Classics Online

Vladimir Rebikov, often called ‘the inventor of the whole-tone scale’, is now almost completely forgotten, save his Silhouettes (a set of interesting children’s pieces), and his Valse op.21, a popular encore piece. Due to most of his pieces being miniatures, with definite musical phrases and simple forms (far from Satie), not many people paid attention to him. To the disengaged, Rebikov seems like one of the many salon composers, with nothing of note.

This album does very well to dispel this notion. Rebikov was an innovator with modest ability; he was the one who invented palm clusters (before Cowell), and wrote a piece completely in whole-tone scale (way before Debussy). All of these landmark pieces, including a suite completely in white keys (Chansons Blanches), are included in this album, played with musicality by Goldstone.

Other than being an innovator, he was a master of the simple forms he wielded with ease. Consider the interesting ideas and endings of Promenade of the Gnomes, The Music Lesson, and Rondes des Elfes and you might see why. While they may not have the substance of great masterworks, they are enjoyable to listen to and are very accessible, as they have very clear melodic lines and 2-2-4 music phrases.

Even in his Tchaikovsky-like pieces in the suite Feuilles d’Automne, Rebikov used a few musical devices (such as obsessive repetition) that made them his own, rivaling even some of The Seasons in terms of melody and form. For example, the comforting ending of the fourth movement, Con dolore, in contrast with its sad beginnings, exhibits a very rare poignancy that only Rebikov can provide.

In short, this is a rather valuable premiere of Rebikov’s music. The other one which I have heard, a little known album by Sheludyakov, is too ponderous and vastly inferior to this album, where the tempos are suitable. If you want to explore more unknown composers who are simple yet enjoyable to listen to, this is highly recommended.