Richly Rewarding Program for Four Guitars

United StatesUnited States  Guitar Extravaganza: Guitar Stars from Mannes: Old Greenwich Presbyterian Church, Stewartsville, New Jersey, 18.5.2013 (KC)

Haley Wright: Where the Rain Falls (World premiere)
Haley Wright, piano
Ciucen Tanrikorur (arr. by Kaya): Morning in the Village (NJ premiere)
Astor Piazzolla (arr. by Assad): Primavera Portena
J. K. Mertz: Hungarian Fantasy, Op. 65, No. 1
Vincente Asencio: La Calma
Niccolo Paganini: Caprice #5
Celil Refik Kaya, Guitar
Heitor Villa-Lobos: Mazurka-Choro
Joaquin Rodrigo: Fandango
Sergio Assad: Ginga (NJ premiere)
Leo Brouwer: La Ciudad de Las Columnas (Variations on Pieza sin Titulo)
Joao Luiz, Guitar
Albéniz: “Asturie and Prelude” to Cantos de Espana
Newman & Oltman Guitar Duo
Celil Refik Kaya: Uplands Wedding (NJ premiere)
Newman & Oltman Duo with Celil Refik Kaya
Joao Luiz: Todas as Manhas (Variations on Black Orpheus; NJ premiere)
Joao Luiz: Djavan’s Portrait (NJ premiere)
Newman & Oltman Duo with Joao Luiz
Pauolo Bellinati: Baiao de Gude
Newman & Oltman Duo with Kaya and Luiz

Celso Machado: Catira (Guitar Quartet)
Newman & Oltman Duo with Kaya and Luiz

This concert was one of four, part of the 24th annual Raritan River Music series in remote western New Jersey, established by Michael Newman and Laura Oltman of the renowned Newman & Oltman Guitar Duo. On this occasion, the sonically ideal Old Greenwich Presbyterian Church was filled to capacity.

The evening began not with guitar but with eighth-grade piano student Haley Wright, performing a brief original piece, Where the Rain Falls. After winning a local composition competition for young students, Wright received this performance as part of her prize. It was wonderful to see such a young musician compose with such fluency and play with adept technique.

The first guitarist was Celil Rafak Kaya, a recent émigré from Turkey, graduate of New York’s Mannes School of Music and winner of the prestigious Guitar Foundation of America Competition. With Kaya’s flawless and dazzling technique, it is easy to see why he is now considered one of the top young players in the world. Clearly he has planned exactly what each finger of both hands is doing at all times, and this sense of security merely creates a foundation for his artistry. Kaya is also skilled as a composer and arranger, and performed a luscious arrangement (including a few quarter-tones) of a Turkish folk song.

Joao Luiz, a 31-year-old graduate from Mannes, has also been taking the world by storm, mostly as half of the Brasil Guitar Duo, and is well worthy of the high praise that he has been receiving in the last few years. Luiz’s volume, clarity of tone, and sense of rhythmic vitality was immediately apparent and sustained throughout his portion of the program.

But the best part of the evening was yet to come: the Newman & Oltman Duo in captivating and magical renditions of music by Albéniz. A masterful group, their mature tone, phrasing and sense of ensemble made them stand out. Newman and Oltman remained on stage, first with Kaya and then with Luiz, both playing area premieres of works written for their respective trios. Kaya’s piece could be coined thoroughly idiomatic neo-Bartok, while Luiz’s two pieces might be considered academic variations on Brazilian pop music.

The concert closed with rousing quartets—for all four performers—by the ever-popular contemporary Brazilian guitar composers Paulo Bellinati and Celso Machado. Newman and Oltman should be commended for their enduring festival, stellar students, dedication to contemporary works—and sheer artistic greatness.

Keith Calmes

Keith Calmes is a professional guitarist, author and educator who lives in New Jersey. His website is