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Wigmore Hall Debuts: Now and Then

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Wigmore Hall Debuts: Now and Then

The new face on the guitar scene seems to be the Scottish guitarist Sean Shibe who just played his debut recital in Wigmore Hall, London which has been a favored locale for not only UK, but also international debuts for decades. Sean was wrestling with the problem of no audience for his scheduled debut, but there is an excellent video of the performance:


This is a very fine debut, by the way. He is a superb technician and an excellent musician. Here is the program:

Scottish Lute Manuscripts

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Suite in E minor BWV996

Steve Reich (b.1936)
Electric Counterpoint for electric guitar and tape

Encore: Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016), Farewell to Stromness 

We might do a comparison here, just for historical perspective. As a matter of fact, I did my international debut in Wigmore Hall in September 1980, forty years ago! And I still have the program. My challenge was that one of the main venues for reviews was the magazine Music and Musicians whose proprietor had just committed suicide, so I was not going to get a review there. Luckily the dean of guitar journalism in London, John Duarte, was in attendance and gave me an excellent review. We later became friends. Here is my program:

Click to enlarge

In case you can't read it, it was:

Froberger: Plainte pour passer la mélancholie
Schoenberg: Six Little Pieces, Op. 19
Anthony Genge: Landscape II (1978)
Bach: Lute Suite No. 4
Giuliani: Rossiniana No. 1 Op. 119
Takemitsu: Folios (1974)
Villa-Lobos: Prelude No. 2, Etude No. 7

Good grief! No concessions there to anything is there? A program only a serious guitar-lover and devotee of serious 20th century music could love. But that was what, in my mind, was the point. To show that a new, serious artist was on the scene. Sean Shibe's program has some similar motives. He wants to show his roots with the Scottish lute music, as I did with the Canadian composer. He also wants to show his versatility by playing the Steve Reich piece, both virtuoso and fashionable. I hope he got great reviews and has a great career because he deserves them.

I'm afraid that nothing much came out of my debut. I wasn't able to follow up in the UK as I never set foot there again for some thirty years. And back in Canada, no-one showed the slightest interest in the debut, the review or the program. This is precisely what Canadian audiences did NOT want to hear! Through inexperience I was not able to exploit the event to gain favor with the Canadian arts establishment. In retrospect I can see that a guitarist playing this sort of program had better pursue a career in Europe because he won't appeal to anyone anywhere else!

Mind you, in time I did adjust somewhat to Canadian taste and managed a quite good career domestically with nationwide broadcasts on the CBC of concertos by Villa-Lobos and Rodrigo.

Here is my later recording of the last piece on the program, the Etude No. 7 by Villa-Lobos.




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