Release date: 27 October 2023
Complete Original Works for Three Guitars
«Encouraged by my esteemed friend and colleague Jakob Ortner, a respected guitar master in Vienna, my fascination for this instrument and its repertoire grew immensely. Regrettably, I discovered that guitar literature had slumbered for over half a century. […] Imagine the potential evolution if one were to compose for this splendid accompaniment instrument, guided by the distinguished teachings of our dear Master Ortner! […] Having crafted a range of distinctive romances – both popular and “artistic,” serious or light-hearted – I turned my attention to creating duets for wind instruments with guitar accompaniment. It was a delightful revelation: blending the timbres of an oboe or a clarinet with that of the guitar creates a sonic outcome significantly more enchanting than a combination of wind instruments with a piano».
These sentiments were penned in 1926 for the Austrian magazine, Österreische Gitarre Zeitschrift, by Ferdinand Rebay (Vienna, 1880-1953), in a declaration of his unyielding passion for the guitar. This love would spur him to create hundreds of pieces centred around the six strings.
At first, Rebay’s attention was primarily focused on the chamber music repertoire, employing the guitar in various combinations – be it accompanying solo melody instruments or in more extensive ensembles ranging from trios to septets. As time passed, the Viennese composer would create numerous solo works, among which his seven Sonatas especially shine.
Rebay’s work for guitar trio represents the most noteworthy contribution by any composer to this formation. Indeed, the prevalence of numerous guitar ensembles in German-speaking lands was a long-standing tradition, primarily due to the abundance of guitar societies in these regions. The Gitarrenorchester, or guitar orchestras, were known to employ instruments with differing tunings to achieve a broader melodic range. Rebay adopted this approach in several of the compositions that are present in these recordings, as we shall soon observe.
The CD fittingly commences with the Trio für Terz, Prim und Quintbass Gitarre, wherein the first and third guitars are respectively tuned a third higher (in G) and a fifth lower (in A) than the normal tuning. This remarkable composition is the most extensive piece within the programme, and one that Rebay must have particularly cherished. In fact, it is a transcription, dated 8th June 1940, of an earlier Sonata for piano, composed in 1901. The very same piece, reshaped more succinctly, gave birth to the Sonate in einem Satz for solo guitar.
The Trio begins with an initial movement in the Sonata form, where a decided first theme, defined by its use of dotted rhythm, contrasts with a second musical motif, in which Rebay showcases his talent as an outstanding melodist. Notably, there are two isolated episodes – one before the recapitulation and another in the concluding part – both expressing a somewhat impressionistic flavour.
This is followed by an energetic Scherzo, characterised by short scales played by the third guitar, which is then followed by a Trio in waltz tempo, exuding a distinctly Viennese style, wherein the “terzina” guitar strikes the highest notes. In the Adagio, Rebay employs the technique of counterpoint and exhibits his refined use of harmonisations. The Sonata triumphantly culminates in a dazzling Rondo, constructed upon Hungarian folk melodies.
The splendid Intermezzo in E is a piece set in ternary time wherein a triplet arpeggio, initially presented by the first guitar, circulates throughout the opening section, echoed by all three instruments. The atmosphere, initially melancholic, gradually mellows, leading to the tranquil key of E major.
This is succeeded by a second section, featuring a Trio (very moderate and always highly expressive) with a more homely character, wherein the first and second guitars perform refined embellishments. The composition concludes with a full representation of the initial segment.
The Suite über altfranzösische Volkslieder was penned in January 1933 and was dedicated to Rebay’s niece, Gerta Hammerschmid, who performed its premiere along with Otto Schlinder and Richard Dewath on the 12th of December 1944, at the Brahms-Saal of the Musikverein in Vienna. The composition requires the use of a “terzina” guitar.
The suite is composed of five pieces, each inspired by French folk tunes: the opening Praeludium borrows from the Renaissance song “Vray dieu d’amours”. It serves as a brief introduction wherein a slow and tender melody, given to the “terzina” guitar, is accompanied by the other two instruments in a contrapuntal style.
The second piece draws inspiration from the aria “Tandis que tout sommelle”, taken from the opera “L’Amant Jaloux” by the Flemish-born French composer, André Grétry. It is built on a stunning melancholic melody in D minor, which later undergoes variation leading to a magnificent final progression in the tranquil key of D major.
The third piece, livelier in character, is based on the protest song “Le pauvre labourer”. This is succeeded by a brief, slow-paced fugue, inspired by the folk song “Sy je perdoys mon amy”.
The Suite rounds off with a spirited 6/8 dance, drawing inspiration from the 18th-century tune, “L’amour ne troble, soint mon coeur”.
In the Sechs leichte Variationen über das Lied “Alles neu macht der Mai…”, dated 27th of February 1952, Rebay illustrates his exceptional gift for treating the form of a theme with variations. The composition takes its cue from a very popular folk song in the German-speaking regions.
The first two variations showcase a contrapuntal style, followed by a third set in a minor key. Wrapping up the work are three dances: a Musette, wherein the third guitar mimics the sound of a bagpipe, a Sarabande, and a jovial Waltz.
The Kleine Elegie, a brief piece dated the 10th of February 1953, was penned in the final year of the Viennese composer’s life. The piece is in the form of a Romance (ABA): a sorrowful theme in A minor is contrasted with a ten-bar section exuding a more serene disposition.
The CD is completed by another large-scale piece: the Trio in G Major, composed for Christmas in 1927 and dedicated to Rebay’s niece, Gerta Hammerschmid. Here again, Rebay incorporates the use of the “Terzina” guitar.
The composition commences with an open-form Praeludium, serving as a brief introduction, where the prevalent use of arpeggiated melodies spotlights the timbral capabilities of the six strings. This is followed by four variations on a charmingly simple original theme of folk character. Once again, Rebay’s talent for composing alluring melodies is evident. Nevertheless, there are episodes with a more dramatic flair, as observed in the third variation, marked by a stern ostinato assigned to the second guitar. The movement wraps up peacefully with the theme, performed in tremolos by the third guitar, accompanied by the arpeggios of the other two instruments.
The third movement is a minuet, reminiscent of Mozart’s style, where the use of staccato and the emphasis on the upbeat are frequent; this is contrasted with a legato and melodic Trio set in the somewhat unconventional (for the guitar) key of A flat major.
The concluding movement features a beautiful Introduction (remarkably slow and expressive), succeeded by a spirited Fugue paced like a march. Here, the well-chosen subject, impeccable polyphonic progression, the final cadence performed by the first guitar, and the last thematic reference in thehomorhythmic style all serve to bring this delightful Trio to a majestic conclusion.
Enrico Barbareschi © 2023
Enrico Maria Barbareschi, Leopoldo Saracino, and Fabio Spruzzola are the three "musician friends" who, in 1991, gave birth to the Guitar Trio, one of the most long-standing formations of its kind. They graduated from the "Giuseppe Verdi" Conservatory in Milan and later attended specialization courses held by renowned interpreters such as Oscar Ghiglia, Aldo Minella, David Russell, and Alirio Diaz. They have been invited on multiple occasions to collaborate with the Orchestra of Teatro alla Scala in Milan for the realization of works by Weill, Donizetti, Verdi, and Henze.
Winners of national and international awards and competitions, they have participated in important festivals such as the Estate Frentana in Lanciano, the Festival of Krakow, the Scandinavian Guitar Festival, and have performed for prestigious associations such as the Societé Genevoise d'Etudes Italiennes in Geneva, the Gioventù Musicale Italiana, the Società Umanitaria and the A.M.I. in Milan, and the Martin Luther Universität in Halle. Particular resonance was received by the concerts held in Pomposa (1992, Musica Pomposa), Algiers (2006, Centre Culturel de la Radio Algérienne), and Wolfsburg (2006, Gartensaal, Schloss).
In 2005, they released the CD "Music for 18 strings," receiving flattering reviews from Italian and foreign magazines (Amadeus, Guitart, Musiker Magazine). Their unique interpretations have been warmly welcomed by audiences and critics alike everywhere they performed, and their transcriptions of non-guitar works have consistently earned appreciation for highlighting the timbral peculiarities of the three instruments.
Fabio has been a teacher in numerous Conservatories, concluding his teaching career at the "Giuseppe Verdi" Conservatory in Milan, where Leopoldo now teaches. Enrico holds a chair at the "Giuseppe Nicolini" Conservatory in Piacenza.