This Delphian-label release by the young Scots guitarist Sean Shibe is something of a tribute to guitar pioneer Julian Bream, who, you learn from the booklet, "inspired, performed, edited, and (most of them) performed" the four outer works on the program, by William Walton, Lennox Berkeley, Malcolm Arnold, and Benjamin Britten. Bream would also certainly have performed the three pieces by John Dowland that make up the central ent'racte, and Shibe captures his big, spacious, highly percussive style. Sample one of the ripping finales, like the last of Walton's Five Bagatelles, a work that very cleverly incorporates Spanish guitar idioms without being a Spanish-style piece. None of these four works is exactly well known, and all are delightful. Arnold's Fantasy for guitar, Op. 107, is a snappy little Baroque suite, one of the highly accessible works of his old age. Shibe's Dowland is enough to make you want him to do a whole album of the stuff (listen to the breathtaking, suspended-in-mid-air Forlorn Hope Fancy), and Britten's Nocturnal after John Dowland, Op. 70, wraps up the whole program. Delphian errs in siting the recording at Crichton Collegiate Church in Midlothian; the music wasn't written for churches, and although they may have wished to emphasize Shibe's big dynamic range and strong attacks, the guitarist and the music can speak for themselves. Apart from this, Dreams & Fancies is an excellent collection of some 20th century guitar music that should be heard more often than it is, and an avatar of the Bream spirit.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Sonatina for Guitar Op. 52/1|
|Fantasy for Guitar Op. 107|
|Nocturnal after John Dowland Op. 70|