Rebay: Music Works for Two Guitars


  • Artist(s): Enrico Maria Barbareschi, Leopoldo Saracino
  • Composer(s): Ferdinand Rebay
  • EAN Code: 7.46160913902
  • Edition: Da Vinci Classics
  • Format: 1 Cd
  • Genre: Chamber
  • Instrumentation: Guitar Duo
  • Period: Contemporary
  • Publication year: 2022
SKU: C00556 Category:

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The rediscovery of the works by Ferdinand Rebay (Vienna, June 11th, 1880 – November 6th, 1953) is due mainly to an article by Johann Gaitzsch published in 2006 on the journal Soundboard. It immediately elicited deep interest in the international community of guitarists.
Recently, the publication of Luiz Mantovani’s dissertation, “Ferdinand Rebay and the Reinvention of Guitar Chamber Music”, as well as the compilation of a catalogue of most of his works by Maria Gelew, have contributed to shed new light on the Viennese composer’s life and work.
Rebay was born in a family of musicians. His father was a music publisher and dealer, and his mother, a teacher and pianist, had been a pupil of Bruckner himself. As a consequence, Rebay had an excellent musical education. Once he learnt to play the violin and the piano, he entered as a choirboy in the Abbey of Heiligenkreuz. In 1901 he was admitted to the piano class of J. Hofmann at the Vienna Conservatoire, and, even more importantly, to the composition class of the famous teacher Robert Fuchs, who had taught also Mahler, Wolf, and Sibelius; he graduated in 1904.
Since 1905, he was entrusted with the direction of the Wiener Chorverein, and later of the Wiener Schubertbund. In 1920 he was appointed a piano teacher at the Wienerakademie, where he got in contact with Jakob Ortner, who taught guitar at the same institution. This led him to compose the first chamber music works dedicated to the six-stringed instrument.
The fruitful cooperation with Ortner, combined with the presence of his niece Gerta Hammerschmid (a guitarist in turn), encouraged Rebay to keep composing for our instrument up to the last years of his life.
Following what was written by Fritz Niedermann, in 1953, for Rebay’s obituary on the journal Gitarrenfreund, the composer wrote about six hundred works for the guitar, both as a solo and as a chamber music instrument. His musical traits are clearly inspired by the Neoclassical trends characterizing the first half of the twentieth century. They are very far from the instances of the so-called Second Viennese School. His style is very personal, and it is reminiscent of the atmospheres of contemporaneous Vienna. There are the last echoes of a Germanic late-Romanticism, imbued with lyricism (one may think of Richard Strauss), there are transparent Impressionist and Ravelian atmospheres (one may cite the Quartet and the works for strings and piano by the great Maurice), but also the clear Neoclassical and German connotations of Hindemith. In sum, the entire artistic, cultural, and musical substrate whence also Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Ponce drew abundant inspiration: their names are well known by guitarists in turn.
The Variations on an Original Theme for two guitars (“Variationen über ein eigenes Thema”) opening the album are dedicated to Viennese guitarist Luise Walker. They constitute a typical example of his favourite form, i.e. the Theme with Variations, employed abundantly by Rebay in his guitar output and generously represented in this CD. This work distinguishes itself for its particularly extroverted and brilliant character. After a brief introduction, a D-minor theme with a vaguely Hungarian flavour is presented. It is followed by a pattern in which each variation merges with the following one, creating an uninterrupted flow. This leads us through a great variety of atmospheres, and of technical and stylistic registers. It finally emerges into a brilliant and majestic finale: here, after a reckless Tarantella, the theme comes back – this time in the major mode, in the tempo of a quick March (“Geschwind – Marsch”).
Rebay composed, all in all, seven Sonatas for solo guitar, presumably around 1940. Four of them were written between 1941 and 1944, whilst the manuscripts of the remaining three are not dated. The only copy (not an autograph one) of the First Sonata in E major, is preserved at the Moravian Museum of Brno, in the Czech Republic.
The premiere of this piece was entrusted to the composer’s niece Gerta Hammerschmid, who performed it on November 27th, 1943, at the Brahms Saal of the Vienna Musikverein.
The first movement, Fliessend bewegt aber nicht zu lebhaft (“Flowingly moving, but not too lively”) is written in the Sonata form and in a triple time. Particularly in the second theme, it mirrors the typical Viennese taste. Four variations follow, on an ancient German Minnelied, “Verstohlen geht der Mond auf”. The same theme had been employed by Brahms in the second movement of his Piano Sonata no. 1 op. 1 in C major. Rebay, after having written in his own hand, and with the usual mastery, his variations, closes his second movement by transcribing the beautiful Coda excerpted from the Hamburg composer’s Sonata. The third movement is an A-minor Scherzo, characterized by a subtle humour, whilst the Trio framed by it, with its melodic spans, appears to be more legato and cantabile. The Finale is a March in the Sonata-form whose development, however, is replaced by a noteworthy episode, enriched by the use of harmonic sounds. Here Rebay seems to pay a further homage to Brahms, given the likeness of this piece with the melodic incipit of the German composer’s Symphony no. 4 op. 98. The two fragments of the central episode are cited again in the coda; this time, it is accompanied by fading arpeggios, leading to the piece’s conclusion on a pianissimo chord.
The Piccola Passacaglia for two guitars, written in May 1940, constitutes an example of the Neoclassical revisitation of the Baroque musical forms. Here, the element of variation characterizes the compositional style, and leaves free rein to Rebay’s fantasy. He seems to lead us back, once again, to the sounds of Brahms’ Fourth Symphony, whose last movement is a Passecaille in turn.
The other work for solo guitar presented here was written in July 1950 and dedicated to Luise Walker. It is the Theme with Variations on Ah! Vous dirai-je maman, taking as their starting point Mozart’s version of the French folk tune. The first variations have an ornamental character. Rebay starts from atmospheres linked to the Mozartean language, and later moves toward very varied musical characters, reinterpreting the theme in various keys and musical forms. These include the gipsy dance as well as the salon Mazurka, a vaguely Baroque Sarabande and a classical-style minuet. The last variation brings us back to the initial key, and leads to an energetic Coda.
The album closes with the Serenade for two guitars, written in July 1949.
It is a wide-ranging work of the Sonata genre, due to its division in four movements, even though the opening movement is not in the typical Sonata form. The composition opens with a Lyrisch Praeludium in a brief open form (just 42 bars), of an archaic flavour. Here the two instruments enter in dialogue in a modal and contrapuntal style, reminiscent of atmospheres linked to the French Impressionist school.
The second movement is built in Rebay’s favourite form of the Theme with Variations. In this case, it is a simple theme characterized by small rhythmical movements in repeated notes, followed by just two Variations offering a rhythmical elaboration of the theme. In the third and last Variation (“Calmo e tenero fino alla fine del brano”) the theme is presented by the second guitar in doubled rhythmic values, whilst the first guitar plays a counterpoint in sixths in the high register. This creates an effect of particular calm and serenity, leading to the final section. This is marked by a pedal of tonic, and fades out on a very sweet C-major chord. The third movement is a lively Scherzo, characterized by the constant use of staccato. It is flanked by a Trio in the tempo of a Waltz, in a markedly Viennese and almost Mahlerian style. The Finale is made of a joyful Rondò in the tempo of a March: this is another constant feature of the Austrian composer. In this piece, Rebay makes use of the Sonata form in the exposition and reprise. Instead of the development, however, a Chorale with three variations is inserted, perhaps reminiscent of the composer’s beginnings as the conductor of the Wiener Chorverein and of the Wiener Schubertbund. In the short final Coda, some homorhythmic chromatic scales lead to two fortissimo chords, triumphally closing the Serenade.
It is odd that Rebay’s figure resurfaced only in these last twenty years. Indeed, his first works in the 1920s had the guitar framed by a chamber-music surrounding. This happened at a time when, thanks mainly to Segovia, the interest of audience and performers alike was turned mainly, if not only, to the solo repertoire. Rebay’s most important pieces for one or more guitars date back principally to the Forties. These were the darkest years for the German-speaking nations, and Austria, at that time, was isolated from the rest of the world.
Moreover, the career of Gerta Hammerschmid, the dedicatee of most of Rebay’s guitar works, was mainly in the field of chamber music. She only parsimoniously, and perhaps slightly jealously, disseminated the works of her uncle.
Another important figure is that of Luise Walker, the most important Austrian guitarist in those years, and, as has been seen, the dedicatee of some of Rebay’s works. However, she performed his pieces only in the first years of her career.
This is a pity. In Rebay’s oeuvre one can easily find the link – sadly, always considered as a missing link – between the Italian- and Spanish-style nineteenth century repertoire and the great German Romantic tradition. This is to say, that Rebay is the Brahms which the guitar so deeply missed.

Leopoldo Saracino,
Enrico Maria Barbareschi
© 2021


born in 1965, completed his musical studies in Milan at the Civica Scuola di Musica under the guidance of Maestro Claudio Rossi, graduating in 1986 at the "Giuseppe Verdi" Conservatory.
He attended master classes held by renowned musicians such as Alirio Diaz, Oscar Ghiglia, Aldo Minella and Ruggero Chiesa.
In 1989 he was ranked second in the auditions for the Orchestra of Teatro alla Scala in Milan, an institution with whom he collaborated for the realization of the works "Der Jasager" by Kurt Weill and "Pollicino" by Hans Werner Henze, making recordings for the Ricordi record company.
Since 1999 he has been playing in a duo with the flautist Miriam Cipriani, with whom he recorded a cd, and in a Trio with the latter and the clarinettist Roberto Gander.
He is also involved in the field of education and is author of the book "Corso di chitarra classica”, published by De Vecchi Editore.
He is Professor of guitar at the "Giuseppe Nicolini" state Conservatory of Piacenza (IT).

Leopoldo Saracino is one of the leading guitarists in Italy. Born in Milano (Italy) in 1965 he made his debut at the age of 14. Since that time he has pursued a varied career as a recitalist, concerto soloist and chamber musician that brought him in Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Austria, Greece, Canada and of course all over Italy. He studied with Ruggero Chiesa, at the State Conservatorium G.Verdi of Milan. Subsequent studies have been with David Russell, Oscar Ghiglia, Leo Brouwer, and David Tanenbaum. He won several international competitions, such as the international competition "M.Giuliani", the International Prize of Contemporary Music of Lagonegro and the Scandinavian International Guitar Competition. His particular interest is the original music of the 19th century played on an original instrument of Louis Panormo. He is regularly touring all Europe with concert programs including works by Rossini, Paganini, Giuliani among others. His love for chamber music brought him to the recordings of various Cds with several Masterpieces of the chamber repertoire of the classic style. To remember is the first modern recordings of the complete works of Ferdinando Carulli for guitar and Fortepiano in 8 Cds for the Label Nuova Era or the recordings of chamber works by Filippo Gragnani and Anton Diabelli. As solo player he recorded the 36 Capricci for solo guitar by Luigi Legnani. He likes also playing the traditional guitar and his repertoire is particularly wide and range from baroque to contemporary music. Leopoldo Saracino is not only a busy recitalist but his activity includes a lot of concerts with Contemporary music Ensembles. Among them he tour regularly with New Made Ensemble and Dedalo Ensemble. He collaborates with MDI Ensemble in the recording session of a CD dedicated to the italian composer Stefano Gervasoni. He is also member of the Italy based Guitar trio “Chitarra-trio” with whom he made the cd “Music for 18 strings”. He is professor in the state Conservatory in Brescia (Italy) and is regularly invited to hold masterclasses in Italy and Germany.