hear them in top
The Buffalo contest is held every two years as a friendly competition
among prominent classical guitarists, but a victory can do a lot for
the career of a young player.