About this Recording
9.70244-45 - LEBERL, R.: Guitar Works (Hinsche)

Rudolf Leberl (1884–1952)
Selected Works for Guitar Solo


The work of Rudolf Leberl has not achieved the recognition it deserves. His oeuvre of nearly 1500 works comprises nearly three hundred single movements for guitar solo (collated in more than thirty large cycles), as well as works for orchestra, strings, winds, piano and chamber music. That Leberl is not better known as a composer is due in large part to the socio-political turmoil in Europe after the two World Wars.

Born in 1884 in Hoch-Semlowitz in Bohemia—at the time part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire—Leberl studied music and composition in Prague and Vienna, the cultural centres of Bohemia and Austria-Hungary and the regions which had produced composers including Dvořák, Janáček, Mahler and Martinů and writers Kafka, Rilke and Werfel. After the first World War large parts of Germany and Austria had been redistributed or designated as belonging to new countries and as a result Leberl, who had remained in his native Bohemia, found himself overnight to be one of the ethnic minority Sudetendeutsche, who were suppressed by Czech authorities as had the Czechs themselves been by the Austrians. From 1922 to 1938 Leberl was Professor of Music at the teacher training institute in Böhmisch-Budweis, and from 1938 to 1941 was forced to teach in Prachatitz, after the Nazi occupation of the Czech Republic. In 1941 he was ordered to resign by the Nazis and in 1946 fled to Bavaria. During the last years of his life he was financially dependent on his daughter Gertrude, a teacher. Leberl’s compositions, which he had had to leave behind when he escaped, were rescued by some of his former pupils who later made the forest crossing into Bavaria to his final home. Rudolf Leberl died poor, forgotten and blind in 1952, near Regensburg.

Rudolf Leberl’s compositional style can be characterised by three main elements: the German Romantic period, his love of poetry and a fascination with Bohemian folk music. Leberl embraced the traditions of the German-Austrian Romantic Period and combined them with the guitar traditions of the nineteenth century in a uniquely innovative way. His compositions are written in a highly trained and educated manner not often found in guitar music of that era. His writing is idiomatic and not imitative, while his harmonic language uses typical Romantic elements such as enharmonics and chromaticism.

Leberl’s affinity with poetry is in evidence throughout his guitar works. During his lifetime he wrote more than 500 songs for voice and different instruments and set poems by Eichendorff, Mörike, Kerner, Storm, Heine, Rückert and Goethe to music. This poetic affinity is evident in his Lieder-like melodies and in the lyrical titles of some of his pieces and cycles.

It is irrefutable that Leberl was inspired in great part by Bohemian folk music. He wrote, as did Mozart, Schubert and Mahler, dozens of Ländler (a typical folk dance from Austria), all of which are notable for their versatility and originality. There are many other works for guitar in his oeuvre based on folk songs and dances which perfectly illustrate the rhythmical richness so typical of Bohemia and its different facets of lyrical subtlety and vibrant rurality.

In his guitar works Leberl, who also signed some of his guitar compositions with his alias Rulf Lautner, proves himself a master of the small form. His Romantic miniatures are reminiscent of Schumann, Mendelssohn, Grieg or early Reger. He describes lyrical moods, moments and landscapes and collects them in larger cycles like musical kaleidoscopes. Leberl used to go for walks in the forests near his home with his guitar in order to capture scenes from his beloved Bohemia and set them to music. The six cycles on this recording showcase Rudolf Leberl’s compositional versatility.

Fallende Blätter (Falling Leaves) is a small work about the different moods of autumn time and was composed in 1926. The first movement shows Leberl’s Bohemian origins in the characteristic use of the minor sixth interval instead of the major. The second movement represents a stormy autumn day, while the last movement is an elegant elegy for those elements of nature set to hibernate during the upcoming cruel winter.

Composed in 1926, the 12 Charakterstücke (12 Character Pieces) offered Leberl the opportunity to present different Romantic moods collated into a large cycle similar to those of Grieg or Schumann. The title is a misnomer as there are in fact thirteen movements in the cycle. Calm Abendstück (Evening Piece) details a day’s end in the countryside. Reigen (Reel) and Tanzstück (Dance Piece) are charming and energetic dances, whereas Intermezzo, with its interesting modulations and central section suggestive of the music of Villa-Lobos bears a striking resemblance to a Schubert Impromptu. Erinnerung (Remembrance) is one of Leberl’s best works and shows his harmonic mastery. There follow two Ländler, Bohemian rustic dance miniatures. Präludium features a rather unusual arpeggio figure in the final section, whereas Skizze (Draft) is notable for its surprisingly harsh-sounding modulations based on the tritone interval. Scherzo is a virtuosic piece with rapid harmonic changes and rhythms. Studie develops a clock-ticking-like theme into a varied recapitulation. Tanzstück has a splendid rhythmical theme and a central section notable for its harmonic richness whereas Fantasiestück (Fantasy Piece) brings the cycle to an ethereal conclusion.

9 Spielstücke für Gitarre (9 Play Pieces for guitar) is a rather dark cycle written in 1924. The central section of the organ-like Andante is remarkable for its modern sounding variations. Unruhe, with its contrasting major and minor sections is a homage to Leberl’s fellow Bohemian Johann Kaspar Mertz. A short, mysterious Andante in G minor is followed by the Baroque-sounding Präludium and elegant Allegretto. The Spanish elements provide interest in Studie while Tänzchen (Little Dance) is a jewel of subtle harmonics. The thick, piano-textured Fantasiestück is the penultimate work in the cycle, which is brought to a close by the peaceful Romanze, composed in a delicate folk style.

The 8 Vortragsstücke (8 Concert Pieces) were written in 1925 and call for the performer to express different moods and styles. Bange Stunde (Fearful Hour) and Allegretto call to mind Schumann, whereas the intervening Ländler exemplifies Austrian folk music. Sinnen (Pondering) explores myriad keys and harmonies. The Romantic Im Mondenschein (In the moonlight) and Nachtstück (Nocturne) show the gentler, warmer side of the guitar, while both Präludien require spectacular virtuosity and control over the entire instrumental range.

Lenzesstimmen (Voices of Spring) was composed in 1925 and describes the earth awakening after winter has gone. The sombre mood of the first movement is dissipated by the joyful tunes celebrating Spring’s arrival. Similarly, the melancholy of the third movement is driven out by the energy of the final movement, a happy primaveral dance.

The 12 Stimmungsbilder (12 Mood Pictures) include some of Rudolf Leberl’s most demanding writing. The folk-inspired opening movement, with its weighty middle section contrasts with the second movement, with its swinging marching theme. The third movement is a charming waltz which is followed by a simple folk tune. The opening of Mäßig, the fifth movement in E minor, brings to mind a study by Fernando Sor and then quickly modulates through keys in adventurous succession. The syncopated energy of Kraftvoll contrasts with the elegiac spirit of the close-textured Langsam, while Ruhig features elegant virtuosity and calls for an unusual tremolo technique in the middle part, whereby the first and third strings are needed to accompany the tremoloed second. The cheerful Frisch follows a dramatic Zierlich, and the cycle is brought to a dramatic close after the funereal Langsam by the powerful Wuchtig, with its contemporary drop D tuning.

Close the window