Wednesday, 18 September 2013

A finely orchestrated symphony, full of invention and a highly attractive piano sonata by Marcel Tyberg feature on a new release from Naxos

Back in March 2013 I reviewed a release in Gramola’s series featuring works by Erwin Schulhoff, Viktor Ullmann and Vilem Tausky, the two former of which lost their lives in concentration camps but all of whom were neglected due to their works being banned by the Nazi regime.

Through a series of recordings with Naxos , JoAnn Falletta  and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra are promoting the music of another composer who suffered at the hands of Nazi persecution, the Austrian composer, Marcel Tyberg. A composer, conductor and organist, Marcel Tyberg (1893-1944) was born into a musical family in Vienna. His father was a violinist and his mother a pianist and colleague of Artur Schnabel. Little seems to be known of Tyberg’s formal musical training.

Through his family’s friendship with the renowned violinist Jan Kubelik, Marcel Tyberg became a lifelong friend of Jan’s son, the conductor Rafael Kubelik. In 1927, following the death of his father, Tyberg moved with his mother to the Croatian town of Abbazia (Opatija), then part of Italy. Here he taught harmony, played the organ in various churches, conducted, and under the pseudonym "Till Bergmar" composed popular dance music.

Tyberg's Piano Sonata No. 1 (1920) and his Symphony No. 1 (1924) both date from his time in Vienna but his Symphony No. 2 was premiered by Rafael Kubelik with the Czech Philharmonic in the early 1930s. Tyberg's Symphony No. 3 was completed just before his detention and given to his friend, Milan Mihich, in order to save it from the war.

When the Nazis occupied northern Italy, it was revealed that one of Tyberg’s great grandfathers had been Jewish. Despite this rather remote Jewish connection, Tyberg was arrested and deported to the death camps of San Sabba and Auschwitz. It was long believed that he had died in transit, but the date of his death was recorded in Auschwitz as 31 December 1944.

JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra have already recorded Tyberg’s Symphony No. 3 together with his Piano Trio played by Michael Ludwig (violin), Roman Mekinulov (cello) and Ya-Fei Chuang (piano).

This new release from Naxos features Tyberg’s Second Symphony, again with JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Second Piano Sonata played Fabio Bidini

The Symphony No.2 in F minor (1929) opens with an Allegro appassionato that has a pulsating, galloping rhythmic opening. This develops into a lively, open theme before being subjected to a variety of moods, sometimes ponderous and dark then dramatic. Although it is not without a certain Dvořákian character and certainly looks back to the 19th century, it is a very attractive, engaging movement.

In the Adagio: Langsam – Andante con moto there is a thoughtful, wistful Adagio:Langsam still with an underlying rhythmic plodding pulse. The Andante con moto brings a more romantic sweep to the music, still at times held back by the plodding underlying rhythm. The music builds to a short climax before falling back to a rather Brahmsian quieter section, before another short climax that leads to a tranquil coda with solo violin adding a sweet toned contribution.

Horns answer the rest of the orchestra in the opening of the Scherzo: Allegro vivace con spirit before timpani rolls introduce a lively, rhythmic melody, somewhat reminiscent of Mendelssohn in the more flowing passages. The music builds to a rustic dance, again with overtones of Dvořák, before the trio section introduces a lighter, rhythmic, country dance that is alternated with a more flowing version of it. When the scherzo returns, Tyberg’s attractive orchestration throws the theme all around the various parts of the orchestra before leading to a rumbustious climax and a sudden end.

The Preludium und Fuge: Adagio molto – Allegro assai opens slowly in the cellos before the gently swaying theme is taken up across the strings. If Tyberg looks to the 19th century models for the first three movements, then the fourth uses a baroque idea of Preludium und Fugue creating a noble adagio. When the allegro assai fugue arrives, it is brilliantly played by JoAnn Falleta and the Buffalo Philharmonic . Horn calls sound out as the music grows. Eventually a terrific fugue is played by the strings with the horns still sounding out. The full orchestra rises to a broader section with muted brass and woodwind throwing the fugue theme around. As the music heads to the coda, tam tam and full orchestra deliver a glorious coda with brass fanfares.

This symphony may hark back to the 19th century but it is an attractive work, finely orchestrated and full of invention. The recording from the Kleinhaus Music Room, Buffalo, New York, USA is excellent.

Tyberg’s Piano Sonata No.2 in F sharp minor (1934) opens boldly with dramatic chords in a very unsettled Allegro con fuoco before being subjected to a number of variations. There is some fine playing from Fabio Bidini. The Adagio, non troppo ma sempre maestoso introduces a languid theme, quiet and withdrawn, with some delicacy and sensitive playing. At times there is a gentle rocking melody but the music soon rises to a series of climaxes where there is rich piano writing before a quiet coda. This is a beautiful movement with Bidini drawing on all the subtle shifts and dynamics.

The Scherzo: Allegro vivace, sempre assai energico opens full of lively bouncing rhythms with dynamics expertly controlled by Bidini. There is a lovely subdued central section before the return of the opening theme. A series of bell like chords open the Finale: Sostenuto e maestoso – Allegro non troppo ma sempre con passion before a melody that sounds familiar in that it resembles the main theme from the Vivace of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.1 in F sharp minor Op.1, though obviously just a coincidence. It is also rather Schumannesque in places and, after a series of variations, leads to a strong coda.

The sonata, which is well recorded, is a highly attractive work that I am likely to return to often. There are informative booklet notes.

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