RUDOLF LEBERL (1884 - 1952)
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.