2011年2月6日 星期日

Composer Alban Berg, modern yet romantic

Music this Week | 06.02.2011 | 16:55

Composer Alban Berg, modern yet romantic

The Modernist composer Alban Berg was born on February 9, 1885 - 126 years ago this week. Probably best known for his opera "Wozzeck," he was part of the avant-garde arts scene in Vienna at the turn of the century.

Along with Anton Webern, Berg was a student of composer Arnold Schoenberg, father of the twelve-tone scale and serial music. The three are the best known exponents of the Second Viennese School. Among them, Berg's music is considered the most accessible.

Berg felt that music should evoke a spiritual reality in a corporeal world and believed in translating poetry and text into music. One of his pieces, Five Songs on Picture Postcard Texts by Peter Altenberg (1912) caused a major scandal at the premiere in Vienna with Schoenberg conducting. The work set aphoristic utterances to music accompanied by a very large orchestra - and it caused a riot. The police were called, and Berg was accused of writing obscene lyrics.

Berg went on to have some successes in his lifetime, including, most famously, the opera Wozzeck. Still he had money troubles. He died of blood poisoning on Christmas Eve, 1935, after an insect bite became infected. He became known posthumously for other works, such as his elegiac Violin Concerto and his unfinished opera Lulu.

Author: Jennifer Abramsohn

Editor: Rick Fulker


Music selections

all compositions by Alban Berg (1885-1935):

Sonata for piano, op. 1, with Glenn Gould on 06868 Sony Classical 5101952

Wozzeck: Cradle Song, with Renate Spingler, the Hamburg State Philharmonic and conductor Ingo Metzmacher on 06646 EMI CLASSICS 5568562

Lyric Suite, with the LaSalle Quartet on 07989 col legno WWE1CD31901

Violin Concerto "To the Memory of an Angel," with Anne-Sophie Mutter (violin) and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; conductor, James Levine on 00173 Deutsche Grammophon 4370932


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Alban Berg, photograph before 1935

Alban Maria Johannes Berg (February 9, 1885 – December 24, 1935) was an Austrian composer. He was a member of the Second Viennese School with Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern, and produced compositions that combined Mahlerian Romanticism with a personal adaptation of Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique.

Contents

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[edit] Biography

[edit] Early life

Berg was born in Vienna, the third of four children of Johanna and Conrad Berg. His family lived comfortably until the death of his father in 1900.

[edit] Education

He was more interested in literature than music as a child and did not begin to compose until he was fifteen, when he started to teach himself music. In late February or early March 1902 he fathered a child with Marie Scheuchl, a servant girl in the Berg family household. His daughter, Albine, was born on December 4, 1902.

Berg had little formal music education before he became a student of Arnold Schoenberg in October 1904. With Schoenberg he studied counterpoint, music theory, and harmony.[1] By 1906, he was studying music full-time; by 1907, he began composition lessons. His student compositions included five drafts for piano sonatas. He also wrote songs, including his Seven Early Songs (Sieben Frühe Lieder), three of which were Berg's first publicly performed work in a concert that featured the music of Schoenberg's pupils in Vienna that year. The early sonata sketches eventually culminated in Berg's Piano Sonata, Op. 1 (1907–1908); it is one of the most formidable "first" works ever written.[2]

Berg studied with Schoenberg for six years until 1911. Berg admired him as a composer and mentor, and they remained close lifelong friends.

Among Schoenberg's teaching was the idea that the unity of a musical composition depends upon all its aspects being derived from a single basic idea; this idea was later known as developing variation. Berg passed this on to his students, one of whom, Theodor Adorno, stated: "The main principle he conveyed was that of variation: everything was supposed to develop out of something else and yet be intrinsically different".[3] The Piano Sonata is an example—the whole composition is derived from the work's opening quartal gesture and its opening phrase.

[edit] Innovation

Berg was a part of Vienna's cultural elite during the heady fin de siècle period. His circle included the musicians Alexander von Zemlinsky and Franz Schreker, the painter Gustav Klimt, the writer and satirist Karl Kraus, the architect Adolf Loos, and the poet Peter Altenberg. In 1906, Berg met the singer Helene Nahowski, daughter of a wealthy family (said by some to be in fact the illegitimate daughter of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria from his liaison with Anna Nahowski);[4] despite the outward hostility of her family, the two were married on May 3, 1911.

In 1913, two of Berg's Five Songs on Picture Postcard Texts by Peter Altenberg (1912) were premièred in Vienna, conducted by Schoenberg. Settings of aphoristic poetic utterances, the songs are accompanied by a very large orchestra. The performance caused a riot, and had to be halted. This was a crippling blow to Berg's self-confidence: he effectively withdrew the work, which is surely one of the most extraordinarily innovative and assured first orchestral compositions in the literature, and it was not performed in full until 1952. The full score remained unpublished until 1966.

From 1915 to 1918, Berg served in the Austrian Army and during a period of leave in 1917 he accelerated work on his first opera, Wozzeck. After the end of World War I, he settled again in Vienna where he taught private pupils. He also helped Schoenberg run his Society for Private Musical Performances, which sought to create the ideal environment for the exploration and appreciation of unfamiliar new music by means of open rehearsals, repeat performances, and the exclusion of professional critics.

[edit] Success of Wozzeck

Three excerpts from Wozzeck were performed in 1924, and this brought Berg his first public success. The opera, which Berg completed in 1922, was first performed on December 14, 1925, when Erich Kleiber directed the first performance in Berlin. Today Wozzeck is seen as one of the century's most important works. Berg completed the orchestration of only the first two acts of his later three-act opera Lulu, before he died. The first two acts were successfully premièred in Zürich in 1937, but for personal reasons Helene Berg subsequently imposed a ban on any attempt to "complete" the final act, which Berg had in fact completed in particell format. An orchestration was therefore commissioned in secret from Friedrich Cerha and premièred in Paris (under Pierre Boulez) only in 1979, soon after Helene Berg's own death. The complete opera has rapidly entered the repertoire as one of the landmarks of contemporary music and, like Wozzeck, remains a consistent audience draw.

Berg had interrupted the orchestration of Lulu because of an unexpected (and financially much-needed) commission from the Russian/American violinist Louis Krasner for a Violin Concerto (1935). This profoundly elegiac work, composed at unaccustomed speed and posthumously premièred, has become Berg's best-known and beloved composition. Like much of his mature work, it employs an idiosyncratic adaptation of Schoenberg's twelve tone technique that enables the composer to produce passages openly evoking tonality, including quotations from historical tonal music, such as a Bach chorale and a Carinthian folk song. The Violin Concerto was dedicated "to the memory of an Angel," Manon, the deceased daughter of architect Walter Gropius and Alma Mahler.

Other well-known Berg compositions include the Lyric Suite (1926), which was later shown to employ elaborate cyphers to document a secret love affair; the extraordinarily elaborate post-Mahlerian Three Pieces for Orchestra (completed in 1915 but not performed until after Wozzeck); and the Chamber Concerto (Kammerkonzert) (1923–25) for violin, piano and 13 wind instruments: this latter is written so conscientiously that Pierre Boulez has called it "Berg's strictest composition" and it, too, is permeated by cyphers and posthumously disclosed hidden programs.

[edit] Death

Berg died in Vienna, on Christmas Eve 1935, from blood poisoning apparently caused by an insect-sting induced carbuncle on his back. He had been reduced to near-poverty and it is said that to save money his wife performed an ill-advised home surgery using a pair of scissors. Later he was rushed to hospital, but too late to prevent the onset of blood poisoning. He was 50 years old.

[edit] Legacy

Berg is remembered as one of the most important composers of the Twentieth Century and to date is the most widely performed opera composer among the Second Viennese School. His popularity has been more easily secured than many other Modernists since he plausibly combined both Romantic and Expressionist idioms. Though Berg's Romanticism at one time seemed a drawback for some more Modernist composers, the Berg scholar Douglas Jarman writes in the New Grove: "As the 20th century closed, the 'backward-looking' Berg suddenly came as Perle remarked, to look like its most forward-looking composer."[5]

[edit] Major compositions

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Monzo, Joe. "Schoenberg's Harmonielehre", Sonic Arts. 1999 June 5.[unreliable source?]
  2. ^ Lauder (1986)
  3. ^ Adorno, p. 33
  4. ^ Georg Markus, Der Kaiser Franz Joseph I.: Bilder und Dokumente; Anna Nahowski and Friedrich Saathen, Anna Nahowski und Kaiser Franz Joseph : Aufzeichnungen / erstmalig herausgegeben und kommentiert von Friedrich Saathen, Böhlau, 1986.
  5. ^ Jarman, Grove

[edit] References

  • Adorno, Theodor W. Alban Berg: Master of the Smallest Link. Trans. Juliane Brand and Christopher Hailey. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
  • Jarman, Douglas. "Alban Berg", Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (Accessed April 9, 2007), (subscription access)
  • Warrack, John and Ewan West. The Oxford Dictionary of Opera, 1992. ISBN 0-19-869164-5

[edit] Further reading

[edit] Analytical writings

  • Adorno, Theodor W. Alban Berg: Master of the Smallest Link. Trans. Juliane Brand and Christopher Hailey. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
  • Bruhn, Siglind, ed. Encrypted Messages in Alban Berg’s Music. New York: Garland Publishing, 1998.
  • Headlam, Dave. The Music of Alban Berg. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996.
  • Jarman, Douglas. Dr. Schon's Five-Strophe Aria: Some Notes on Tonality and Pitch Association in Berg's Lulu. Perspectives of New Music 8/2 (Spring/Summer 1970).
  • Jarman, Douglas. Some Rhythmic and Metric Techniques in Alban Berg's Lulu. Musical Quarterly 56/3 (July 1970).
  • Jarman, Douglas. Lulu: The Sketches. International Alban Berg Society Newsletter, 6 (June 1978).
  • Jarman, Douglas. The Music of Alban Berg. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979.
  • Jarman, Douglas. Countess Geschwitz's Series: A Controversy Resolved?. Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association 107 (1980/81).
  • Jarman, Douglas. Some Observations on Rhythm, Meter and Tempo in Lulu. In Alban Berg Studien. Ed. Rudolf Klein. Vienna: Universal Edition, 1981.
  • Jarman, Douglas. Lulu: The Musical and Dramatic Structure. Royal Opera House Covent Garden program notes, 1981.
  • Jarman, Douglas. The 'Lost' Score of the 'Symphonic Pieces from Lulu'. International Alban Berg Society Newsletter 12 (Fall/Winter 1982).
  • Lauder, Robert Neil. Two Early Piano Works of Alban Berg: A Stylistic and Structural Analysis. Thesis. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1986.
  • Perle, George. The Operas of Alban Berg. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980.
  • Schmalfeldt, Janet. "Berg’s Path to Atonality: The Piano Sonata, Op. 1". Alban Berg: Historical and Analytical Perspectives. Eds. David Gable and Robert P. Morgan, pp. 79–110. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.
  • Schweizer, Klaus. Die Sonatensatzform im Schaffen Alban Bergs. Stuttgart: Satz und Druck, 1970.
  • Wilkey, Jay Weldon. Certain Aspects of Form in the Vocal Music of Alban Berg. Ph.D. thesis. Ann Arbor: Indiana University, 1965.

[edit] Biographical writings

  • Brand, Juliane, Christopher Hailey and Donald Harris, eds. The Berg-Schoenberg Correspondence: Selected Letters. New York: Norton, 1987.
  • Grun, Bernard, ed. Alban Berg: Letters to his Wife. London: Faber and Faber, 1971.
  • Floros, Contantin. Trans. by Ernest Bernhardt-Kabisch. Alban Berg and Hanna Fuchs. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007.
  • Redlich, H.F. Alban Berg, the Man and His Music. London: John Calder, 1957.
  • Reich, Willi. The life and work of Alban Berg. Trans. Cornelius Cardew. New York : Da Capo Press, 1982.
  • Monson, Karen. Alban Berg: a biography. London: Macdonald and Jane's, 1979.
  • Carner, Mosco. Alban Berg: the man and the work. London: Duckworth, 1975.
  • Redlich, Hans Ferdinand. Alban Berg, the man and his music. London: J. Calder, 1957.
  • Leibowitz, René. Schoenberg and his school; the contemporary stage of the language of music. Trans. Dika Newlin. New York: Philosophical Library, 1949.

[edit] External links

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