Richard Blackford

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Ferdinand REBAY (1880-1953)
Sonatas for Flute and Guitar
Sonata no.1 in E (1942) [22:23]
Sonata no.2 in D (1942) [29:29]
María José Belotto (flute)
Gonzalo Noqué (guitar)
rec. St John Chrysostom's Church, Newmarket, Ontario, 6-8 July 2011.

Quartets for Guitar, Flute and Strings
Quartet in D minor, for guitar, violin, viola and cello (1925) [28:41]
Quartet in A minor, for guitar, flute, viola and cello [37:32]
Gonzalo Noqué (guitar)
Alicia Fernández-Cueva (flute)
Raúl Galindo (violin)
Pedro Michel Torres (viola)
Jacobo Villalba (cello)
rec. Fray Luis de León Hall, Madrid, 25-27 February 2011.

Complete Works for Clarinet and Guitar
Drei Vortragsstücke [10:13]
Kleine Variationen on a Theme from Chopin's Preludes op.28 [5:25]
Sonata in D minor [18:59]
Sonata in A minor [22:01]
Sonatina in B flat [14:28]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
12 Deutsche Tänze WoO.8 (arr. Rebay): No.4 [1:38]
No.5 [1:42] No.7 [1:43]
Luigi Magistrelli (clarinet)
Massimo Laura (guitar)
rec. S. Stefano, Ticino, Italy, October 2005 and May-July 2006.

"The most important thing happening at the moment in the world of guitar music is the rediscovery of the work of Viennese composer Ferdinand Rebay", writes annotator Javier Suárez-Pajares in the booklet for 9250. His assertion will be news to many, but Brilliant Classics' three monographs to date - there are surely many more to come - are the place to go for the facts. There is nothing to be gained, incidentally, by looking Rebay's name up in Grove - the lack of any reference whatsoever to him is one of that eminent encyclopedia's most glaring omissions. This was, after all, a pupil of Robert Fuchs alongside the likes of Mahler, Wolf, Sibelius, Zemlinsky and Korngold, and a prolific composer in all genres.
One of the stars of the present recordings, Spanish guitarist Gonzalo Noqué, can also be heard alongside compatriot María Pilar Sánchez in one of the few other existent monographs, Rebay's two oboe sonatas on Naxos, albeit currently in download or streaming format only (9.70073). Noqué's useful biography of Rebay for Naxos can be freely accessed here
It is a curious fact that Rebay was an almost exact contemporary of Schoenberg and Prokofiev - outliving the latter and Stalin by eight months. His two sonatas for flute and guitar were written, as Noqué points out in his notes for 9291, at almost exactly the same time as Prokofiev's own Flute Sonata op.94, and Dutilleux's Flute Sonatina - yet the contrast in style could hardly be greater. The harmonies do ultimately let slip what century Rebay was writing in, yet this music is so unashamedly mellifluous and unassuming that it is the easiest of things to forget. There are reminiscences of folk songs, Giuliani, Schubert, and the influential Spanish guitar masters like Sor and Tárrega splashed throughout these scores, which are given the five-star treatment by Noqué and flautist María José Belotto.
Yet Rebay was no dilettante - as tuneful as his music always is, it is unfailingly imaginative, nowhere more so than in the two guitar quartets. These are actually for different forces, even if the CD cover suggests otherwise. The all-strings line-up of the D minor follows in the footsteps of Boccherini's delightful quintets, which are sometimes recalled in its pages. When Rebay replaces the violin with a flute for the even longer A minor work, he is following a trail blazed by Schubert's D.96 (albeit after Wenzelaus Matiegka's Notturno op.21). This is such a rare combination of instruments that it may strike some ears as slightly alien-sounding, but Rebay's A minor Quartet is a beautiful work whose colours and textures linger in the memory alongside the lovely Giulianian melodies. Noqué and flautist Alicia Fernández-Cueva, along with the three Spanish string players, perform these Mediterranean-steeped works with classical elegance.
In the earliest of the three discs under review, Italian guitarist Massimo Laura is joined by his fellow landsman Luigi Magistrelli, whose dulcet clarinet comes in for the flute, the latter's airy atmospherics replaced with the intimate warmth of the former. In the Drei Vortragsstücke especially there are hints of the Jewish influences suspected by the Nazi regime in 1938, which resulted in Rebay's dismissal from his post at the Vienna Music Academy, this in turn ending in his destitute demise.
Despite writing so much for the guitar, Rebay himself did not play the instrument, although his niece, Gertha Hammerschmied (1906-85), was and served him well as a muse. Perhaps the fact that Rebay was not a guitarist explains, in part at least, why the likes of Segovia, Llobet, Pujol and their heirs did not take an interest in his music - he wrote for duos or quartets, of which one equal part was a guitar, rather than for dazzling virtuosos. Whether or not Rebay really is finally "rising from undeserved oblivion to occupy a deserved place of respect within the history of guitar music", as Noqué claims, is debatable, but at least none can say that he and the other musicians on these fine recordings have not made a good case for him.
Sound quality is very high in all three instances, although the two flute sonatas were recorded in a church in Ontario where the ambience is rather reverberant. The booklets have notes in English and Spanish, but curiously no German. Either way, they are detailed and well written. The total timing figure given for 9291 is wrong, clearly cut-and-pasted from 9250. In fact, the disc is a quarter of an hour shorter.
Finally, a number of Rebay's art songs can be heard on a recent Arsis album, sung by Maximilian Kiener, who is accompanied - almost inevitably - by Gonzalo Noqué on the guitar (review). That recording is not as impressive as the present trio, but it does bore another gaping hole in the views of those who believe that Schoenberg was responsible for the death of melody and structure.  

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