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BPO: After 65 years, international recognition for composer Marcel Tyberg

by jmaloni
Tue, Nov 27th 2012 02:20 pm

JoAnn Falletta, BPO instrumental in preserving his legacy

For decades, the Mihich family had saved the scores written by their family friend, Marcel Tyberg, in the hopes that their value would be recognized and the music performed. With a recent broadcast of his work on the nationally syndicated radio program "Performance Today," and a festival recognizing Tyberg as the national composer of Croatia, their efforts have succeeded.

Tyberg was a musician, composer and teacher who lived in Abbazia, Italy. One of his students was Henry Mihich, who remembers Tyberg as a gentle man who took on students and wrote music for local dance bands, but whose true passion was the composition of larger-scale works. As World War II intensified, Tyberg feared Nazi persecution due to his Jewish ancestry, and delivered his complete works to the Mihich family for safekeeping. His worst fears came true. Tyberg was seized and taken to Auschwitz, where he died in 1944.

Mihich is now a doctor at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. For decades, he tried to interest various Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra music directors and guest conductors in performing and preserving Tyberg's music. It was not until JoAnn Falletta's tenure that he succeeded.

"I discovered a treasure - music that, while honored the past Germanic tradition, pointed the way to a new era. The language was strong, individual and compelling," said Falletta of her initial review of the scores. It was enough to convince her that the painstaking project of transcribing and copying the scores to create playable versions was worth the effort.

The BPO committed to a multi-year recording project of Tyberg's works on the NAXOS label. The orchestra partnered with the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies, which maintains a special fund, The Marcel Tyberg Musical Legacy Fund, to support the preservation, performance, recording and publishing of the works of Marcel Tyberg.

As the first Tyberg CD was released, word began to spread, and the BPO began receiving requests from groups who wished to perform Tyberg's works. But the most remarkable request came from a surprising source.

"Just as we were preparing for the release of our second Tyberg CD, we received a startling communication from the government of Croatia. Abbazia, now called Opatija, had been part of Italy in Tyberg's lifetime, and is now in Croatia. The Croatians, excited by hearing our first Tyberg CD, were claiming him as their national composer," Falletta said.

They are honoring Tyberg with a festival this weekend in Rijeka, Croatia, which will be attended by the president of Croatia. On Nov. 21, the nationally syndicated radio program "Performance Today" broadcast the story of Marcel Tyberg and the BPO to more than 1.3 million listeners around the country. On Nov. 24, Falletta will conduct Croatia's National Symphony Orchestra in a performance of his Symphony No. 2. A contingent from Buffalo, including Dr. Mihich, BPO board member Cindy Abbott Letro, and Peter Fleischmann of the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies, will be there to witness the long-overdue recognition for a voice that was nearly silenced forever.

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