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ClassicsOnline Home » TYBERG, M.: Symphony No. 2 / Piano Sonata No. 2 (Bidini, Buffalo Philharmonic, Falletta)
Marcel Tyberg was a victim of the World War II Holocaust, but his scores were preserved and have recently been revived through the support of JoAnn Falletta and the BPO. The Second Symphony is filled with romantic enchantment and pastoral narrative, reflecting Tyberg’s reverence for nineteenth-century styles. The Second Piano Sonata also develops earlier traditions, revealing the influence of Beethoven. Tyberg’s Third Symphony can be heard on Naxos 8.572236, the Washington Post stating that the Buffalo Philharmonic “has never sounded better…Tyberg’s music is well-crafted and earnest, tuneful and filled with seriousness of purpose and harmonic mastery.”
By Robert Benson
By Ivan March
By David Denton
Marcel Tyberg (1893–1944)
Symphony No 2 in F minor • Piano Sonata No 2 in F sharp minor
Even today, almost seventy years since the end of World War II in Europe, we receive stark reminders of that horrible conflict. Hardly a month passes without news of belated war trials, the return of art looted by the Nazis, family reunifications, and other such events. Among these revelations is the poignant saga of Marcel Tyberg.
The story in brief: before losing his life as a victim of the Holocaust, Tyberg had trusted his manuscript scores to Dr Milan Mihich and his family in Laurana, near Abbazia (Italy, at the time). His son, Dr Enrico Mihich (a specialist at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo), related the Tyberg story to JoAnn Falletta, who reviewed the manuscripts and initiated BPO support to bring the music to life.
Marcel Tyberg was born into a family of musicians, his mother an accomplished pianist, his father a fine violinist. During his early years in Vienna, he met Rafael Kubelík, who became a close friend. Upon the death of his father in 1927, Marcel and his mother moved to Abbazia, where he became active as a teacher, church organist and conductor, but composition was his heart’s calling, with diverse influences from classical and popular sources. For the latter he provided dance music for local resorts, including waltzes, tangos and rumbas. On the serious side, his catalogue grew to include two Masses, several chamber works, a collection of Lieder and three symphonies, We note that Tyberg’s Symphony No 2 was performed by the Czech Philharmonic under Kubelík’s baton in the 1930s.
By 1943 the scourge of the Nazi era was pervasive. Through intimidation and the threat of death, all citizens were required to acknowledge any remote Jewish ancestry. Marcel’s mother felt compelled to reveal that a great grandfather was a Jew. It was the beginning of the end. When his mother died a few months later, Tyberg rightly feared for his life. He was seized by the Nazis a few weeks later. News followed that he died on a deportation train en route to Germany.
Tyberg’s reverence for nineteenth-century styles is apparent throughout all four movements of his second symphony. The first movement blends the appassionato drama of an opera overture with progressions which are both fantasy-like and symphonic. Overall the movement is cast in broad sonata form, featuring long and flowing musical episodes like a memoir from the Romantic Age.
Tyberg added Adagio to the title page of the second movement. But he doubtless felt the tempo cue should be marked in German: Langsam—slowly and grandly. A woodland call is heard at first in the horns, opening the curtain on a bucolic scene in the manner of a Dvořák tone poem. The opening phrase is echoed in idyllic high woodwinds, then rephrased in the strings before the orchestra joins en masse. For contrast, an anxious second theme with wide harmonic intervals is heard in a dialogue between the strings and woodwinds. From that point, the music flows like a rhapsody with a tale to tell, swinging from tranquility to doubt and back again. Over trace echoes in the timpani and horns, obbligato solos in the violin and cello close the scene in evanescent D major.
Marked Scherzo: Allegro, the third movement, in B flat minor, is a snapshot from the heart of the nineteenth century, with fugue-like counter phrases worthy of Mendelssohn. A middle section in F major offers a country dance that would be perfect for a scene in Giselle, with light, lilting phrases. A third section presents a sylph-like scamper with a dialogue in the picturesque strings and solo horn. Story-land magic with folk melodies on the wing blend into major tonalities, maintaining the bright pastoral scene until the impromptu final bar.
Tyberg presents a grandly crafted Finale, glancing back to the Baroque Age with a Preludium and Fugue. The mode reflects an ancient passacaglia (slow theme with variations, with the principal melody in the bass) which was heard often in great works for organ. The point is doubly apropos in that Tyberg was himself a fine organist. The celestial themes and passing harmonies are worthy of the Italian master Girolamo Frescobaldi, fifty years before Johann Sebastian Bach. A surprise follows midway, when a momentary scherzo floods the air with urgent, descending phrases and power-chords rising from below. In turn, Bruckner-styled block chords are answered by fragments of modern harmony. Just before the close, soaring strings, wailing horns and fluttering woodwinds reveal a great enchanted forest in triumphant F major.
Tyberg scored two piano sonatas, No 1 in B minor, completed in 1920, and No 2 in F sharp minor of 1934. Both settings were crafted on classical models, and reveal the influences of Beethoven, with a trace of Brahms and the intonations of Eastern Europe. Cast in general sonata form, the sonatas highlight Tyberg’s attachment to the Romantic era in particular, a period that had been all but eclipsed by the modern trends of the first decades of the twentieth century (e.g. Stravinsky and Debussy, and especially the Viennese serialists, Schoenberg, Webern and Berg). Yet Tyberg was no less a son of Vienna. In earnest he wrote music as a man of his time who simply revered the great nineteenth-century traditions.
Sonata No 2 begins with dramatic flair, marked Allegro con fuoco. Scored with an ear for urgent moods, the music offers a series of chord-driven episodes, which blend and weave in cryptic variations. The second movement Adagio offers a poetic retreat in D, with lyrical passages marked espressivo quasi violoncello (expressive as a cello). Listeners might detect an homage to Wagner’s Tristan in the rising and suspended phrases, reflected at points throughout the movement. Returning to F sharp minor, Scherzo: Allegro vivace provide the style/tempo cues for the third movement, charmed by an intrigue of key and metre changes along the way. With the character of incidental music, the setting includes a ‘song without words’ intermezzo at the centre. The last movement, Finale – Sostenuto e maestoso (majestically sustained), opens with bell-chime chords and a Lieder-worthy main theme. The lovely, searching motif is developed through a chain of variations, clear to the climactic last measures in florid F sharp major.
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