The Scotsman Sessions #63: Sean Shibe

Welcome to The Scotsman Sessions. With the performing arts world shutting down for the foreseeable future, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on scotsman.com, with introductions from our critics. Here, classical guitarist Sean Shibe performs the Sarabande from Bach’s E minor suite BWV996

With his latest Bach CD enjoying critical acclaim and three weeks at number 1 in the UK Specialist Classical Music Chart, guitarist Sean Shibe could be forgiven for feeling disappointed at not being able to capitalise on this success due to the coronavirus pandemic. He’s also had to postpone the premieres of two guitar concertos – one electric the other acoustic – and two solo pieces that were due to be unveiled during lockdown.

But despite the upheaval due to Covid-19, Shibe remains upbeat. “If the least I’ve had to deal with is cancelled concerts and frustration, I’ve done pretty well,” he says. “The only way to get through periods like this, where you might be inclined to be bitter and easily irritated, is to be grateful for what you have.”

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The three months at home in Edinburgh with his family have given Shibe time to delve into other repertoire. “I’ve been enjoying some gorgeous pieces by the Catalan composer Federico Mompou,” he says. “I haven’t played them for a long time as I never wanted to deal with traditional Spanish repertoire. There’s something about its flamboyant piquancy I find overly affecting. But Mompou is from the French side of Spain, so his music is more European. I’ve also been playing some non-traditional pieces for classical guitar and electronics by Zad Moultaka and Clarence Barlow.”

Sean Shibe

Shibe’s choice for The Scotsman Sessions, though, is Bach. “The Sarabande has some of the most melodious writing and beautiful passagework we come across in Bach’s lute suites,” he says. “I love the sheer expressiveness of the thick contrapuntal textures and his audacious counterpoint.”

Like most musicians, Shibe is keen to play to live audiences. “No-one thinks this is the new normal, it’s so inherently unsustainable. And no-one wants to listen to mangled-down sound through speakers. Quality lives on and we all want to go back to hearing music live.”