FERDINAND REBAY (1880 - 1953)
Born in Vienna on 11 June 1880, Rebay studied both the violin and the piano (the latter with his mother, Therese Rebay, who had herself been taught by Anton Bruckner). His father, another Ferdinand Rebay, owned a music shop and was also a partner in the publishing firm Rebay & Robitschek. In 1890, at the age of ten, the young Ferdinand became a chorister at Heiligenkreuz Abbey, where over the next five years he received a thorough musical education and became a solo alto. By the time he joined Joseph Hofmann’s piano class at the Vienna Conservatory (today’s Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst) in 1901, Rebay had already begun to make a name for himself as a composer of Lieder and choral works. He went on to study composition at the Conservatory with Robert Fuchs (1847–1927), one of the few composers praised by Brahms and who also counted Mahler, Sibelius, Richard Strauss and Korngold among his star pupils. During this period of study with Fuchs, Rebay was awarded a number of prizes, including the Brahms Prize and the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde’s silver medal.
In 1904 he concluded his studies in triumph with his final academic work, Erlkönig, for large orchestra, which Fuchs labelled the finest work to have been produced in his 29 years at the Conservatory. In the same year Rebay became chorus master of the Wiener Chorverein. Some years later, in 1915, he took on the same rôle with the Wiener Schubertbund, remaining in the post until 1920 when he was appointed to teach the piano at the Vienna Music Academy.
Following the Nazi Anschluss of Austria in 1938, Rebay lost his job (he was reinstated in 1945) along with his pension, probably because he was thought to have had Jewish origins. He died in Vienna, on 6 December 1953, penniless and unknown.