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Ferdinand Rebay: Guitar Sonatas

Audio Samples

>Rebay, Ferdinand : Grosses duo in A minor, for guitar & 5 string bass-guitar
>Rebay, Ferdinand : Variations on Schubert's Wiegenlied, for guitar
>Rebay, Ferdinand : Guitar Sonata in A minor
>Rebay, Ferdinand : Guitar Sonata in D minor

Album Summary

>Rebay, Ferdinand : Grosses duo in A minor, for guitar & 5 string bass-guitar
>Rebay, Ferdinand : Variations on Schubert's Wiegenlied, for guitar
>Rebay, Ferdinand : Guitar Sonata in A minor
>Rebay, Ferdinand : Guitar Sonata in D minor
Performers Composer

Notes & Reviews:

This recording attempts to repair a deep historical injustice: Ferdinand Rebay, although popular as a choir director and a composer of vocal music, is quite unknown for his guitar compositions. This new CD marks an end to a half-century of oblivion and announces a latecomer among the great 20th-century guitar composers.

"Now here's something unusual. Who was Ferdinand Rebay (1880 - 1953)? Well, the short version is he was a composer, music teacher, choir director, and pianist who studied with Josef Wöss and Eusebius Mandyczewski. He also studied composition at the Vienna Conservatory of the Society for the Friends of Music with Robert Fuchs and piano at the Vienna Conservatory with Josef Hofmann. At last, two familiar names. From 1921 to 1946, with a timeout during World War II, he taught piano and singing at the Vienna Music Academy where one of his students was soprano Maria Tauberová, a name sure to be familiar to the opera intelligentsia.

Nowhere, not even in the more extended biographical sketch furnished by the booklet notes, do we learn that Rebay himself played guitar, which is odd because the composers I know who wrote extensively for the instrument were themselves accomplished players on it. We are told, though, that Rebay's interest in the guitar was sparked by his niece, Gerta Hammerschmid, who was apparently quite the virtuoso, and that with encouragement and technical guidance from her and her teacher at Vienna's Music Academy, Rebay began writing practically nonstop for the instrument. If you've never heard of him - and I certainly hadn't before receiving this recording - it's because he died impoverished and forgotten, leaving behind some 100 choral works, 400 songs, and two operas. Though Johann Gaitzsch's album notes do not specifically state that Rebay was Jewish, a statement that he lost his teaching positions in 1938 after the Austrian Anchluss suggests that he may have been.

Having listened to the works on this disc, I'd be prepared to say that if any composer deserves to inherit the mantle of Fernando Sor - whose guitar music I'm very fond of - Ferdinand Rebay is surely the one. These pieces may all have been written from 1925 on, but to hear them is to take a step back in time, almost a full century. Echoes of Schubert, and not just in the Wiegenlied Variations, resound through their pages.

At first I thought the quint bass-guitar in the Grand Duo referred to a five-stringed instrument. But no; it turns out that the "quint" refers to the guitar's tuning which, according to the notes, is a fifth lower than the regular bass guitar. Apparently, it's an obsolete instrument found only rarely in plucked-instrument orchestras. To ensure greater circulation of this very beautiful piece, Philomele Editions is preparing a version for two normal guitars, the second one having its sixth string tuned to D. I gather that the current recording uses an actual quint bass-guitar. It's not known whether the piece, dated May 1940, was ever played in public, but its front page bears an annotation in Rebay's hand, "after an early piano sonata." The slow movement is a set of variations on Schubert's "Morgengruss" from Die schöne Mullerin.

With the D-Minor Sonata, the Schubert plot thickens, for its second-movement variations are based on none other than the opening theme of Schubert's great B?-Major Piano Sonata, D 960. It's clear that Rebay adored Schubert and wove many of Schubert's melodies into these works. But they're not transcriptions, arrangements, or paraphrases; they're original compositions that simply borrow a tune as a springboard, much in the way that Brahms borrowed an existing melody for his Variations on a Theme by Haydn.

The sonatas follow standard classical form; each is in four movements with a sonata-allegro first movement, a slow movement, a scherzo, and a fast-tempo finale. The Grand Duo is in three movements, dispensing with the scherzo, but it too follows form within its movements.

This is not exclusively for lovers of the guitar but for those who appreciate beautiful music regardless of its medium. One might hope that this very lovely recording will open the door to further exploration of this virtually anonymous composer."-Fanfare

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Ivrea (Turin), Italy, SMC.



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Works Details

>Rebay, Ferdinand : Grosses duo in A minor, for guitar & 5 string bass-guitar
  • Performers: Matteo Mela (Guitar); Lorenzo Micheli (Guitar)
  • Running Time: 20 min. 38 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 1940

>Rebay, Ferdinand : Variations on Schubert's Wiegenlied, for guitar
  • Performer: Lorenzo Micheli (Guitar)
  • Running Time: 7 min. 53 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern

>Rebay, Ferdinand : Guitar Sonata in A minor
  • Performer: Matteo Mela (Guitar)
  • Running Time: 18 min. 32 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern

>Rebay, Ferdinand : Guitar Sonata in D minor
  • Performer: Lorenzo Micheli (Guitar)
  • Running Time: 20 min. 12 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern