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Ferdinand Rebay : Kleine Vortrags – Stucke : Bergmann Edition

Ferdinand Rebay (edited and fingered by Milena Valcheva)

Bergmann Edition: 36 pages

The story of Ferdinand Rebay’s guitar works is a truly fascinating one and one that I first became aware of in 2007 when I was sent a book of his guitar music in my capacity then of a reviewer for the Classical Guitar magazine. This man’s name was completely new to me when I received it then . He lived from 1880 to 1953, and was Viennese. Around 1925 he started composing a great number of works for the guitar, and living where and when he did, it is not too surprising to find that he was in the same musical area as Korngold, Zemlinsky and others from this time including his harmonic vocabulary having some startling similarities to Bruckner and Mahler, composers whose music I personally love, especially Gustav Mahler. At any rate in spite of the fact that he wrote more than 600 works for the guitar , solo, or in various combinations ,as well as 400 lieder, 100 choral works and 2 full scale operas and was considered a boy wonder in his teens, he died penniless, and forgotten in abject poverty, and became one of the forgotten. Apparently he wasn’t a guitar player, so without knowing for sure I feel that he must have had advice from players at some times when writing his works for guitar as they are utterly playable from start to finish, if at times a tad unusual in their hand positions, and fingerings.

This latest book from Bergmann is part of the Rebay Project where the intention is to publish his entire guitar works! A wonderful idea! This latest volume is a set of 12 small pieces, of medium difficulty upwards ( so not for beginners) , very varied in character , and all of them immensely interesting to play, and none of them having that ‘déjà vu’ moment, where you feel you have heard and seen it all before on the guitar, for, however he wrote , and if he got advice from anyone else or not, these are unique, as guitar pieces, and yet almost consistently have that late Romantic, slightly unusual harmonic quality that one finds in Mahler and others of his day.

They vary from the slightly humorous Bauerntanz where there are plenty of slides and odd accents, and moments where the harmonies feel a little strange, (but nice nonetheless), to a staccato ridden Gavotte, and an up – tempo Kleiner Marsch with lots of character in its forward driving motion.

These are so unique, and like everything else I have seen of his so far, simply wonderful material and it is a tragedy that he wasn’t known for this wonderful music in his lifetime. So, here’s hoping that the Bergmann Edition volumes will get around to many many players with the result that Ferdinand Rebay gets the recognition that he truly deserves , albeit belatedly!

Chris Dumigan

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