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ClassicsOnline Home » TYBERG, M.: Symphony No. 3 / Piano Trio (M. Ludwig, Mekinulov, Ya-Fei Chuang, Buffalo Philharmonic, Falletta)
Rescued from oblivion before his tragic death in Auschwitz in 1944, Marcel Tyberg’s Symphony No. 3 sets out on a poetic journey with shades of Schumann and Brahms, Bruckner and Mahler, playful instrumental filigrees, colourful counterpoint and captivating harmonies. This sweeping work for large orchestra received its première performances by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by JoAnn Falletta, finally giving voice to a composer who never heard his masterpiece performed. Tyberg’s chamber music also demonstrates his deep respect for 19thcentury musical modes and manners; imbued with the spirit of Beethoven and Mendelssohn, his Piano Trio brims with a richly Romantic esprit.
By Robert Markow
By Bruce Hodges
The Juilliard Journal Online
By Robert Markow
Marcel Tyberg (1893–1944)
Symphony No. 3 in D minor • Piano Trio in F major
Good faith and daunting perseverance have once again uncovered wonderful ‘new’ music by a composer altogether unknown. It is an extraordinary story, very poignant at heart. In sum, Marcel Tyberg, an Austrian pianist and composer, had maintained a close friendship with the family of the Italian physician and music lover Dr Milan Mihich who, during the war, lived in Laurana, near Abbazia (Italy, at the time). After the Nazis occupied that area in 1943, Dr Mihich accepted Tyberg’s manuscript scores for safekeeping, i.e. when it became likely that the Nazi Gestapo would deport the composer because of his partly Jewish ancestry. Shortly thereafter, the composer was arrested and deported to the extermination camps San Sabba and Auschwitz. It is believed Marcel Tyberg died on New Year’s Eve in 1944.
As for the original scores, they were transferred to the care of Dr Mihich’s son, Dr Enrico Mihich, a specialist at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo. In 2005, Dr Mihich related the Tyberg story to maestro Falletta, who reviewed the manuscripts and later conducted the première performances of Symphony No. 3 with the Buffalo Philharmonic, with assistance from the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies.
With regard to Tyberg’s life, he was born into a family of musicians, his mother an accomplished pianist, his father a renowned violinist. During his formative years in Vienna, a deep friendship developed between young Marcel and Rafael Kubelík, the latter destined to become a celebrated conductor. After the death of his father in 1927, Marcel moved with his mother to Abbazia, where he was active as a church organist, conductor and teacher. As a composer, Tyberg became fluent in diverse styles, and even wrote varieties of dance music for the local resorts, including rumbas, tangos and waltzes. On the serious side, he composed his second and third symphonies, two Masses, a second piano sonata and a collection of Lieder. Notable is the fact that Tyberg’s Symphony No. 2 was given its première in the early 1930s under Kubelík’s baton by the Czech Philharmonic.
Completed in the late 1930s, Tyberg’s Symphony No. 3 sets out on a poetic journey in D minor, beginning with quiescent pizzicatos in the low strings, followed by a heralding call in the tenor tuba. The music follows an itinerary of sonata form, delineated with contrasting themes and development. However, the phrases are more rhapsodic than structured, as if a fantasy were at hand, with shades of Bruckner and a reflecting glance at Mahler. Tyberg’s muse is also revealed by various style cues along the way: Appassionato – Misterioso – Con passione – Tranquillo. A brief, suggestive coda dissolves at the close with a misty pizzicato in the bass.
Yet at home in D minor and marked Scherzo: Allegro non troppo, the second movement offers a late-Romantic jest in three-quarter time. With ironic shifts in tempo, a mocking harmonic flow and playful filigree across the orchestra, it all ends too soon with a snapshot of the main motif in the lower winds and strings.
Speaking of the Romantic era, Tyberg doubtless had reverie in mind in the third movement Adagio, with a lovely cantilena in the strings, replied gently in the winds. The suggestive phrases blend through rolling changes in key and timbre, with intimate solos in the violin and woodwinds, embraced by warm brass and lush strings. The pastoral scene closes in B-flat major with a distant echo in the horns.
A Rondo finale was all the rage through the early and mid-19th century, and Tyberg isn’t the least shy to pay tribute, as the music takes to the air in a light scamper. The gambit opens with a playful flare in the solo horn, replied in the trombones with flurries in the strings. Several turns in rondo variation offer commentary from all sections, with colorful counterpoint for good measure. Along the way, the moods banter with captivating intrigue and harmonic shadows as a tease. But in a wink, the strings scurry once more in a dash to the close, punctuated by the orchestra en masse. Great fun.
Marcel Tyberg completed his Trio in F major on 12 October 1936, dedicated ‘with affection’ to Mary Kubelík-Klinz. Cast in traditional nineteenth-century style overall, the three-movement setting begins with a rhapsodic first movement. After a brief introduction, the music sets out on its tuneful journey in basic sonata form. The first theme in F major, in 2/4 time, is bright and bucolic in tone, replied by the contrasting second theme in flowing 12/8, tuned to B-flat minor. The melodies, harmonies and rhythms are then blended and developed freely through various keys and major-minor tonalities. One might guess the composer was tipping his hat to a youthful Mendelssohn, with lyrical esprit on the wing.
Marked Adagio non troppo, sempre cantabile, the second movement is truly a lyrical homage. Opening in D-flat, the solo cello offers a melody worthy of Romantic reverie, replied by the violin over rich progressions from the keyboard. The dream continues in G-flat, but then wakens to a ‘quasi recitative’ in F-sharp minor before returning to the earlier mode. Along the way, Tyberg’s interpretive markings offer clues to his intent: misterioso – tranquillo – dolcissimo (mysterious, tranquil, sweetly).
Upbeat and determined, the third movement Allegro con fuoco begins with a prancing tune in F minor. Again, Tyberg tips his hat to the venerable finale-rondos of the Classical and Romantic periods—a favorite mode of Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn et al. After several spry exchanges among the players, a B minor interlude colors the momentum with background figures in the violin and cello to complement wide-octave phrases from the piano. After playing musical chairs with the tune and timbre on the fly, the rondo tour heads for home, with a few minor-major swings before closing the game with a brief F minor tag. Delightful.
In Marcel Tyberg’s chamber works and Lieder, as in his third symphony, it is clear the composer held a deep reverence for the modes and manners of the nineteenth century, beginning roughly after 1820 (Beethoven died in 1827).
One can only ponder what Tyberg must have thought about the great changes in serious music which prevailed during the first decades of his life. For example, Europe buzzed in all quarters about the remarkable new styles offered up by Debussy, Elgar, Mahler, Stravinsky, Puccini, Bartók, Strauss and others—the diversity was incredible, to say the least. Moreover, it is fascinating to consider that Tyberg was born, raised and trained in Vienna, a cradle for the avant-garde, where Schoenberg, Webern and Berg were household names. But for his part, Tyberg had none of it, except for the slightest hints here and there that he was at least aware of the creative din that echoed all around him.
His music also reveals other influences from the early decades of the nineteenth century. For example, a favorite lyrical poet from the dawn of the Romantic Age was Heinrich Heine (1797–1856). Tyberg composed several of his Lieder on Heine’s verse, perhaps inspired by the lovely settings by Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms and Wagner.
Also significant is the fact that Tyberg included variations on La Folia in his Piano Sonata No. 1 (the theme was often quoted by nineteenth-century masters). Moreover, Tyberg’s thematic and harmonic statements show a kinship to Mendelssohn and Brahms, with decided reflections here and there of Chopin and Liszt. The point is made only because it was so unusual for a composer of such natural abilities to look away from his own time and place—as if he had truly lived a century before.
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