Joaquín Rodrigo’s Fantasía para un Gentilhombre

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The performing diary of BBC New Generation Artist Sean Shibe

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Joaquín Rodrigo’s Fantasía para un Gentilhombre

Rodrigo’s Fantasía para un Gentilhombre is a suite of 6 dance movements based on works by 17th-century composer Gaspar Sanz. Written in 1954 for the great Andrés Segovia (who notably never performed the more famous Concierto de Aranjuez because it was written for his rival Regino Sainz de la Maza), it captures the essence of his country in a highly refined style. Sometimes sorrowful, sometimes charming – even elegant – it is an intriguing juxtaposition of 17th- and 20th-century Spain. I recently performed the work with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and kept a diary of my thoughts on the rehearsals and performances we had.

 

Tuesday 29 July 2014

A first rehearsal is always something to test your nerves. Even if you know the individual players and conductor personally, playing the first note will alter all previous conceptions – a new dimension of their personality starts to unfold.

This rehearsal turns out not to be long, but through the New Generation Artists scheme I have become better at coping with the severity of time constraints: I used to ask 'how can one, with only 3 hours, craft a relationship with the group that they are to dance, fence and battle with?'

Perhaps the best and only place to find solace is in the nature of performance itself – every concert is a unique and fresh event. No matter what happens in rehearsal, or the previous 1000 performances, when the artist is in and weaves the moment there is a chance for it to reach far beyond what it had ever been in the past.

The rehearsal goes well and, as always, it is an honour to play with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. I return home feeling exhausted.

 

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Stirling Castle. The sky is slightly cloudy and the evening is beautifully comfortable. I have friends in the audience, the acoustic is favourable despite the deepness of the Great Hall and the concert has sold out. From my dressing room I can see the audience arriving and tourists leaving across the cobbled courtyard. With the crossover of these two groups, the sun lowering and the orchestra milling around, now changed into concertwear, it is a portrait of transition.

Naturally nervous – this is my first public performance of the concerto – I change slowly. Somehow this helps. In relative silence the shedding of civvies is mirrored in a change of mindset and this is comforting: it takes time to put on my concert wear and with every layer added I feel more ready. It’s something like battle dress, or would it be more appropriate to call it armour? I have time to read, check my nails and relax. I will be collected in 15 minutes.

 

Thursday 31 July 2014

Packing for the journey North: white tie (perhaps as apt as it has ever been para un Gentilhombre), jagged nail buffers, used for 2 months (in Inverness I will pick up a couple more) and black electrical tape, which has a couple of uses. One is for sticking over my nails, which are currently extremely short from overpractise and therefore require protection during the preparation of more technical aspects of the piece, and the other is to stick over my nose, which forces me to breathe with awareness through my mouth – during NGA studio recordings I have often spoiled extremely good takes by breathing too heavily through my nose. To correct this unpleasant habit I now practise regularly with masking tape over my nose. This solution, which has the added benefit of stopping me taking myself too seriously, cannot be recommended highly enough!

Eden Court Theatre has a dryer sound than Stirling Castle, which solves some of the balance issues presented the previous night, but introduces others. Regardless, the wonderfully enthusiastic audience more than make up for any acoustical discrepancy – highland warmth is still what it was.

 

Friday 1 August 2014

A short drive from Inverness lies the infamous Findhorn community. Being placed a mile or so from the North-East coast and with the mountains rising up in the South it has a sort of finality of destination and feels appropriate as the final stop of our tour.

The audience here is as delightful as the foundation is idyllic - the Moray Firth has more hours of sunlight than any other part of Scotland. A walk past a nudist hot-tub, clusters of solar-panelled houses, scrubland and sand dunes brings you dramatically to the sea.

Somehow, I feel closer to my fellow musicians than ever before. Some of them I have known for a while and I’ve worked with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra before. Hailing from the same city as they; travelling the same often exquisitely desolate roads; taking time, also, to play the tourist with them – these are all things that have narrowed the distance so commonly felt by soloists and the orchestras that they work with.

 

Sean Shibe, BBC New Generation Artist (guitar)

 

Sean Shibe performs Peter Maxwell Davies's Hill Runes at Glasgow City Halls on Sunday 14 September. Visit: www.glasgowconcerthalls.com