Sean Shibe “dazzled and dazed” at 5* Wigmore Hall recital

11 March 2020

On Friday 6th March, Sean Shibe thrilled audiences at Wigmore Hall in an eclectic evening recital of works for acoustic and electric guitar.

The programme, which extends the thematic material of his Gramophone Award-winning concept album softLOUD, included works for acoustic guitar by David Fennessy, Sofia Gubaidulina and J. S. Bach, and Georges Lentz’s 50-minute Ingwe for solo electric guitar, of which Sean gave the European premiere of the newly reworked version in collaboration with the composer himself at Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music earlier in the week.

His combination of daring programming and sensitive interpretations earned several five-star reviews from critics, which can be read below:

The Times (Neil Fisher): *****

“It’s hard to believe that the Wigmore Hall will host another musician who plays in a hot-pink jumpsuit and after an uninterrupted hour of music leaves its audience in a state of near-nauseous confusion mixed with cathartic ecstasy. That is, unless Andras Schiff is about to have a radical wardrobe revamp.

Billed as “emerging talent” by the Wigmore in this recital, the Scottish guitarist Sean Shibe presents himself as someone fully emerged…

It would be a shame to turn the “soft” part of this recital into a footnote. Here three probing works performed on acoustic guitar were woven together in an absorbing odyssey. On a technical level, the trip took us through the tiny gradations of timbre and dynamics that Shibe is capable of with his instrument — feats that never seem pedantic, but honestly felt.

Shibe donned his jumpsuit for Georges Lentz’s 2009 hour-long Ingwe for electric guitar, “a demonic meditation about God’s silence”, according to the composer. It proved too demonic for the 20-odd audience members who walked out, and its jangling certainly tested our nerves. Yet the raw chords and wailing motifs — often at rock-gig volume — had a logic to them, and what Shibe retained was his craftsman’s curiosity, making the colours of this instrument dazzle as well as daze. It finished with a monumental series of chords taking us nowhere except the abyss. Now, anyone for Mozart?”

Read the full review here.

The Artsdesk (David Nice): *****

“A mesmerising journey from light to dark…Acoustic guitar magic against intense silence contrasts with electric monsterpiece

This amazing Wigmore concert took us from a first half of fragrant miniatures by David Fennessy and minimal magic from Sofia Gubaidulina elided into radical Bach to the "painfully loud" (Lentz's instruction) start and finish of Ingwe… The spell, as always with Shibe, was total; no other guitarist that I know of is working at this artistic level."

Read the full review here.

Seen and Heard International (Claire Seymour):

“I don’t expect that Wigmore Hall had previously heard anything quite like the primal scream that exploded from Sean Shibe’s electric guitar at the start of the second half of this recital…a performance of astonishing stamina, commitment, discipline and technique wizardry by Shibe, whose absolute immersion in Lentz’s music was spellbinding…one cannot but admire Shibe for his courage to challenge and unsettle, as much as for his expressive commitment and technical excellence. Such qualities were similarly communicative in the first half of the recital, during which Shibe’s acoustic guitar provided palette-cleansing pristineness and stillness before the raging, at that point unforeseen by many in the Hall, to follow…

At the extremes of both silence and shock-wave, this was miraculous and mesmerising music-making.”

Read the full review here.

Sean Shibe gives recitals this year at the Bridget Riley exhibition at the Southbank Centre’s Hayward Gallery, St. David’s Hall in Cardiff, Leicester International Music Festival, Bath International Music Festival and in Oxford, Southampton, and tours Ireland. His commitment to expanding the repertoire for his instrument sees him conceive imaginative programmes, heavily featuring new music, as well as newly commissioned works; recent and future performances include new music by James MacMillan, Daniel Kidane, Brian Bolger, David Fennessy, and Sofia Gubaidulina. New commissions include Mark Simpson, Lliam Paterson, David Fennessy, Freya Waley-Cohen, and young Welsh composer Sylvia Villa.

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