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It seems puzzling that, given the quality of what is on offer here, Walter Rehberg's recordings are not better known. As far as I can gather, this is the first time they’ve been issued either on LP or CD. This rich discographical legacy was set down between 1925 and 1937, so includes both acoustic and electrical recordings, the former being relatively few in number. The pianist's final recordings were made for Decca in Zurich in 1948, when he was forty-eight. APR don't include these in the set.
He was born in 1900 in Geneva into what some may consider a 'musical dynasty'. He could trace his musical lineage, via his father Willy, back to Liszt. His father taught at the conservatories in Leipzig and later Geneva. Walter was tutored initially by his father and later studied with Ernst Toch and Eugen d'Albert. By the age of eleven, he was fluent enough to perform Mozart's Piano Concerto in D major, K337 in Frankfurt. He later began a career as concert pianist, teacher, small-time composer and writer. He performed with such distinguished names as Eugen Jochum and Wilhelm Furtwängler, with a repertoire centring on Schubert, Schumann, Brahms and Liszt. He edited editions of Rameau, Handel, Schubert and Brahms, completing some unfinished works. In the recording studio, he was something of a pioneer, premiering works; I was interested to read that his recordings of the Schubert 'Wanderer' and the Schumann Fantasie were first recordings. He died in 1957.
We are treated to three premiere recordings on CD 1. The acoustic Haydn Sonata in G major, Hob XV1:40 is the first complete sonata by the composer to ever be recorded. Though his tempi are on the brisk side, he captures the innocent charm of the opening movement, and there's some sparkling deft finger work in the finale. Other recording premieres are the 'Wanderer' Fantasy by Schubert, and the Schumann C major Fantasie, both set down in March 1928 with the new electrical process. The Schubert 'Wanderer' is ideally paced and there's an intelligent sense of unity between the various sections. Rehberg has a fine sense of line and trajectory, and there's a compelling contrast between the lyrical sections and those more highly charged. The Schumann is a stylish reading, noble and emotionally steeped. The first movement is passionate and virile. The march rhythms of the middle movement strut out with confidence and surety, whilst the finale is imbued with poetic intensity.
One gets more than a glimpse of Rehberg's seductive pianism in the Liszt recordings found on CD 2. His musicality, imagination and achievement of tonal colour make for some impressive listening. A good example is the Consolation No. 3. Rehberg lovingly shapes the beautiful melody against a discreet accompaniment. It's every bit as fine as the Horowitz version. Similarly, the lyrical central section of Funérailles (acoustic) has an inward quality of luminous warmth. In Eglogue, the chords are delicately pointed and voiced. For dazzling bravura sample the Gounod/Liszt 'Faust' Waltzes delivered with scintillating bravura. The Verdi/Liszt 'Rigoletto' Paraphrase stands shoulder to shoulder with my favorite version by Byron Janis. I must admit that I don't care much for the Mephisto Waltz (acoustic), here played in a souped-up version by Busoni. It's too way over the top for me!
CD 3 offers robust accounts of the two Op. 79 Rhapsodies by Brahms, each invested with energy and passion. Two of the finest accounts I've ever heard. In Grieg's Wedding Day at Troldhaugen, Rehberg captures the exuberant mood to perfection, whilst To Spring is bathed in an impressionistic wash. The Strauss/Schulz-Evler Concert Arabesques on themes from 'The Blue Danube' is less successful, and lacks the magic of Jorge Bolet's superlative performance, live from Carnegie Hall 1974. The disc ends with three of Rehberg's own compositions, written for and played on a Jankó piano, an instrument with several manuals.
APR can only be lauded for dusting down and restoring these valuable recorded documents for posterity, lovingly restored in first-class transfers by Ward Marston. Jonathan Summers' notes provide helpful background and context.
I can guarantee that Walter Rehberg will be a pleasing discovery for pianophiles.
Complete contents: CD 1 [80’17]
1-2 HAYDN Piano Sonata in G major Hob XVI:40 Recorded 1925
3-6 SCHUBERT Fantasy in C major ‘Wanderer’ D760 Recorded 1928;
7 SCHUBERT Menuetto from Piano Sonata in G major, D894 Recorded 1928
8 SCHUBERT Impromptus in G flat & A flat D899/3 & 4 Recorded on 10 July 1937
10. SCHUBERT Moment musical in F minor D780/3 Recorded 1928
11 CHOPIN Polonaise-Fantasy in A flat Op 61 Recorded 1933;
12 SCHUMANN Fantasie in C major Op 17 Recorded 1928
CD 2 [79’05]
1 LISZT/BUSONI Mephisto Waltz No 1 S514 Recorded 1925;
2 LISZT Funérailles S173/7 Recorded 1925
3 LISZT Consolation No 3 in D flat S172 Recorded 1928;
4 LISZT Rapsodie espagnole S254 Recorded 1928
5 LISZT Eglogue S160/7 Recorded 1933;
6 LISZT Sonetto 104 del Petrarca S161/5 Recorded 1928
7 LISZT Les jeux d’eaux à la Villa d’Este S163/4 Recorded on 6 July 1937;
8 LISZT Ave Maria ‘Die Glocken von Rom’ S182 Recorded 1928
9 LISZT Soirée de Vienne No 6 in A minor S427 Recorded 1931;
10 GOUNOD/LISZT Valse de l’opéra ‘Faust’ S407 Recorded 1928
11 VERDI/LISZT Rigoletto – Paraphrase de Concert S434 Recorded on 6 July 1937
CD 3 [77’16]
1 WEBER Invitation to the Dance Op 65 Recorded on 5 July 1937;
2 BRAHMS Waltzes Op 39/1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 11, 14 & 15 Recorded 1933
3-4 BRAHMS Rhapsodies in B minor & G minor Op 79/1 & 2 Recorded 1928;
5 GRIEG Wedding Day at Troldhaugen Op 65/6 Recorded 1931
6 GRIEG To Spring Op 43/6 Recorded 1931;
7 MENDELSSOHN Spring Song Op 62/6 Recorded 1931
8 SINDING Rustle of Spring Op 32/3 Recorded 1931;
9 RACHMANINOV Prelude in C sharp minor Op 3 No 2 Recorded 1931
10 STRAUSS/BASS Frühlingsstimmen, Concert Paraphrase Recorded 1931;
11 STRAUSS/ALFRED GRÜNFELD Soirée de Vienne Op 56 Recorded 1931
12 STRAUSS/SCHULZ-EVLER The Beautiful Blue Danube Recorded 1931
13 REHBERG Tanzstudien in B minor & G from Tanzstudien für Jankó Klavier, Op 3 Recorded 1931;
15 REHBERG Fünf Fantasien über ein Thema von Verdi Op 2 Recorded 1931