Marcel TYBERG (1893-1944)
Symphony no.2 in F minor (1927) [42:04]
Piano sonata no.2 in F sharp minor (1934) [32:43]
Fabio Bidini (piano)
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra/JoAnn Falletta
rec. Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo, New York, 30 April-1 May 2011 (symphony); Grosses Funkstudio, SWR Stuttgart, 6 April 2012 (sonata)
NAXOS 8.572822 [74:47]
There is a real risk that the music in this enterprising and significant disc might be unjustifiably overshadowed by its own tragic - and simultaneously inspiring - background story.
When, in 1943, the Nazis occupied Northern Italy, they ordered the inhabitants to declare any Jewish ancestry. Apparently in ignorance of the likely consequences, Marcel Tyberg's mother admitted that she and her family were originally from Croatia and of distantly Jewish descent. Ironically, she herself passed away before any action was taken against her, but her son the composer was quickly thereafter arrested and deported. Differing accounts suggest either that he died while en route to Auschwitz or that he was soon murdered there. Before his deportation, however, Tyberg had entrusted the manuscripts of his music to a friend. In turn, many years later, the son of that friend showed them to conductor JoAnn Falletta who was so struck by the music that she initiated a project with her Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra to bring it to the world's attention. This new recording is part of that enterprise (see here).
Tyberg's second symphony - of three - had actually drawn some attention in the 1930s when it had been performed by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra under Rafael Kubelik. With the possibility of all-important performances in Germany denied to Jewish composers, it seems thereafter to have quickly disappeared off the musical radar. Listening to it now, it is clear within just a few moments that Tyberg was no stylistic radical. Edward Yadzinski's useful booklet essay accurately notes his "reverence for nineteenth-century styles" and pinpoints passages that seem to be "a memoir from the Romantic Age".
I have not had the opportunity of listening to the composer's third symphony (Naxos 8.572236, see here) and a recording of the first has yet to be issued. Having all three easily accessible on disc may well come to demonstrate, in due course, that Tyberg possessed some consistent and individually striking musical characteristics. My own reaction to the second symphony, though, very much echoes my colleague William Hedley's response to the third: this is well constructed, tuneful and engaging music, very much rooted in past models of the nineteenth century. Although Tyberg writes more succinctly and on a much less monumental scale, the strongest echoes are undoubtedly of Anton Bruckner: one theme in the third movement scherzo (1:21-2:39) could easily, in fact, pass muster as one of the older composer's typical Ländler. Unsurprisingly, there are also hints of Schubert, too, as well as of Mendelssohn. The development of the finale - building up impressively from a slow introductory section, via some busy and skilfully-executed fugal episodes, to a brief final peroration that Mr Yadzinski somewhat imaginatively pictures as "a great enchanted forest in F major" - also reminded me very much, at some points, of the only symphony (1880) of Hans Rott.
Putting a work for solo piano on a disc with a major orchestral composition may seem a rather eccentric piece of programming, but so little of Tyberg's output survives - or perhaps was ever written in the first place - that it is an understandable decision. The musical influences on the substantial and heavyweight second sonata are once again firmly rooted in the nineteenth century, though even further back in time on this occasion as Beethoven himself, in dramatic, forthright mode, is brought very much to mind. Fabio Bidini gives an impressively masterful and completely convincing account of Tyberg's ambitious and impressive score.
In that, he is well up there with JoAnn Falletta and her Buffalo players. I have had just cause to praise Ms Falletta on these pages before for a first class recording of Richard Strauss's orchestral suites (see here). This new disc - with the additional plus of bringing to light a highly attractive newly-discovered score - confirms my earlier impression. Ms Falletta may be a well-known champion of new and American music but on this occasion she exhibits an obvious empathy with the native Croatian composer's conservative idiom. In fact, she doesn't put a foot wrong in a work which, given the history of its restoration, she may, at least for the time being, justifiably claim as her own. As for the orchestra, in reviewing their recording of Tyberg's third symphony the Washington Post's critic opined that the Buffalo Philharmonic "has never sounded better" and I would certainly echo that verdict here. With first rate engineering by Tim Handley (symphony) and Oliver Curdt (sonata) - and Naxos's attractive price point justifying the risk of taking a speculative gamble on previously unheard music - it is hard to see how this valuable and compelling account could be bettered. Had I not already submitted my six choices for MusicWeb’s Recordings of the Year, this disc would certainly be a very strong competitor for one of the places. I cannot imagine a better tribute to a most engaging composer who was to become yet another tragic victim of the calamitously violent first half of the twentieth century.
Hard to see how these valuable and compelling accounts could be bettered.
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