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Ferdinand Rebay : Sonate in A – Moll : Bergmann Edition

Ferdinand Rebay (edited by Milena Valcheva)

Bergmann Edition: 32 pages

Having extolled the virtues of this remarkable composer’s guitar music in my previous review of the Kleine Vortrags- Stucke volume by the same publishing house (see other review next to this one) I shan’t repeat myself here, but suffice it to say that this Sonata is in 4 movements and is one of 7 that have survived (nearly all of his guitar manuscripts were unpublished for a long time and held in the Austrian National Library, and the Heiligenkreutz Abbey library.)

The style of the music, as with everything else I have seen of his is Late Romantic with more than a flavour of Mahler in his harmonies and writing styles. Indeed for a lot of the time this four movement Sonata sounds like it’s a reduction of a Symphony in its musical vocabulary. Very little of it has any guitar idioms that you recognize as being something you have seen elsewhere in guitar works. This is THAT original.

The first movement is marked Gut Bewegt (Moving well) and has a declamatory four note motif above repeated chords underneath. Everything hammers along and there are plenty of moments when the harmonies slide elsewhere quite distant to the key of A minor, with several places where care is needed in finding the correct fingering .A second theme in the relative Major takes us into a return to the opening idea but now in the very distant key of F minor and thence through various other keys before a final climactic chord of E7 takes us back to the opening key and theme, and a second theme repeat now in A Major, instead of C Major. This then leads directly into the coda and a surprisingly quiet final chord of A. The Second movement is very Landler- like and again could come directly from a Mahler Symphony in its style. Again the chord structure is imaginative and nothing stays in the home key of E Major for very long. The middle section turns into a tremolo theme, before the opening idea returns and with a varied structure to the opening, leads us gently into the final E major arpeggio idea and coda. The 3rd Movement is a Scherzo in name as well as in character, and has a low two note bombastic idea that repeats, very timpani in its sounds, leading up to a large crescendo and several open chords of all six strings marked fff. Then all the themes alternate between very quiet and very loud in true Scherzo fashion, with many humorous touches. The Trio is a true Waltz in style and quite a contrast to the Scherzo. Set in C Major, it lilts along going through many key changes as it does, before a long chord of E7, takes us back for a return to the Scherzo completely.(incidentally bar 66 in the middle of the 1st time bar is a printing mistake, where an Fb should be an F natural, although this is easy to spot and correct!)

The final movement is marked Lustig Bewegt ( strongly moving ) and has a fast moving theme in A , atop some repeated chords harmonizing in that key. The chords then continue in other keys with a fast and energetic melody line interspersed with the strong repeated chords. Everything moves very swiftly and nothing here is easy for the player. A slightly awkward middle theme, that has the player very quickly moving from one area of the fingerboard to the next without any help, is in direct contrast to the first idea. This then moves into yet another contrasting idea marked at the speed of the opening , but quite different in character before the opening finally returns. The second theme then returns in a different way but this time in the home key. As a result it links directly into the final reiteration of the opening idea and a bombastic coda and a speedy run up the fingerboard leads to the final slam – bang coda in the home key.

This, one of seven Sonatas, is a fabulous piece. You will have seen nothing like it before, I promise, and yes, it is difficult to play, and at times a little awkward, but the effort required is really worth it, and this is a large sonata that many players and listeners will love getting to grips with.

Chris Dumigan

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