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On CD: A forgotten composer's 3rd symphony

by Mark J. Estren

Marcel Tyberg: Symphony No. 3; Piano Trio in F. Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by JoAnn Falletta (Symphony); Michael Ludwig, violin; Roman Mekinulov, cello; Ya-Fei Chuang, piano (Trio). Naxos.

Buffalo Philharmonic Music Director JoAnn Falletta has made a most unusual recording to mark the start of the orchestra’s 75th anniversary season: an album of orchestral and chamber music by Marcel Tyberg (1893-1944), an otherwise wholly unknown composer. Tyberg, of Jewish ancestry, died at Auschwitz after entrusting his music to a family by the name of Mihich. Six decades later, a member of that family — a doctor at a major Buffalo hospital — intrigued Falletta by showing her some Tyberg manuscripts.

This recording is the result. The orchestra has never sounded better, and the performers in Tyberg’s Piano Trio bring warmth, empathy and strongly communicated emotion to the music.
(read more after the jump)

But without understanding how special this release is from a biographical and historical-rediscovery standpoint, listeners may be disappointed by the music, which is very old-fashioned to have been written in the 1930s. Both the symphony and the trio invite listeners to say, “That sounds like Schumann!” and “Mendelssohn!” and “How Brahmsian!” It is difficult to point to anything in either work of which one could say, “That is unmistakably a new voice — that is true Tyberg.”

The Piano Trio reflects Brahms almost throughout, and the symphony’s Scherzo is so Mahlerian that in other hands (say, those of Shostakovich), it would come across as parody. Tyberg’s music is well- crafted and earnest, tuneful and filled with seriousness of purpose and harmonic mastery. But, except in a very few details, it could have been written by, say, Ferdinand Ries or Charles Stanford — admirable craftsmen who refined an older musical language in small ways without really advancing it. This Tyberg album is eminently listenable, but for all the music’s rarity, listeners will feel as if they have heard much of it before.

— Mark J. Estren

By Anne Midgette  |  September 17, 2010; 10:04 AM ET
Categories:  CD reviews  
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First, thanks for the review, which is the first I've heard of Tyberg.

It's unfortunate that Tyberg's music didn't interest Mr. Estren more than it did. I plan to explore it for myself, a task facilitated by Naxos, which has already posted the entire contents of the CD on its website -- Snippets can be streamed at no cost, or you can purchase access to the entire Naxos catalogue for a relatively small annual fee (around $20, as I recall).

Whatever else can be said about the media saturation in which we all swim these days, it enables us to encounter an unprecedentedly vast repertoire of classical music, should we care to do so. Much of the credit for that goes to Naxos. And even if it turns out that Tyberg is no Schulhoff (perhaps the finest of those composers murdered in the Shoah), let alone Schumann, it's still a good thing that his voice can now reach us, if only from the grave.

(I have no financial interest in Naxos -- although with the number of their CDs I've bought and the quantity of their repertoire I've streamed, some may say they have a stake in me.)

Posted by: BobL | September 17, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

... YUPPER!?! We're-PREETY-proud of our #1-WINNING-team here-in-BFLO./NIAGARA! NO: NOT-thee-BILLS or SABRES!?! BUT: la Buffalo-Philharmonic-Orchestra!!! LONG-may-THEY reign!!!

Posted by: ErieCanal | September 18, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

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