Tyberg: Symphony No. 3 (CD review)

Also, Piano Trio. JoAnn Falletta, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Naxos 8.572236.

If you've never heard of Austrian conductor, pianist, and composer Marcel Tyberg (1893-1944) or his music, don't feel bad. You're not alone. Tyberg wrote three symphonies, several masses, a number of chamber pieces, and a flock of lieder, yet he apparently chose to labor in relative obscurity.

Tyberg seems to have completed his Symphony No. 3 either in the late Thirties or early Forties, yet he never heard it performed in his lifetime, his dying (presumably) in a Nazi concentration camp (he was partly Jewish). The fact is, scholars know relatively little about his life, his music, or his death. What is clear is that before the Nazis sent him away, he entrusted his original scores to a friend, Dr. Milan Mihich and subsequently to Mihich's son, Enrico.  Many years after moving to America and trying to get the music played, the younger Mihich eventually persuaded maestro JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic to look at it. Ms. Falletta conducted the world première of the Third Symphony and records it here.

The Symphony No. 3 begins with a lengthy, sprawling, rhapsodic Andante maestoso, which alternates melodies that might have been at home in a work of Brahms or Schumann. Tyberg was clearly a poetic composer but one who wasn't quite sure of his direction, so we get a lovely set of tunes in the opening movement that seem wholly unrelated to one another. Think of the beginning of the Bruckner Fourth, followed by bits and pieces of Mahler. It's fascinating in a disjointed sort of way.

The second-movement Scherzo is bright and zippy, scooting along in a mock-heroic style. And that's followed by a charming Andante that reminds us that Tyberg began composing at the very end of the Romantic period, and the modernists of the twentieth century had evidently not won him over.

The Symphony ends with a fairly brief and sprightly Rondo, playfully executed. One can see why Ms. Falletta chose to unearth this music, as much of it can be delightful, if remarkably lightweight.

Accompanying the Symphony No. 3 on the program we find the composer's Piano Trio in F major (1936), played by Michael Ludwig, violin, Roman Mekinulov, cello, and Ya-Fei Chuang, piano. Here again we experience Tyberg's love of the nineteenth-century classics with which he undoubtedly grew up, because there are echoes everywhere in the three movements of Chopin, Mendelssohn, Liszt, and again Brahms and Schumann. The soloists bestow on the work their utmost affection, and it comes off with an appealingly graceful lilt. The fact that the music seems more of a single piece helps, too, in persuading a listener of the composer's worth.

The sound, recorded by Naxos in 2008-09, is big and close in both works, providing a very dramatic presentation, with plenty of impact. It's a trifle soft, though, and in the Symphony, especially, it doesn't always provide the greatest transparency. Still, it suits the changeable needs of the music well enough.

While it is a shame people didn't know Tyberg better in his lifetime, we can be grateful to Ms. Falletta for shedding new light on his musical gifts.


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa