Several years ago Mahler fans got excited about a recording of a symphony by Mahler acolyte Hans Rott. Now they can get excited about a never-before recorded symphony by an obscure Viennese composer, Marcel Tyberg (1893-1944), who though he is from a generation later than Mahler and Bruckner, is a conservative romantic whose Symphony No. 3 is definitely from the same bolt of cloth. Indeed, his style seems an amalgam of both Bruckner and Mahler, although he also has nascent elements of his own personal style.
The story of how this symphony came to light is amazing and touching. Tyberg was of Jewish descent and prior to the full onslaught of Nazi antisemitic genocide asked a friend, Dr Milan Mihich, to store his scores just in case something happened to him. Tyberg was soon after interned at Auschwitz and executed in 1944. The scores remained in the custody of the Mihich family and a son, Dr Enrico Mihich, eventually became an associate at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York. When Dr Mihich met the Buffalo Philharmonic conductor, Joann Falletta, he asked her if she would be interested in seeing the scores. She did, felt that there was some really worthwhile music there, and arranged a première with her orchestra which took place in 2008. Naxos, in its tireless efforts to record out of the way music, has released the performance. As discmate for the symphony two of the principal string players from the BPO -- violinist Michael Ludwig and cellist Roman Mekulinov -- along with pianist Ya-Fei Chuang have recorded Tyberg's Piano Trio in F Major.
The symphony, written in 1943, is in the usual four movements and calls for a large orchestra that includes Wagner tubas, heckelphone and bass trumpet. It lasts thirty-seven minutes, about half the length of either a Mahler or Bruckner symphony. It is extremely melodic, has attractive orchestration and rhythmic variety and in particular has an Adagio that is emotionally expressive to the point of being almost heart-breaking in its intensity. (I will admit that perhaps my response is due at least partly to my knowing Tyberg's fate, but it is indeed a gorgeous movement.) The Allegro finale has an engagingly melodic and rhythmically syncopated heroic initial theme that gets the full late romantic symphonic workout. If this symphony is not taken up by other orchestras I would be surprised. I haven't been as excited by a newly discovered romantic symphony since the reconstruction of Elgar's Third.
The Piano Trio is from 1935-36 and sounds a lot more like Brahms or Schumann than Mahler or Bruckner. Its melodies sound fresh and original however they may resemble those of older composers. It is tightly constructed and has an exciting rondo finale. It is given a terrific performers by these Buffalo musicians.
We're told that there may be more pieces in the works -- piano sonatas, a sextet, a Second Symphony (which, incidentally, was given its première under Rafael Kubelik, a conservatory friend of Tyberg's). I can hardly wait.