The Royal Overseas League (RSOL), occupies the auspicious address of 100 Princes Street, Edinburgh. It looks out over the city's historic skyline, the most westerly point of which is the prominent Castle Rock.

© Alberto Venzago
© Alberto Venzago

19-year-old local guitarist Sean Shibe is the winner of the 2011 ROSL Annual Music Competition, Strings Section – only the second guitarist in 59 years achieve this. This qualifies him for a place in the finals in London's Queen Elizabeth Hall on Tuesday 17 May and this Edinburgh recital was as much a celebration of the sectional success as it was a prelude to the finals.

Rather than easing into the seamless, 70-minute programme – a feat of stamina in itself - Sean opened with the dazzling Etude No. 10 by Giulio Regondi (1822-1872). If openers are a promise of what is to come, the capacity crowd could look forward to an evening of assured, economic, technique and engaging musicality.

Sustaining the 19th century idiom, Sean continued with the second of Dionisio Aguado's Trois Rondo Brillants Op. 2 (1822). Contrasting with the elegant charm of Regondi's Etude, this Rondo drives forward with dynamic determination – in no way diluted, and possibly abetted, by its minor key. The conflict and contrast inherent in this style of piece was effectively highlighted with intelligent and sensitive changes of dynamic, timbre and articulation.

Regondi made a return appearance in the form of Fête Villageoise, Op. 20. Technically demanding, as all Regondi's pieces are, this piece also requires a light, humorous delivery to convey the title's sense of a fun day out. Included in Sean's arsenal of expressive tools were audacious pauses, which caused the audience – literally in some cases - to sit up and wonder what could be coming next. Many concur that sad or serious music is easier to compose than happy music, as the latter runs the risk of sounding, at best trite and, at worst, inane. I feel the same to be true of performing and, for me, Sean captured the mood of this piece wonderfully.

The remainder of the programme was devoted to 20th Century music from England, Spain and Argentina. Symmetrical in structure, Malcolm Arnold's Fantasy Op. 107 (1971) centres on a vigorous Fughetta, flanked, in turn, by two haunting Ariettas. Continuing outwards are a Scherzo and March, each of which contrast very effectively with the thematically linked, atmospheric Prelude and Postlude. The dramatic contrast of moods which characterise this piece might well be expected from a titan of the film score world – Arnold completed the Academy Award winning score for The Bridge on the River Kwai in just ten days! Shape-shifting works such as this demand that the player live both in the moment and inside the music, to avoid a performance which might otherwise amount to a succession of disoriented adjustments. An impressive performance, such as this one, conveys the impression that the performer has composed or, better still, is improvising the music. One audience member, new to the piece, later remarked to me that she would like the first Arietta to be performed at her funeral – an event which, happily, is far from imminent. That a first hearing could make such an impression is a convincing – albeit sepulchral – testament to the performer having hit the spot.

Invoking appears frequently to be a dicey activity, as dark forces are often first to answer the call. Invocación y danza (1961) by Joaquin Rodrigo is no exception. The winner of the Coupe International de Guitare, this edgy piece, dedication to Falla, is something of a departure from Rodrigo's more familiar, sunny landscapes. The danza is more one of menace rather than of joy and it was impressive to experience its bleak beauty so convincingly interpreted by such a young performer.

Introducing his final piece - Alberto Ginastera's Guitar Sonata, Op. 47 (1976) - Sean mentioned its frequent inclusion in international guitar competitions – success in many of which is already part of his CV. Featuring trademark relentless, driving rhythms and biting harmonies, it is a technical tour de force and a winning finisher in any recital. Sean performed it with such panache and assurance that it's difficult to imagine the panel in the RSOL Annual Music Competition Finals being less than bowled over by this. It was clear from the affectionate audience response that all will wish him well in this event, and look forward to future performances.