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Sean Shibe, Pavilion Theatre, Brighton, May 25
Teenage Scottish guitarist Sean Shibe began and ended his sell-out concert with music composed or inspired by the Dowlands, English composers and lutanists in Shakespeare's time.
On this very warm day, the Pavilion Theatre's fans were on at full blast which rather muffled and spoilt the first piece, Robert Dowland's The Right Honourable The Lady Clifton's Spirit.
The fans were then switched off and the audience could appreciate Sean Shibe's precise playing and tone in JS Bach's Prelude, Fugue and Allegro. Bach's music can sound cold or even mechanical on a harpsichord; but it is perfect for guitar which has a crisp clear sound but allows scope for subtle and expressive variations of tone on almost every note.
Joaquin Rodrigo's Invocacion y Danza is a strange work, quite unlike his famous Concierto de Aranjuez. Sadly the spell of the Invocation was broken by the Nokia ringtone. Sean's playing was not to be interrupted however and he continued into the Dance. At the end of the piece he gently reminded us that mobiles should be switched off and added that the Nokia tune was actually composed by a guitarist.
Italian composer Mario Tedesco is best known for his guitar music, and his Cappriccio Diabolico was one of the highlights of this fine recital. Sean's variety of tone and precise fingerwork were evident throughout and every note was audible even in the most rapid and animated passages. At times his guitar sounded almost harp-like; at other times its percussive chararcter was more evident.
Sean ended with Benjamin Britten's Nocturnal after John Dowland, the more famous father of Robert. This very free set of variations travel far from the original, and Britten's sub-title describes its episodes: Musingly, Very Agitated, Restless, Uneasy, March-like, Dreaming, Gently Rocking, Passacaglia, Slow and Quiet. The Passacaglia was especially brilliant as Sean seemed to relax and open up. These variations enabled an accomplished soloist to demonstrate the full range of sounds and moods the guitar is capable of, and Sean Shibe, still only 19, kept the audience in rapt attention throughout.