It was Jakob Ortner, one of the composer’s colleagues at the academy in Vienna, who piqued Rebay’s interest in the guitar. The enthusiasm and skill Ortner and his pupils displayed convinced Rebay that the guitar could handle any harmonic construction thrown at it, far beyond the clichéd writing for the instrument of the late 19th century.
The 12 Deutsche Tänze von Beethoven (1939, from the WoO8 cycle) and the Tema con Variazioni aus Op.12 No.1 von L. van Beethoven (1952) display a great passion for the German composer; Rebay also arranged Beethoven’s Sonatas Op.79 and Op.90 for ensembles including a guitar.
Rebay often opted for a simple style to make his arrangements accessible to a wide range of performers. This is true of certain (unfortunately undated) transcriptions for violin and guitar: a gavotte in D minor by Jean-Baptiste Lully; a minuet in F major by George Frideric Handel; the Andante from the Italian Concerto BWV971 and the prelude in E major from the first book of The Well-Tempered Clavier by Johann Sebastian Bach. This probably indicates a revision of the violin part, and shows the esteem the composer enjoyed on the Viennese music scene.
Rebay returned to the violin and guitar pairing on multiple occasions for a favourite genre of his: the theme and variations. The writing here is more demanding and stands out for the equal weighting given to the two instruments and the use of keys unrelated to the theme for the individual variations, producing a concertato effect with numerous subtle expressive twists. All the cycles of variations on this recording are based on folk themes, with the exception of those based on “Heidenröslein” (1953, from the Lied of the same name by Franz Schubert) and “Und der Hans schleicht umher” (undated), which some scholars, contrary to Rebay’s title, attribute to Franz von Woyna.
Finally, Rebay wrote two sonatas for violin and guitar, both in 1942, in which he put his innovative concept of the guitar as a fully versatile harmonic instrument through its paces. They follow a similar expressive journey: a sombre yet assertive first movement leads to vibrant, lyrical playing in the theme and variations, before the tone gradually lightens over the course of the final two movements.
Now that the guitar’s status is fully established, Rebay’s refined and dignified voice has made itself heard, thanks to the music’s solid craftsmanship but above all its sincerity. Its rediscovery dispels many clichés and reassures us that humble yet beautiful music is not necessarily destined to be unjustly forgotten.
· Recorded in January 2023 in Garlasco (Pavia), Italy.
· All works, apart from the 2 original Sonatas, are world-premiere recordings!
· Booklet in English contains liner notes by Leonardo De Marchi, and profiles of the artists.
- Ferdinand Rebay (1880-1953) was active at one of the most fascinating periods of European music and taught by one of the most respected musicians of the time – Robert Fuchs, at the Vienna Conservatoire. Fuchs was both a composer and a pedagogue, and among his esteemed pupils were Mahler, Wolf, Sibelius, Zemlinsky and Schreker. Fuchs considered Rebay to be one of his best pupils, although the young composer found it impossible to flourish within the environment of the Second Viennese School and continued to work within the late Romantic idiom.
- Rebay turned to the guitar due to the influence of his friend Jacobus Ortner, Professor of Guitar at the conservatoire. Aware that the neglect of guitar repertoire for over half a century had led to a decline in the quality of writing for the instrument, Rebay set out to write complex, serious music that continued in the tradition of Giuliani and Sor.
- This 3-CD set presents the complete works for violin and guitar, an unusual combination for a late-romantic composer. Included are two substantial sonatas, a suite, character pieces, sets of variations and transcriptions of mainly Baroque repertoire (Bach and Handel).
- Played by two dedicated and passionate Italian musicians: Piercarlo Sacco (violin) and Andrea Dieci (guitar).
- A valuable addition to the growing Rebay discography on Brilliant Classics, a worthy tribute to an unjustly neglected composer.