Marcel TYBERG (1893-1944)
Mass No. 1 in G Major for Mixed Chorus and Organ (1934) [42:27]
Mass No. 2 in F Major for Mixed Chorus and Organ (1941) [22:09]
South Dakota Chorale/Brian A. Schmidt
Christopher Jacobsen (organ)
Rec. January 2016, First-Plymouth Congregational Church, Lincoln, Nebraska
PENTATONE PTC5186584 SACD [64:36]

Dan Morgan reviewed this as a download and made it a Recording of the Month, outlining Marcel Tyberg’s tragic fate in Auschwitz and admiring the “artless candour” of these Masses. Pentatone’s presentation for the actual disc is very good as usual, with full texts in translation, photos, illustrations of the score, and intriguing extra snippets of information such as the way Tyburg’s manuscripts were rescued and preserved.

Brian A. Schmidt’s introduction sums up these works better than I can: “Tyberg’s Masses reverberate the joy of a devout man and a brilliant musician Their late-Romantic structure and harmonic composition resemble other masters like Mahler and Bruckner, and their symphonic breadth encompasses a vast range of human emotion… simple and stunning music from a man who left this world much too soon.”

It’s hard to argue with such statements in the face of these Masses. The Mass No. 1 is indeed simple in initial impression. The homophonic choral writing and relatively straightforward polyphony of parts of the Gloria might not make much of an impression if heard casually, but the majesty and monumental character of the music soon take hold once you start paying attention. With the organ functioning as a full orchestra in terms of its accompanying presence, especially in the substantial Credo, the sonorities of voice and grand pipes make for a grand sound with a fabulous dynamic range. The Sanctus opens with an intimate quietness, soon building to a striking climax for the Hosanna in excelsis and even more swiftly receding into a gorgeous organ postlude. The final Agnus Dei opens with a movingly lyrical and surprisingly uncredited soprano solo, maintaining its quite dark and minor-key atmosphere to the end, including the final sombre return to G major.

The Mass No. 2 is pretty much half the duration of its predecessor. Written in those increasingly troubling war years, this second Mass builds on the foundations of the first, developing in range through a heightened sense of drama. Solo voices punctuate the Gloria, and more swiftly changing and further reaching harmonies deliver surprises in the Credo and beyond. There is almost a Russian feel to this central movement, kicked off by sturdy male-voices in the opening bars. The Sanctus is marvellously bittersweet in its harmonic progressions, once again delivering tremendous impact in its climactic finale this time from the organ alone. After a brief but sublime Benedictus the Agnus Dei hints at things operatic in its male duet but retains due restraint and a potent sense of poignancy.

Beautifully performed and recorded, this is one of those recordings that will grow on you each time you return to it. The directness of the music may wrong-foot you to start with, but you will soon find your ears and mind maturing into the rather magical clarity of Tyburg’s message.

Dominy Clements

Previous review: Dan Morgan (Recording of the Month)

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