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Talking of Tyberg

TybergMarcel1 WOSU, a classical music/public radio station in Columbus, Ohio, has posted an interview with JoAnn Falletta about the music of Marcel Tyberg. The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is in the midst of an ongoing exploration of the music of Tyberg, a composer who died in the Auschwitz death camp in the dark days of the Second World War. That is a haunting picture of Tyberg at left. I think it is the only photograph of him that exists.

In the Columbus interview you can hear JoAnn talking about how she visited Auschwitz and thought about Tyberg and the triumph of his life and the tragedy of his death. She also spoke with The News last week about her visit.

Over the weekend the BPO performed Tyberg's Second Symphony. Already the orchestra has performed the Third Symphony, and recorded it for Naxos. The Second is the next in line. I had to write my impressions of the symphony after hearing it Saturday. It was not easy to do, especially because the concert began with a series of awards, making the evening last later than usual and giving me less time to write the review. I was wishing I had more time to collect my thoughts more.

What sticks with me is the symphony's overall dark feel, the brooding motifs that began in the cellos and was passed upwards through the orchestra. There were moments of beauty and lyricism, and even shots of lightheartedness in the scherzo, but that darkness is what I remember most. It was not a terrible, evil darkness. It was darkness in a good sense. A glorious darkness, a passionate darkness.

Also I found it hard to believe this symphony had been written in 1931. As JoAnn has explained, Tyberg was inspired by the music of the past: Bruckner, Wagner, Schubert. You could hear glimmers of Schubert in that Second Symphony.

Here is a Tyberg song set to a poem that Schumann also set. Tyberg takes a different approach from Schumann's -- Schumann's flies past in an impetuous rush -- but it sounds as if it had been written in that same era, which was the mid-19th century. This is a love song with words by the great poet Heinrich Heine: The rose, the lily, the dove, the sun, I once loved them all, but now I don't love them any more. I love only you, you are the pure one, the beautiful one. That is my off-the-cuff translation.

Back to the Second Symphony. Listening to it I found myself thinking it could become a classic. It had things in it that could engage your mind immediately. And it kept the audience's interest. Speaking of which, that was a big crowd that turned out on Saturday night to hear this symphony, in addition to pianist Christopher O'Riley playing the Grieg concerto. The bartenders at the beautiful basement bar were remarking that it was a popular concert. Bartenders always have their fingers on the pulse of Buffalo. They know what is going on!

It is wonderful that so many people in Buffalo are following the Tyberg exploration so closely. Today, even while breathing a sigh of relief over the death of Osama Bin Laden, you can't help thinking about how these towering madmen of our era -- bin Laden, Stalin and Hitler -- have robbed us of so much. Tyberg's music reminds us that the human spirit triumphs.

-- Mary Kunz Goldman



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