Classical guitarists get comparitively little consideration and wrongfully so. We will have much to say about the classical guitar, particularly when we get to Benjamin Britten much further down the line. Compared with rock gods and jazz freaks, classical guitarists operate in a world where they are largely shunned by classical audiences and ignored by fans of other genres.
Not so here. Like the piano, the guitar is a wonderful instrument to convey the development of harmony across the centuries, tracing how the harmonic line evolved vertically through to the late Baroque period, rich as it was in counterpoint. Sean Shibe’s recordings present a wonderful chronicle of these developments and present, pardon the pun, a counterpoint to the lengthy written description here.
Let’s start with Shibe’s 2017 album “Dreams and Fancies”, on which Shibe presents a history of the English School, contrasting John Dowland (Renaissance) with more modern composers such as William Walton, Benjamin Britten, Malcom Arnold, and Lennox Berkeley.
I’d advise listening to the Dowland works, especially Praeludium, and then picking up a more recent release, “Bach”, which presents Bach’s works for solo lute, before moving on to “Camino”, and Erik Satie’s Gymnopedies, before closing with some Benjamin Britten (off “Dreams and Fancies”) and Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint off “SoftLOUD”.
To paraphrase one critic: Bach may have been singular, but he contained multitudes. We will pick of this theme in the coming weeks.
While all of these albums are available in the entirety on your favorite streaming service, here is a curated playlist in Spotify, which is presented roughly in chronological order.