Ferdinand Rebay

Curriculum vitae and oevre

Ferdinand Rebay created his oevre in the first half of the 20th century.


His ancestors lived in Pognana / lago di Como. In the 15th century some of the family emigrated to Germany and Australia later on also to France, Hungary, Argentina and the USA. A few outstanding members of the family should be mentioned here:

Alessandro De Rossi y Rebay (*Como 1847 – + Buenos Aires 1897) went to South America when still very young and joined Garibaldi´s troops, thus taking part in the Tripel Alliance War.

Hilda Rebay von Ehrenhausen (1890 – 1967) was a fully qualified paintress. In 1928 she was in New York, where she met Solomon Guggenheim, a patron of the fine arts whom she persuaded into collecting modern art.

Antonio Maria Agostina, the composer´s grandfather, settled in Brno in the first half of the 18th century.

Ferdinand Wilhelm Rebay, the composer´s father, moved to Vienna, where he owned a music shop and was partowner of the publishing house Rebay & Robitschek

Ferdinand Friedrich Wilhelm Rebay junior was born in Vienna in 1880 (11.06.).
His mother, Theresia Friedl, was a pianist who had studied with Anton Bruckner.


In 1890 the ten-year-old was sent to the boarding school of the boys´choir at the Abbey of Holy Cross. There he received a thorough musical education with P. Stephan Pfeiffer OCist. and the organist of the abbey, Prof. Hans Fink, for four years. Afterwards he attended the „Kunstgewerbeschule des Museums für Kunst und Industrie“ in Vienna. Sumultaneously he continued his music education with Josef von Wöss and Eusebius Mandyczewski. From 1901 to 1904 he studied composition with Prof. Robert Fuchs and pianoplaying with Prof. Josef Hofmann at the „Konservatorium der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde“ in Vienna. Prof. Fuchs was highly estimated by Brahms and among his students were e.g. Gustav Mahler and Hugo Wolf.

While still a student, Rebay´s outstanding performance was appreciated with a lot of awards. e.g. Brahms primium, Zusner Preis and others. Writing his thesis „Erlkönig“ for a large orchestra he terminated his studies in 1904 with honours. In Prof. Fuchs´ mind this was the best thesis he had seen in 29 years.

The Musician

In the same year Rebay became choir master with the Vienna „Chorverein“ (1904 – 1920).
In 1916 (until 1920) he held the same position with the Vienna „Schubertbund“. He had a very busy time conducting two choirs and also varying orchestras. He composed lots of music for these choirs. Furthermore Rebay accompanied many famous singers in „lieder recitals“(e.g. KS Sophie Capek) in the festival hall of the „Haus der Industrie“ and in the large hall of the „Musikverein“ on the piano. During these concerts some of Rebay´s compositions were performed for the first time. There were also special Rebay concerts where only his own compositions were played as well as lieder recitals

On 09.02.1907 Rebay married Michaela Waldmann and their son Alfred was born in Dez. 1908. The young man attended – against his parents´will – the „Kunstgewerbeschule“ – and became a portraitist and graphic artist.

The Professor

In 1920 he was offered the chair for piano at the „Staatsakademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst“ in Vienna, where he was also called into the artistic advisory board. Furthermore he held a chair for didactics of pianoplaying at the „Musikpädagogischen Seminar“ in Vienna (1929-1938) and was the expert examiner for the state examinations for piano playing.

Among his students were Dr. Hans Sitter, Prof. Hans Duhan and KS Prof. Dr. Josef Dichler
(and others).


Rebay was successfull with his compositions while still a student. Later he continued being a very acrive composer. He wrote two operas, one operetta, one symphony, oratorios, masses, one concerto for the piano (which was renamed symphony for the piano), lots of music for choirs, chamber music for various instruments, piano music (also four-handed), songs (tunes, lieder) for solosingers accompanied by the guitar or the piano. For the songs he either used his own words or those of well-known poets. His „Kinderlieder“ were also accompanied by piano or guitar.

Rebay wrote a remarkably high amount of music for the guitar. His friend, Jacobus Ortner, professor for guitar playing at the „Musikhochschule“ excited his interest in the guitar, which was increased by Gerta Hammerschmied, who was a solo guitarist , Rebay´s niece and Ortner´s student. A lot of Rebay´s guitar music is dedicated to her. There is music for the solo guitarist as well as chamber music for the guitar and other instruments, music for two to five guitarists, instruction for beginners, songs for soloists for children and choirs accompanied by the guitar.

In Rebay´s lifetime part of his music was edited by Viennese publishing houses e.g. Hlatky, Dör and of course Rebay & Robitschek.

For his 70th birthday (24.06. 1950) a musical celebration was held at the state academy for music, where Rebay´s music was played – the president of the academy conducting. Teachers and students had been invited. Congratulations and distinctions were conferred on him by the Lordmayor of Vienna, Dr. Theodor Körner, the then-minister of education, Dr. Felix Hurdes, the board of culture of the city of Vienna as well as by the president of the state academy for music.
One of his masses was played at the Dominican church in Vienna. He even received from the ministry of education a gift of honour of AS 1000, acknowledging his artistic achievement as a composer and teacher. Six years later he died on November 6th, in Vienna.

After his death his name remained fairly well known because of the many piano scores he had written for the publishing house Schott in Germany (e.g. Korngold`s „Die tote Stadt“ and „Violanta“, Zemlinsky and others). In some countries (Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Italy and the USA) people have a high conception of his name. As his music for the guitar has been published – partly in print or on CDs – and is still being taught and played in concerts, his fame is still rising. Most of Rebay´s music (the manuscripts) can be found in the Austrian National Library and in the Archives for Music at the Abbey of Holy Cross. There a large amount of sheets of music had been stored for years without anyone knowing about it. We are talking of a total of 756 pieces of music which have been catalogued by now. This is to say:

  • 170 pieces for the guitar
  • 80 pieces of chamber music with the guitar, more than
  • 100 pieces for choirs, about
  • 3oo soloist songs accompanied by the piano and the guitar following texts by R.Burns, Kernstock and others
  • 24 songs,lieder using his own poetry, more than
  • 50 pieces for the piany (two and fourhanded)
  • 2 operas „The Flood“ and „Astrid“, a symphony, a concert for the piano, an overture and various masses.

Rebay´s most fruitful years were :

  • 1937 ( 37 lieder and 8 other pieces)
  • 1939 ( 76 lieder and 35 other compositions)
  • 1944 ( 33 lieder and 9 other compositions)
  • 1953 ( 21 lieder )

The archives of Holy Cross also house letters and postcards which Ferdinand Rebay had written to relatives and friends.

There are a few pencil-drawings by Rebay e.g.a portrait of his grandmother and a drawing showing Nikolas Dumba kept in the Austrian National Library. In the music departmnt of the same library the music missing in Holy Cross can be found ( an oratorio, a requiem, lots of cantatas, masses, an operetta „Die Filmbaronin“, chamber music for two to seven guitars, …)

Rebay wrote piano scores for the famous Farinelli arias in the book „Die Gesangskunst der Kastraten“. The book can be found in the library of the „Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst“ as well as in the library of the University of Vienna.

In 2015 the Vienna Schubertbund transferred the Rebay manuscripts from their own archives to the archives of the Abbey of Holy Cross. These pieces have been catalogued as well. A small part of Rebay´s oevre has remained with the family of Peter Rebay. A few pieces of music are kept in a library in Brno. It is to be assumed that a few sheets of music are held in private property (the USA and Europe) or in institutions worldwide.

Rebay´s style of composing fits in with late romanticism. He knew the leading masters of the 2nd Viennese School and was in close contact with them. Although Rebay was in close contact with the music of his contemporaries, he kept to the romantic-neoclassic tradition. In his chamber music Rebay frequently used the classic form of the sonata as well as baroque traditions such as the suite, the serenade and above all the variations. Ferdinand Rebay liked to work with tunes out of folksongs – similar to Brahms. So he used folkloristic tunes from Ireland, Danmark, Sweden, Spain and ancient France.

Editions / Publication

While Rebay was still alive some of his guitar and choir music was published with various publishing houses in Vienna (Hlatky, Wessely, „Musikalische Flugblätter des Wiener Tonkünstlervereins“, and naturally Rebay & Robitschek,..) but also with publishing houses in Germany (Rahter, Mignon). Later on lieder according to H.Löns were edited by Universal Edition.

Thanks to the efforts of Editions Philomèle and Prof. Johann Gaitsch some pieces of music have been published recently and thus are known to the public.
Gustavo Noque has published some music with the Spanish publishing house Eudora:
3 Balladen für 4 Gitarren; 2 Tanzweisen für Violoncello und Gitarre; 5 kleine Variationen über das alte Weihnachts-Kinderlied “Ihr Kindlein kommet“, für Gitarre (alle in 2013).
In Octobre 2014 Mr. Noque published all the sonatas for guitar.

Rebay´s music can also be heard on lots of CDs:

  • Gitarrensonaten von Rebay, gespielt von Matteo Mela und Lorenzo Michelli – CD Stradivarius STR33859 (2010), Rec. Turin, Italy
  • Sämtliche Werke für Klarinette und Gitarre – Luigi Magistrelli und Massimo Laura, „Brillant Classics“ 94172 (2011)
  • Quartett für Gitarre, Flöte und Streicher – Gonzalo Noque-Gitarre, Alicia Fernandez-Cueva –Flöte, Raul Galindo-Violine, Pedro Michel Tores-Viola u. Jacobo Villalba-Violoncello, „Brillant Classics“ 9250 (2011)
  • Sonaten für Flöte und Gitarre- Maria Jose Belotto und G. Noque, „Brillant Classics“- 9291 (2012)
  • „Der kleine Rosengarten“ (Lieder für Gesang und Gitarre) –Maximilian Kiener und Gonzalo Noque
  • Musik für Oboe und Gitarre – Maria Pilar Sanchez, Oboe, Gonzalo Noque, Gitarre- „Naxos“ 9.70073
  • Musik für Blasinstrumente und Gitarre – Sara Ligas – Flöte, Fabio Rizzi-Oboe, Rosa Franciamore – Klarinette u. Bassethorn, Fabio Fontana – Horn, Luca Barchi – Fagott, Omar Fassa u. Christian El Khouri – Gitarre „Various Artists” (2015) Sheva Collection (8033776711179)
  • Sonate für Violin/Viola und Gitarre – Jose Manuel Alvarez (violin) Joaquin Riquelme (viola) Jose Manuel Alvarez (violin) Pedro Mateo Gonzalez (guitar) “Eudora Records” EUD 1501 (SACD)

I feel bound to thank the Most Reverend Prelate Dr. Maximilian Heim OCist, Abbot of Holy Cross, and the head of the musical archives there, P. MMag. Roman Nägele OCist, for giving me the chance of examining these treasures and thus making them accessible to the world of music. The beauty f Rebay´s music will easily reach the hearts of the audience.
Furthrmore I owe thanks to Mr. Peter Rebay, who has guaranteed that all of Rebay´s oevre will stay in Holy Cross to be available to musicians and scholars. Thanks to my collegues and friends for their willingness to play Rebay´s music, so that it can be enjoyed by the audience.

We offer concerts and high-level courses to make young musicians familiar with this music.

Dr. Maria Chervenlieva – Gelew                                                  Stift Heiligenkreuz, Juli 2016