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Lost Music Rediscovered

December 18, 2012

Sometimes life is stranger than fiction, and also has a happy ending! Thanks to the support of Naxos in recording the music of holocaust victim Marcel Tyberg, the country of Croatia “found” the lost scores of their national composer.

Marcel Tyberg emigrated with his musician parents from Austria to a beautiful town on the Adriatic coast in Italy—Fiume—where his concert pianist mother and violinist father had found employment as performers and teachers. Marcel grew up studying piano and organ, but found his life’s mission in composing. He made his living, however, by writing music for the dance orchestra in the region’s most elegant hotel, and by teaching students. One of his most devoted students was a young boy named Enrico Mihich, whose father (a surgeon and accomplished pianist) had secured the services of maestro Tyberg to teach Enrico piano and harmony. A strong friendship developed, severed by the tragedy of war. Tyberg was partly Jewish, and when he realised that he might be deported, he entrusted all of his treasured scores to the Mihich family. Soon afterwards he was seized and was murdered on December 31,1944 at Auschwitz. The Mihich family was also forced to flee Italy after the war, when their city and all their possessions were seized by communists. Fiume became Rijeka (in what is today Croatia), and post-war violence made the peaceful coastal city a dangerous and threatening environment. The Mihich family left almost everything behind, with the notable exception of the scores of Marcel Tyberg, and settled in the United States.

The young Enrico subsequently became a surgeon in Buffalo,NY, and over six decades later, he showed the scores he had cherished to conductor JoAnn Falletta. She was extremely enthusiastic about the music, and thanks to the support of Peter Fleischmann, president of the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies, and Naxos’s interest in the project, the lost composer’s voice was reborn in a CD of his Third Symphony and Trio, released by Naxos in 2010.

Unbeknownst to JoAnn and the Buffalo Philharmonic, musicologists in Rijeka had been searching for years for the lost scores of Marcel Tyberg. He had been a very important figure in their city’s musical heritage, and the country of Croatia wanted to perform the works of the person they regarded as their national composer, but had no idea of what had become of the music. Croatian musicologist Diana Grguric made an astonishing discovery on a trip to New York City—she found the Naxos CD of Tyberg’s Third Symphony in a Lincoln Center music store. She quickly contacted JoAnn and the Buffalo Philharmonic and arranged for a special event—a symposium of the music of Marcel Tyberg, an unveiling of a museum exhibition of his life and work, and a performance of his Second Symphony in Rijeka, in the very theatre in which Tyberg himself had performed. Croatian president Ivo Josipoviof (himself a highly respected composer) was in attendance at the opening event to welcome the music of Marcel Tyberg back to his home.

JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo group that travelled to Rijeka in November of 2012 for this extraordinary cultural exchange were deeply moved by the week in Croatia. Dr Enrico Mihich returned to his childhood home with them, and was able to show the Americans the exact location of his lessons with maestro Tyberg, Tyberg’s home, the memorial stone in the Jewish cemetery honouring Tyberg, and many other relevant sites. Critical acclaim for the performance of the Second Symphony on November 24, 2012 was extremely positive, and the main newspaper headline proclaimed “Enthusiastic Rediscovery of a Great Composer”. The Croatian National Orchestra played the European première of this work with a special reverence and emotion, and has plans to introduce this music to Germany and Austria as well.

Thanks to the support of Naxos and to Klaus Heymann’s unwavering interest in unknown and lesser-known repertoire, Marcel Tyberg had been found, and his music had been returned to his home.

The Buffalo Philharmonic will release a second Naxos CD of the music of Marcel Tyberg—his Symphony No 2 and his Piano Sonata—in June of 2013.

JoAnn Falletta and Peter Fleischmann studying part of the Tyberg Exhibit
Dr Enrico Mihich, JoAnn Falletta and Croatian President Ivo Josipovic (holding the Tyberg NAXOS CD)
JoAnn Falletta in front of the Croatian National Theatre

Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Biography & Discography

JoAnn Falletta Biography & Discography

Marcel Tyberg Biography & Discography


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