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Berg, Alban (Maria Johannes)locked

  • Douglas Jarman

(b Vienna, Feb 9, 1885; d Vienna, Dec 24, 1935). Austrian composer. Along with his teacher Arnold Schoenberg and fellow pupil Anton Webern in the years before and immediately after World War I, he moved away from tonality to write free atonal and then 12-note music. At once a modernist and a Romantic, a formalist and a sensualist, he produced one of the richest bodies of music in the 20th century, and in opera, especially, he had few equals.

1. 1885–1911.

He was the third of four children of Johanna and Conrad Berg, at 8 Tuchlauben in the central district of Vienna, a few hundred yards from the Stephansdom. With an estate in Carinthia (the Berghof), a number of properties in Vienna and the income from a thriving export business, the Berg family lived comfortably until the death of Berg's father, in 1900, ushered in a difficult time for the family as a whole and for the young Berg in particular. A disastrous school career culminated in his having to repeat both his sixth year in 1901–2 and later his seventh year before he was finally able to pass the necessary exams, while an early sexual relationship with Maria Scheuchl, the kitchen-maid at the Berghof, resulted in the 17-year-old Berg becoming the father of an illegitimate daughter.

All four Berg children had been taught the piano by their governess, and the young Alban had already begun to compose for performance in the family circle; a number of piano duets and almost 80 songs, the earliest of them dating from 1901, were written before he began his studies with Schoenberg. Though passionately interested in music, he was, at that time, little more than an enthusiastic amateur. Clearly unsuited to an academic career, uninterested (unlike his two elder brothers) in business and without qualifications to enter the conservatory, he had little choice, on leaving school, but to take an unpaid post as a trainee civil servant. Not until October 1904, when, as a result of his sister and brother replying to a newspaper advertisement, he became a pupil of Schoenberg, did he receive any formal musical training, and not until two years later, as a result of his mother inheriting both money and property on the death of her unmarried sister, was he able to give up his work with the civil service and concentrate on music.

He studied with Schoenberg from 1904 to 1911, first as a student of harmony, counterpoint and music theory (though he continued to write songs during this period), then from 1907 onwards as a composition student. Writing to his publisher Emil Hertzka in 1910, Schoenberg observed: ‘Alban Berg is an extraordinarily gifted composer, but the state he was in when he came to me was such that his imagination apparently could not work on anything but lieder. Even the piano accompaniments to them were songlike. He was absolutely incapable of writing an instrumental movement or inventing an instrumental theme’. It was a flaw Schoenberg sought to correct in the first years of Berg's composition studies, during which he was required to write a host of minuets, variations, scherzos, impromptus and other small-scale instrumental pieces. Among these early pieces are the drafts (all of them incomplete) of five piano sonatas dating from 1907–8. It is a measure of how far and how rapidly Berg's musical language had developed in the previous four years that – unlike the fluctuating mixture of Brahms, Schumann, Debussy and Wolf that had characterized the pre-Schoenberg songs – the musical language of the five sonatas is that of their op.1 successor, and so close to that of Berg's maturity that he was to use the opening of the fourth as the theme of the D minor interlude in Act 3 of Wozzeck.

Of the works published during his lifetime, the Sieben frühe Lieder date from the beginning, and the single movement Piano Sonata op.1, the Four Songs op.2 and the String Quartet op.3 from the close of his time with Schoenberg. The Sieben frühe Lieder (1905–8) reveal the impact of Schoenberg's teaching and of Berg's growing acquaintance with music. Still essentially diatonic (though the first song, Nacht, strikes a balance between diatonic and whole-tone writing), even the earliest of the set – Im Zimmer (1905) and Die Nachtigall (?1905–6) – demonstrate a piano style far more idiomatic than anything in earlier songs, and whereas the piano accompaniments of the pre-Schoenberg songs frequently lack distinctive melodic figurations, here the handling of motivic ideas is skilful and highly developed. The motivic concentration of Liebesode (1907), for example, in which the right hand of the piano part is restricted to a single three-note figure and its inversion, or Traumgekrönt, which concentrates on a single melodic idea and a four-note cell, looks forward to the motivic complexity not only of the Piano Sonata but also of the mature Berg.

Though the String Quartet op.3 was the last work Berg wrote directly under his teacher's guidance, the Piano Sonata was in effect his graduation piece, the work in which he set out to demonstrate what he had learned from both Schoenberg's teaching and Schoenberg's music. The period of Berg’s studies was a particularly important time in Schoenberg's own creative development, during which he produced the First Quartet (1905), the first Kammersymphonie (1906) and the Second Quartet (1908–9) – a series of works which, with their exploration of cyclic forms and their concentrated motivic and intensely contrapuntal textures, were to have a lifelong influence on the younger composer. Among the most immediate lessons Berg learned from these pieces, and from the Kammersymphonie in particular, were how to handle an extended harmonic language that combined post-Wagnerian chromaticism with quartal, whole-tone and similar tonally ambiguous, ‘floating’ harmonies and how to structure a large-scale instrumental movement in such a way that it was both formally clear and thematically integrated. One of the basic tenets of Schoenberg's teaching was the necessity of what he would later call ‘developing variation’, the belief that the logic and coherence of a work depended on all its aspects being derived from a single basic idea. It was a belief that Berg would later pass on to his own students, as his pupil T.W. Adorno confirmed when he wrote: ‘The main principle he conveyed was that of variation: everything was supposed to develop out of something else and yet be intrinsically different’ (Adorno, Eng. trans., 33). It is a principle that stands at the heart of both the Piano Sonata, in which, within the confines of a clearly defined sonata structure, a wealth of distinctive thematic ideas is generated from a minimum of motivic material, and the two-movement String Quartet.

Between these works came the Vier Lieder op.2, the last of which marks the point at which Berg's music moved from the extended tonal language of the Sonata to the free atonality of the following works. The Vier Lieder also, for the first time, reveal some of the compositional preoccupations that became a feature of Berg's later music: the linking of the movements of a multi-movement work through harmonic, melodic and rhythmic motifs in such a way as to form a single entity, the fondness for retrogrades and palindromic designs (the final bars of the first song are a retrograde restatement of the opening bars) and a fascination with the structural potential of interval cycles. Much of the second song, for example, is concerned with exploiting the structural and cyclic possibilities inherent in the French 6th chord, with the opening bars systematically transposing the chord halfway around the cycle of 5ths (at which point the original collection of notes is reinstated), the following bars recapitulating the same chord sequence in retrograde (but with the spacing changed so as to emphasize the two major 3rds in the chord) and the final six bars demonstrating that the sequence produced when the chord is transposed around the semitone cycle is identical to that resulting from the original cycle of 5ths transposition. What is equally characteristic of the later Berg is the fact that what, when described, seems a calculated and abstract procedure should produce a piece whose most immediately striking feature is its emotional spontaneity.

Berg's formative years coincided with one of the most exciting periods in Viennese cultural life. In his autobiography Die Welt von Gestern Berg's Viennese contemporary Stefan Zweig described the passion for art and literature that seized him and his classmates in their mid-teens, a passion ‘to discover the latest, newest, the most extravagant, the unusual which had not yet been dwelt on at length, particularly by the official literary circles of our daily newspaper … . We were the vanguard and shock troops of every sort of new art merely because it was new’. Even before meeting Schoenberg, Berg had, like his siblings, cultivated a lively interest in everything that was new in the arts, attending Mahler's performances at the opera, seeing new plays and reading Ibsen, Strindberg and the newly published Reigen of Schnitzler and Erdgeist of Wedekind (the first of the two plays that would later form the basis for Lulu). Once released from the drudgery of school, as a pupil of the man at the centre of one of the most radical musical developments of the period and the colleague of fellow students of the calibre of Webern, Wellesz and Jalowetz, Berg threw himself with enthusiasm into all artistic activities. He attended the first Vienna production of Wedekind's second Lulu play, Die Büchse der Pandora in 1905, travelled to Graz the following year to hear the Austrian première of Strauss's Salome and became acquainted not only with musicians of the standing of Zemlinsky and Schreker but also with Peter Altenberg, Gustav Klimt (with whom he attended the great Kunstschau exhibition in 1908), Karl Kraus, Adolf Loos and other leading figures in Vienna's artistic and literary circles. He also, at the end of 1906, met for the first time Helene Nahowski, herself a friend and dedicatee of two of his Altenberg poems, whom, after a difficult courtship in the face of opposition from her family, Berg married on 3 May 1910.

Berg was, said Schoenberg in the letter to Hertzka cited above, ‘enthusiastic and uncritical, receptive of the beautiful whether old or new, whether music, literature, painting, sculpture, theatre or opera’. The enthusiasm and the curiosity were to last throughout his life, so that he remained in touch with, and receptive to, the influence of, areas of music, literature and theatre by which Schoenberg and Webern remained unaffected. It is indicative of the range of his interests that he was familiar with the music of Debussy at a time when Schoenberg hardly knew the work of the French composer, that he went to the first Vienna performance of Büchner's Woyzeck (the name then misread as ‘Wozzeck’), and that later in life he showed an interest in jazz and the ‘new opera’ of Weill and Brecht.

2. 1911–1914.

Berg's relationship with his teacher was and remained a difficult one. Schoenberg became a father figure whose approval he craved and whose disapproval or interference he dreaded for many years after his studentship had ended. The years following Schoenberg's move to Berlin in 1911 were particularly difficult, with the newly married Berg, still painfully conscious of his own lack of practical professional skills, torn between awareness of his debt to Schoenberg and the need to assert his personal and artistic independence.

Even when no longer in Vienna, Schoenberg expected his students to carry out various musical and non-musical tasks on his behalf, and the majority of letters from Schoenberg to Berg during this period consist of abrupt and peremptory demands requiring Berg to oversee various domestic tasks, run errands and organize his teacher's musical and financial affairs in Vienna, while frequently complaining about Berg's inefficiency and untrustworthiness in these matters. Berg's long and rambling replies (about both the nature and the illegibility of the handwriting of which Schoenberg also complained) are witness to his desperate desire to please his teacher. The growing personal difficulties between the two finally came to a head in late 1915 when communication more or less ceased for a while. The rift was gradually healed over the next three years, but it remained a thorny relationship, on both a personal and professional level; it was, Berg told his friend Soma Morgenstern ‘the great problem of my life – a problem that I've carried around for decades without being able to solve and which will be my downfall’ (Morgenstern, 1995, p.41). The letters between Berg and Schoenberg only begin to acquire the feeling of correspondence between equals in the late 1920s, when Berg had achieved some measure of international fame with the success of Wozzeck and the Lyrische Suite, but it is indicative of the continuing unease of the relationship that, while Webern was allowed to address Schoenberg by the familiar ‘Du’ in 1912, Berg had to wait until 1918 before being granted the privilege, and that while Schoenberg dedicated his Violin Concerto to Webern, and Berg dedicated four works to his teacher, there is not a single work by Schoenberg dedicated to Berg.

During the years from 1911 to 1915 Berg was devoting much of his time to paid and unpaid efforts on Schoenberg's behalf. His income came partly from administering the family properties, partly from private teaching and partly from his work for music publishers Universal Edition – work which included correcting the parts for and making a piano reduction of Schoenberg's Gurrelieder in advance of its 1913 Vienna première, preparing an index for Schoenberg's Harmonielehre and a guide to the Gurrelieder, and making piano arrangements of, among other things, the third and fourth movements of Schoenberg's Second Quartet. But despite the fact that Schoenberg's constant demands left him little time for his own work, he found it possible in the summer of 1912 to start work on a new composition, the Fünf Orchesterlieder nach Ansichtkartentexten von Peter Altenberg op.4.

The first of Berg's works to be written without Schoenberg's guidance, this remains one of Berg's most perfect scores and his greatest achievement before Wozzeck. Uncharacteristically brief (even the two longest songs, the first and last, are only 38 and 55 bars long respectively), the cycle nevertheless contains large-scale dramatic and emotional gestures that are typically Bergian. Equally so is the formal and motivic complexity of the work, which is bound together by a host of recurring harmonic, melodic and rhythmic figurations.

Formally the set has an overall arch shape, with the first and last songs, though very different, having a large part of their musical material in common. Ex.1 shows the opening bars of the final song, a passacaglia. Theme A of the example has already appeared (with the same pitches but a different rhythm) as the main thematic idea of the first song, where it originally emerged out of the ‘snowstorm’ of overlapping ostinatos that formed the introduction; theme B2 is a motif that has also been heard in the introduction to the first song and appeared briefly in the second song, while theme B1 determined the transpositional levels of the motif in the upper part of the introduction to the first song, appeared on the celesta as the final melodic gesture of that song and reappeared in the fourth number. The climax of the introduction to the first song is marked by a harmonic shift from a vertical statement of B1 to a chromatic expansion of the same chord (with the four upper notes ascending and the lowest note descending a semitone); the final moments of the last song have this same chord sequence in reverse. This larger arch shape, resting on the relationship between the two outer songs, is reflected in the individual symmetrical formal designs of the three central songs. Especially interesting is the use of a rhythmic motif (embodied in theme C in the above example) that, originally announced as a repeated single note, acquires a number of thematic shapes during the course of the work. A similar rhythmic motif had made a fleeting appearance in the op.2 songs as a way of binding the set together; the more extensive use of such a motif here looks forward to the use of such independent structural rhythms (or ‘Hauptrhythmen’, to use his own term) in Berg’s later works. Significantly, in view of what was to happen, both the complexity of the formal design and the brevity of the individual songs militate against their being performed other than as a complete cycle.


Reproduced by permission of Alfred A. Kalmus Ltd, London

There is, in much of the work of the Viennese artists of the period, a distinct desire to shock – a reaction, perhaps, to the complacent philistinism of Viennese bourgeoise cultural life. Berg's later decision to set Wedekind's scandalous Lulu plays is symptomatic of this reaction. Certainly his choice of Altenberg's aphoristic and slightly scurrilous texts, at a time when the poet was known to be in an asylum, was a provocative gesture, as was the musical language of the songs, their employment of so large an orchestra for such tiny poems and their use of unusual orchestral effects such as the col legno open string bariolage and the ‘noises’ (a glissando in harmonics on the violins and an effect on low strings produced by bowing on the holes of the tailpiece) that end the first number. The imagination, subtlety and sure-footedness of the instrumentation of the songs seem little short of miraculous in a composer's first work for orchestra. At the time even Schoenberg expressed doubts about what he called ‘their too overt striving to employ new orchestral effects’. Whether or not Berg intended the songs to be provocative, he was unprepared for the public reaction that greeted a performance of two of them in Vienna on 31 March 1913, in a programme Schoenberg conducted that also included Zemlinsky's Maeterlinck Lieder, Schoenberg's own first Kammersymphonie, the first performance of Webern's op.6 and Mahler's Kindertotenlieder. The concert, in which the performance of Berg's songs led to a riot, with fisticuffs in the hall, the police called in and the concert organizer arrested, has gone down as one of the great musical scandals of the 20th century.

Two months after the ‘Skandalkonzert’, on the last day of a visit to Berlin, Schoenberg took Berg to task about the ‘insignificance and worthlessness’ of his recent compositions. The exact nature of Schoenberg's criticisms is unclear, though it has generally been assumed that Schoenberg criticized the brevity of his pupil's pieces. In the wake of the public reaction, Schoenberg's criticism provoked a crisis of confidence and destroyed what was left of Berg's belief in the Altenberg songs: ‘My self doubt’, he wrote to Schoenberg, ‘ is so strong that the least criticism from you, who alone are qualified to give it, robs me of almost all hope’ (The Berg–Schoenberg Correspondence, 257). He never published or tried to have the songs performed in their entirety in his lifetime. The fifth song appeared in vocal score in 1921 as a supplement to the Dresden periodical Menschen, but there was no complete performance until 1953.

The precise date of Berg's next composition, the Vier Stücke op.5 for clarinet and piano, is unclear. The score gives spring 1913, early writers (including Reich and Redlich) summer, Berg himself, in a chronology written in a letter to his wife, June 1913. The pieces, which are even shorter than the Altenberg songs, were probably written before the traumatic discussion with Schoenberg in Berlin in the early summer of that year. Like the Altenberg songs, the clarinet pieces again compress large-scale dramatic gestures into tiny forms (many writers have described the work as a miniature four-movement sonata); unlike the songs, with their intricate motivic structure, the op.5 pieces represent the furthest step Berg took in renouncing distinct thematic and motivic features in favour of a music whose material is generated from the manipulation of small cells, and where various more or less systematic techniques (wedge formations, interval series, progressive transformations) govern smaller, and in some cases larger, structures.

If Schoenberg's criticism of the Altenberg songs centered on their brevity, Berg's next work, the Drei Orchesterstücke op.6, was a deliberate answer, the model for which lay immediately to hand in Mahler's Ninth Symphony, whose first performance Berg had heard in June 1912. The pieces, on which he worked from the summer of 1913 until the autumn of 1915, are Berg's most Mahlerian work, adopting not only the ländler and march idioms that characterize so much of Mahler's music but also, in the final piece, the hammer blow of the finale of the Sixth Symphony. Like the Altenberg songs and the movements of the op.3 quartet, the three pieces (‘Praeludium’, ‘Reigen’ and ‘Marsch’) are linked by a network of recurring themes and motives – including a purely rhythmic theme – that binds the set into a single entity and provides a series of audible signposts within the proliferation of apparently new thematic ideas to which the constant motivic development gives rise. Much of the most important material in all three pieces grows initially from the basic three-note cell (the minor 3rd and semitone E–G–A♭) that emerges to form the opening themes of both the ‘Praeludium’ and ‘Reigen’ and that starts the ‘Marsch’, but the complexity of the transformation processes and the profusion of seemingly new ideas result, especially in the ‘Marsch’, in what is perhaps the most texturally, motivically and thematically complex of all Berg's works.

3. ‘Wozzeck’.

By the time he was working on the ‘Marsch’ of op.6 Berg had already decided on his next work. On 5 May 1914 he had seen Wozzeck and immediately determined to write an opera on the play. An acquaintance, who had sat a few rows in front of Berg at the performance, later remembered how, at the end of the play: ‘Indescribably excited and enthusiastic I stood amidst wild applause and met Alban Berg a few steps behind me. He was deadly pale and perspiring profusely. “What do you say?” he gasped, beside himself, “Isn't it fantastic, incredible?” then already taking his leave, “Someone must set it to music”.’ Though he began making preliminary sketches for the opera almost at once (some of the earliest appear on the same sheets of manuscript paper as material for the ‘Marsch’), work had to be laid aside when, following the outbreak of World War I, Berg was called into the Austrian army in June 1915. After spending a month training at the army camp at Bruck an der Leitha his health gave way, and he was transferred to guard duty and eventually to an office job in the War Ministry, where he served until 1918.

While not as overtly political as many of his acquaintainces, Berg was undoubtedly attracted to Wozzeck because of its socio-political message, which coincided with his own views (described by Adorno as ‘socialist in so far as in the 20s it behoved an orthodox reader of the Fackel’). He also, perhaps, saw in the play other features with which he identified. ‘There is something of me in this Wozzeck’, he observed in a letter to his wife Helene, a remark that on one level refers to the similarity between the situation of Wozzeck, the poor downtrodden army batman terrorized by his superior officer and the butt of absurd dietary experiments by the sadistic army doctor, and his own during his spell at the army training camp. Writing to his pupil Gottfried Kassowitz on various occasions during his stay as a reserve at Bruck an der Leitha, Berg commented on the sound made by a room full of sleeping men and complained of the injustices of the system, the inefficiency of the camp doctor and the disgusting mutton that was served every week – remarks echoed in the libretto of Wozzeck. At the same time, it is unlikely that Berg would not also have recognized the similarity between Wozzeck, as the father of an illegitimate child to a woman called Marie, and himself. From Wozzeck onwards all his works have autobiographical connotations.

In his 1928 article ‘Das “Opernproblem”’ (Reich, 1937, p.175), Berg observed:

Never in my wildest dreams would I have wished to reform the art-form of opera with the composition of Wozzeck. … Apart from my desire to make good music, to fulfil musically the spiritual content of Büchner's immortal drama, to transpose his poetic language into a musical one – apart from these things I had nothing else in mind when I decided to write an opera … than to return to the theatre what is the theatre's.

Despite the modesty with which Berg disclaimed any seeking after originality, Wozzeck was an epoch-making work that broke new ground musically, emotionally and dramatically. If Büchner's play was discovered and first performed at a time when its techniques and concerns seemed strikingly contemporary, it also appeared at a moment when its extreme states were peculiarly suited to Berg’s musical language – an atonal language that, constantly hovering on the edge of tonal confirmation, becomes a perfect musical metaphor for the emotional and mental state of the opera's chief protagonist. The world that the opera presents is a projection of the tortured mind of Wozzeck himself: a world without normality or humanity and peopled by grotesques, a haunted world of strange, hallucinatory voices and visions and of natural phenomena indifferent to the human tragedy being played out. Only at the very end of the opera is this viewpoint abandoned, when, after Wozzeck's death, the music of the final cathartic orchestral interlude achieves D minor and, with the theatre curtain down, steps outside the drama to reflect on the significance of what has happened.

Every critic and commentator on Wozzeck has discussed the formal structure of the opera; indeed, it is the aspect of which Berg himself was most proud and to which he drew attention in his pre-performance lectures. As one might expect in an opera written by an Austrian composer in the first quarter of the 20th century, the most immediately audible formal and unifying device in the work is a system of recurring leitmotifs (and, on a larger scale, of recurring sections), the reappearance of which underlines dramatic associations and parallels within the opera. Less immediately audible are the strict formal designs within which these leitmotifs operate. The opera is conceived as a single closed formal entity, with each act, and each scene within each act, forming a self-contained structural unit. Act 1, which is the exposition of the drama, consists of five character pieces – a suite (scene i), a rhapsody (scene ii), a military march and lullaby (scene iii), a passacaglia (scene iv) and a rondo (scene v) – each of which introduces one of the main characters and delineates his or her relationship to Wozzeck. The second act is designed as a five-movement symphony, consisting of a sonata form (scene i), a fantasia and fugue (scene ii), a largo slow movement (scene iii), a scherzo with two trios (scene iv) and a rondo (scene v). Act 3 consists of five ‘inventions’ each based on a single musical element: a theme (scene i), a single note (scene ii), a rhythmic pattern (scene iii), a six-note chord (scene iv) and a single note-value (scene v). The final orchestral interlude, which sums up the main motivic material of the opera and also, as the only orchestral interlude to have its own distinctive thematic material, stands as a self-sufficient musical structure, forms a sixth invention, an ‘invention on a key’.

The choice of formal designs for the different scenes is determined by dramatic considerations. In some cases the musical material or form is of a sort traditionally associated with the kind of activity depicted on stage – a ländler and a waltz for the tavern scene, Act 2 scene iv, for example, or a military march and lullaby in Act 1 scene iii. In other scenes Berg arranged his libretto so that the text defines a dramatic structure corresponding to an accepted musical form. In the sonata movement or the fantasia and fugue of Act 2, for example, the appearances and recurrences of musical ideas correspond exactly to the appearances and recurrences of verbal and dramatic ideas. Elsewhere, musical form symbolizes the psychological kernel of the scene. This is true of Act 1 scene iv, where the constantly repeated passacaglia theme stands as a symbol of the Doctor's manic obsession – his hopes of achieving immortality through the absurd and sadistic scientific experiments to which he submits Wozzeck – and becomes general in the final act, where the domination of each scene by a single musical element represents the obsessions dominating Wozzeck’s thoughts. Thus the single note B, present throughout the murder scene, Act 3 scene ii, moves up and down the score, receding into or emerging out of the orchestral texture as the idea of murder grows or diminishes in intensity in Wozzeck's mind. The orchestral interlude that follows this scene consists of two crescendos also on B, separated by a fortissimo drum statement of the rhythm that will form the basis of the next scene, in which the constant presence of this single rhythmic pattern stands as a symbol of Wozzeck's memory of the crime, while the individual statements of the rhythm, adapting themselves to the moment-to-moment contingencies of the text, mirror Wozzeck's hesitations and unpredictable outbursts and the increasingly insistent accusations of Margret and the chorus. The unceasing quaver movement of the final scene suggests the indifference of the children, intrigued but unmoved by the discovery of Marie's body and the revelation of what has occurred. It is difficult to exaggerate Berg's achievement in this extraordinary work. In his first opera he not only reconciled but fused the demands of the dramatic and musical structures, and in so perfect and so personal a way that he himself was the only composer able to go further, in Lulu. He completed Wozzeck in short score in the middle of October 1921. The full score was finished in April 1922, and the vocal score, made under his supervision by his pupil Fritz Heinrich Klein, in June of the same year. Without a publisher, and unable to bear the expense himself (he had earlier managed to pay for the printing of his opp.1 and 2 only by selling some family furniture), he was forced to borrow money from a friend of his sister Smaragda in order to finance the publication of the vocal score; the loan was later repaid thanks to the efforts of Alma Mahler, to whom he dedicated the score as a token of gratitude. He then set about creating interest in the opera by advertising its publication and sending copies to opera companies and critics. Although these efforts resulted in a number of press articles, no company expressed more than a passing interest in the work. Indeed, it would have been surprising had any established opera house been willing to stage so difficult and complex an opera by a composer then little known even in his native city, let alone beyond.

Now in his mid-30s Berg was still eking out a precarious livelihood teaching, managing the family property (including acting as steward of the Berghof, which was finally sold in May 1920) and acting, from its inception in late 1918 until March 1921, as one of the performance directors of the Verein für Musikalische Privataufführungen. The Verein, which took up an enormous amount of his time, had been founded by Schoenberg with the intention of promoting interest in contemporary music through closed performances (critics were banned) of carefully rehearsed pieces. Berg himself was represented on the programmes by his opp.1–3 and 5, but these performances did little to promote public recognition of his music. The turning-point came rather in 1923, when two of the op.6 pieces were performed in Berlin and the String Quartet was played, to great acclaim, at the ISCM Festival in Salzburg. Among the Salzburg audience was Hermann Scherchen, who suggested that Berg make a concert suite from the music of Wozzeck. The resulting Drei Bruchstücke aus ‘Wozzeck’ were performed under Scherchen in June 1924 and were, as Berg reported to Webern, ‘a great triumph with the public, the musicians and the press’. By this time, however, Erich Kleiber, the new music director of the Berlin Staatsoper, had already declared his intention of staging Wozzeck. Kleiber, a passionate admirer of the Büchner play, had already seen a vocal score, and during the autumn of 1923 made his interest in the piece known to a number of Berg's acquaintances. In 1924, when in Vienna for a few days, he requested that the entire opera be performed for him by the pianist Ernst Bachrich; Berg, who was not an accomplished pianist, helped out in the more difficult parts of the score. By the time the first two scenes had been played to him Kleiber had already decided to mount the work in Berlin – even, he joked, if it cost him his job. Wozzeck duly received its première in Berlin on 14 December 1925, and the conductor's little joke almost proved prophetic.

The Berlin Staatsoper was at that time passing through a particularly turbulent period in its history. The position of the general administrator, Max von Schillings, had been insecure for some time, and became increasingly so as his relations with the Minister of Culture grew progressively worse during the spring and summer of 1925. When Schillings was finally dismissed in November 1925 ideological groups on right and left, the press, the staff of the opera house and almost every interested party became involved in a bitter political dispute at the centre of which was Wozzeck, whose first performance had taken place on the very day the Schillings affair had come to a head with a heated debate in the Landstag. But in spite of the extended press campaign waged against the opera by Kleiber's enemies (in which, among other things, it was falsely suggested that the piece had required 137 rehearsals and that the open dress rehearsal had led to riots in the opera house), the first night of Wozzeck was a critical success. The piece received ten performances in Berlin, with Leo Schützendorf in the title role, and then made its way slowly into the world, only fully establishing itself on its fourth production, at Oldenburg in 1929. Coming after a production in Prague which had to be cancelled after two performances because of political protests by Czech nationalists, and a successful but little-noticed production in Leningrad, the Oldenburg staging showed it was possible for a small provincial opera house to mount this ‘unplayable’ work with only 32 rehearsals. What Johannes Schüler, the conductor of the Oldenburg Wozzeck, called ‘the myth of the insurmountable difficulty of the opera’ was disproved and, as Josef Lex, who sang the title role, observed, the success of the production ‘broke like a hurricane and signified the final victory of the work’. The success of Wozzeck brought Berg not only recognition as a composer of international standing but also a degree of financial stability, and royalties from the opera, along with income from private teaching, enabled him to devote himself to composition.

4. The ‘Kammerkonzert’ and ‘Lyrische Suite’.

Though some of the themes in Wozzeck contain all 12 notes (the passacaglia of Act 1 scene v, for example, or the second theme of the variations of Act 3 scene i), the opera is not in any sense a 12-note composition. The two works that followed – the Kammerkonzert for violin, piano and 13 wind instruments and the Lyrische Suite for string quartet – are transitional, in that they mark Berg's gradual adoption of the 12-note system.

The Kammerkonzert, more than any other work, demonstrates Berg's love of intricate formal designs and his interest in using apparently abstract, mathematical schemes as structural determinants. It is, perhaps, both the most forbidding and one of the most fascinating works in his output. The scherzando first movement, for solo piano and wind, superimposes variation and sonata forms. A theme on the wind instruments alone is followed by a set of five variations: the first for solo piano is a reprise of the original theme; the next three, based on the retrograde, the inversion and the retrograde inversion of the theme respectively, constitute a development section; the last variation is a recapitulation of the original theme in canon. The design of the theme itself, with the harmonic structure of its constituent sections systematically based on chains of major 3rds, perfect 4ths, semitones, minor 3rds and whole tones, demonstrates Berg's abiding interest in interval cycles. (Material based on such interval cycles is a constant feature of his music from the op.2 songs to Lulu and the Violin Concerto.) The adagio second movement, for solo violin and wind, is based on a series of 12-note themes – employed as melodic elements rather than as 12-note rows – that determine the harmonic structure. Formally the movement consists of two halves, the first of which is an ABA structure (in which the second A is the inversion of the first) while the whole of the second half is the retrograde of the first. Despite their very different characters and forms (and indeed playing time) the first two movements have a number of proportional features in common, notably their overall number of bars and the structural break at the centre of each. The reasons for this structural relationship – which, as the profusion of formal and proportional sketches for the piece show, Berg went to enormous trouble in order to achieve – becomes clear in the finale.

In Act 3 scene iii of Wozzeck Berg had written a piece in which rhythm was the chief organizational feature and in which leitmotifs and material heard earlier reappeared rhythmically transformed by the application of a single ‘Hauptrhythmus’. The last movement of the Kammerkonzert radically extends this idea. In terms of pitch the movement consists entirely of simultaneous reprise of the first two movements; the thematic identity and the definition of the formal structure (a fusion of sonata and rondo) of the movement thus rest not on pitch but on rhythmic elements, most notably on the handling of three independent rhythmic patterns (one of which has already appeared as the ‘Hauptrhythmus’ of the second movement and now generates a variety of rhythmic cells) which are superimposed on the existing pitch material.

The Kammerkonzert is the first of Berg's instrumental works in which important structural elements are determined by extra musical programmatic considerations. Berg himself touched on some of these in his dedicatory ‘open letter’ to Schoenberg, in which he revealed that the motto theme which opens the work is built of the musical letters in the names ‘ArnolD SCHönBErG’, ‘Anton wEBErn’ and AlBAn BErG’, and that the number three, representing the three members of the Schoenberg school, was with its multiples a factor determining the length of sections, the metronome marks, the nature of the instrumental body and many other aspects of the work. Berg's own sketches, however, show that the programmatic elements in the work extend far beyond those discussed in his ‘open letter’ and that, among many other things, each of the variations of the first movement (entitled ‘Friendship’ in the sketches) depicts a different member of the Schoenberg circle, the second movement (‘Love’), with its quotation from Schoenberg's Pelleas und Melisande and its use of a musical cipher based on the name ‘Mathilde’, portrays the relationship between Schoenberg and his wife, and the kaleidoscopic last movement portrays ‘the World’.

From the Kammerkonzert onwards all Berg's works have such ‘secret’ programmes, by means of which private, subjective elements – most often numbers that he regarded as having a particular significance or musical ciphers derived from the letters in people's names – are transformed into objective compositional constraints. In this, as in other respects, Wozzeck had marked a turning-point in his career. In Wozzeck he had set himself the task of imposing ‘abstract’ instrumental forms on an existing narrative in such a way that those forms would embody the largest and smallest details of the drama while at the same time retaining their integrity and autonomy as self-sufficient structures. The comparable task in the post-Wozzeck, non-operatic works would be to devise ‘secret’ narratives that would give rise to and be compatible with similarly ‘abstract’ formal structures.

Thanks to George Perle's discovery in 1976 of a score in which Berg had annotated the details of the autobiographical programme, the Lyrische Suite, the work following the Kammerkonzert, is the most completely documented demonstration of the extent to which such extra-musical considerations act as compositional determinants. Scholars had known that some kind of programmatic reference occasionally occurred in Berg's music long before the publication of Perle's discovery – Willi Reich's description of the programme of the Violin Concerto and Berg's own ‘open letter’ on the Kammerkonzert had made that much clear – and such things as the sequence of tempo directions that head the movements of the Lyrische Suite (Allegretto giovale, Andante amoroso, Allegro misterioso and Trio estatico, Adagio appassionato, Presto delirando, Largo desolato) had suggested the presence of some extra-musical programme. As early as 1957 Hans Redlich had hinted at ‘the enigmatic undercurrents of Berg's life and the fascinating contradictions of his personality’ (Redlich, Eng. trans., 217), yet such speculation was, by its nature, unprovable. The publication of Perle's articles on the annotated score supplied, for the first time, concrete evidence of the programme of what Adorno had called ‘a latent opera’. The annotated score reveals that the six movements of the Lyrische Suite document the love affair between Berg and Hanna Fuchs-Robettin, the wife of a wealthy Prague businessman and the sister of Franz Werfel, from their first meeting (Allegretto giovale), through a portrait of Hanna and her two children (Andante amoroso), their declaration of love (Allegro misterioso – Trio estatico) and a subsequent Adagio appassionato, to a depiction of the ‘horrors and pains’ of the following days and nights (Presto delirando) and an acceptance of the affair's hopelessness in the final Largo desolato, a secret setting of Stefan George's translation of Baudelaire's De profundis clamavi.

The most remarkable aspect of Berg's secret programme for the Lyrische Suite is not so much the presence or the nature of the programme itself – Janáček's Second Quartet, written three years after the Berg, has a similar one – but the extent to which Berg transforms details of this programme into elements that determine not simply the mood and character but the technical and formal details of the music. Thus, as in the Kammerkonzert, the names of the main actors are converted into musical notation, so that the most important musical material of the work – a four-note collection consisting of the notes A, B♭, B, F – is derived from the initials of Alban Berg and Hanna Fuchs, while both the formal proportions and the metronome markings of the whole work are based on the numbers 23 and 10, which Berg believed had a particular significance for himself and Hanna respectively.

The design of the Allegro misterioso, almost every aspect of which is determined by extra-musical considerations, may be taken as an example of Berg's methods. In the annotated score the movement is headed by the date ‘20.5.25’ – presumably the date when Alban and Hanna first declared their love. The choice of note row, row forms and transpositions in the outer 12-note sections is limited to those forms that keep the four notes of the A–B♭–B–F cell next to one another; the movement is an ABA structure in which the B section is a Trio estatico and the second A a shortened retrograde version of the first, the negation metaphorically associated with such retrogrades in Berg's music being explicitly indicated by the annotation ‘Vergessen Sie es …!’ (‘Forget it … !’) above the point at which the music starts to run backwards; the proportions of the movement are based on multiples of 23, Berg's fateful number, with the first Asection having 69 bars, the trio 23 and the reprise of A 46 bars, while the metronome marks are based on multiples of Hanna's number 10. Even the instrumentation, which requires the four strings to play muted throughout (even when playing fortissimo) as a symbol of the secret, repressed nature of Alban and Hanna's love for each other, is determined by programmatic considerations.

In form the work is, as usual with Berg, labyrinthine. The tempos of the six movements from a gradual expanding wedge in which fast movements, each faster than the last, alternate with slow movements, each slower than the last. Within this scheme each movement quotes (sometimes at length) from its predecessor. The sixth movement, which dies away into nothingness, quotes not only from the fifth but also from the first, and thus closes the circle.

Berg's earliest 12-note composition had been a setting of the short poem Schliesse mir die Augen beide, a text he had already set before and chose to reset using the row he was to use in the Lyrische Suite, whose first movement became his first extended 12-note composition. Though only the first and last movements of the quartet are entirely 12-note (the outer sections of the third movement and the central part of the fifth are also 12-note, the remainder being free), the work already demonstrates the features that distinguish Berg's handling of the 12-note system from that of Schoenberg or Webern. The first movement alone has what, in terms of interval sequence (that is to say, in orthodox Schoenbergian terms), are three different rows. All three are, however, related harmonically, in that their hexachords are identical in content. Each hexachord is a rearrangement of a segment of the cycle of 5ths, and as the work progresses these diatonic collections become increasingly chromatic as more notes are exchanged between the hexachords.

The third and fifth movements also continue, and expand into new areas, the rhythmic explorations of Wozzeck and the Kammerkonzert, the fifth by imposing on many passages a durational formula which determines the presentation of material in the tenebroso sections, the third by using, as the main rhythmic determinants of the outer sections, two rhythmic cells that arise from a particular method of partitioning the row according to its registral presentation. The use of more than one row and the derivation of both new rows and rhythmic patterns through registral presentation of a basic set were to be features of Lulu. Equally significant for Berg's later development is the large-scale temporal organization of the Lyrische Suite. The fact that the metronome markings of the different movements share a common numerical basis (as multiples of 23 or 10) is not simply a conceit but has the effect of interlinking the different tempos in the work. Berg had employed such interlinked tempos (which make it possible to move from one precise metronomic tempo to another by a process that has since become known as ‘metric modulation’) in sections of Wozzeck and had even, in sketches for the Kammerkonzert, experimented with the possibility which such relationships afford of having different layers of music moving at different tempos simultaneously. Such methods of organizing tempos, metres and rhythms underpin large sections, and even whole scenes, of Lulu.

5. ‘Lulu’ and the final years.

After the successful première of the Lyrische Suite in January 1927, Berg began to search for a subject on which to base another opera, eventually deciding on Wedekind's two Lulu plays. The 1905 performance he had seen of Die Büchse des Pandora, produced by Karl Kraus and with Wedekind himself in the role of Jack the Ripper, had been private, since the play was still under consideration on an obscenity charge (and was eventually banned) by the Royal Court in Berlin. To the 20-year old Berg, as to many of his generation, Wedekind represented the ‘really new direction in modern art’ and, fired by Kraus's introductory lecture to the Vienna performance, his enthusiasm for the play stayed with him for the rest of his life. By 1928, when he began work on Lulu, Wedekind's plays were no longer banned (censorship was abolished in Germany in 1918), but they remained controversial and were still widely regarded as obscene. In choosing, despite the advice of many of his friends, to base his opera on Wedekind's plays, Berg was making a deliberately provocative choice. Just how provocative would only become clear five years later, when the Nazis came to power.

As a composer of international standing Berg now spent much of his time travelling to attend performances or serving on various juries and committees, and work on Lulu progressed slowly. It was also twice interrupted by commissions. The first, in the summer of 1929, resulted in the concert aria Der Wein for the Czech soprano Růžena Herlingerová, and was undertaken partly because Berg needed a new work to keep his name before the public while he worked on the opera (the same period saw the orchestral arrangements of the Sieben frühe Lieder and the string orchestra arrangement of three movements from the Lyrische Suite) and partly because the aria gave him the opportunity to explore in advance some ideas for Lulu in terms of the handling of voice and orchestra, the use of a jazz idiom and the creation of a sound world characterized in particular by piano and saxophone – though the vibraphone, the sound of which is so prominent in the Lulu orchestra, is absent from Der Wein. Above all, the composition of the aria gave Berg the chance to experiment with ways in which new, subsidiary rows might be derived from a single basic row. The row of Der Wein (ex.2), like that of the later Violin Concerto, is based on one of the two most characteristic key-defining patterns of tonal music: in the case of Der Wein, an ascending minor scale. While such a row naturally gives rise to horizontal figurations reminiscent of tonal music, the production of tonally orientated vertical formations remains problematic. The most important harmonic (and some melodic) features of Der Wein are derived from the basic set by processes of extraction: by systematically extracting alternate notes (to produce a new row that consists of notes 1–3–5–7–9–11–2–4–6–8–10–12 of the original), by partitioning the set into four three-note collections which are then superimposed (in effect presenting vertically a new row that consists of notes 1–4–7–10, 2–5–8–11, 3–5–9–12) and by extracting three non-adjacent tritones (notes 4–7, 8–10, 11–3) so as to leave a residue of two three-note chromatic figures. Such methods of deriving subsidiary rows and further extensions of these methods (by the systematic extraction of every fifth or seventh note, for example) were to play an important role in Lulu.


Reproduced by permission of Alfred A. Kalmus Ltd, London

Lulu represents the culmination of the technical and structural preoccupations of Berg's works from the op.2 songs onwards. In particular, the ingenious knitting together of dramatic and musical demands, already demonstrated in Wozzeck, is here taken a number of steps further. At the most detailed level Lulu is a 12-note work – the first 12-note opera, just as Wozzeck was the first, full-length atonal opera. Like the Lyrische Suite, Lulu uses a number of different rows, all of them, as sketches show, derived precompositionally from a single 12-note set in a number of intricate ways. The basic set of the whole opera (ex.3) and a few of the motifs that run throughout the work – most noticeably the four-note figuration on trombone that begins the whole piece and a short fateful rhythmic pattern that underlies every significant event in the drama – operate independently of the characters on stage. For the rest, the rows and the characteristic harmonies and themes to which they give rise (and also, in some cases, rhythms, metres and instrumental timbres) function as leitmotifs linked to particular characters and particular ideas in the text. This leitmotif system works within an intricate, multi-layered formal design.


Reproduced by permission of Alfred A. Kalmus Ltd, London

On one level Lulu is a number opera consisting – as is appropriate for an opera in which one subject is the writing of an opera – of a sequence of arias, ensembles, cavatinas, ballades and other forms traditionally associated with vocal music, all of them clearly identified by Berg in the score. At the same time, each of the three acts has within it a single large-scale form. The different sections of the form are scattered throughout the particular act in a mirroring of the main dramatic development. Act 1, for example, is dominated by a sonata form, associated with Dr. Schön's attempts to break free of Lulu; the exposition and first reprise appear in scene ii, and the development and recapitulation in scene iii. In Act 2 the large-scale form is a rondo (continually interrupted in scene i but heard in its entirety in scene ii) associated with Alwa's declarations of love for Lulu, while in Act 3 a set of variations, based on a cabaret song by Wedekind himself, charts Lulu's descent into prostitution. Unlike the self-sufficient musical forms of Wozzeck, which follow one another in sequence, the musical forms of Lulu are interpenetrated and interrupted. At the highest structural level is the large-scale symmetrical relationship between the two halves of the opera, the dramatic and musical fulcrum of which is the orchestral film-music interlude linking the two scenes of Act 2. Constructed as a musical palindrome and designed to accompany the showing of a silent film (itself palindromic since each shot in the first half mirrors a shot in the second), the interlude marks the turning point of Lulu's career – the point at which begins her descent into the nightmare world of the final scene. The symmetrical musical-dramatic structure of the opera is emphasized by the relationship between the two scenes of Act 2 (the only scenes to share the same set) and, most importantly, by the extent to which large blocks of music from the first half of the opera increasingly reappear, until the final scene consists almost entirely of music that has been heard earlier. In some cases the return of music is occasioned, as one might expect, by a desire to underline dramatic similarities. Thus, to cite one of many examples, the return of the music of the duettino of Act 1 scene i as part of the cavatina of Act 2 scene i ironically anticipates Schön's fate by drawing attention to the fact that he, like the Painter earlier, is beginning to take Lulu for granted.

Act 2 scene i of the original production of Berg’s ‘Lulu’, Zürich, 1937; Lulu (Nuri Hadžić) prepares to leave after shooting Dr Schön (Asger Stig), watched by Geschwitz (Maria Bernhard) and the Schoolboy

Douglas Jarman

More generally, the reappearance of large blocks of music underlines a unique feature of the opera: the reappearance of certain performers in different roles. The largest and most important of these musical reprises are determined by the doubling of the roles of Lulu's three clients in the final scene with those of her three husbands in the earlier part of the opera: the Medical Specialist, the Painter and Dr. Schön, who comes back as Jack the Ripper. Similarly, the roles of the Prince in Act 1, the Manservant in Act 2 and the Marquis in Act 3 are sung by the same performer and share the same music, though the bit parts of the Wardrobe Mistress, the Schoolboy and the Groom, while also taken by a single performer, are not associated musically. The doubling of the roles of Lulu's husbands and clients is the key to both the musical structure and the dramatic meaning of the opera. In his introductory lecture to the 1905 Vienna performance of the second play Kraus had described the final scene of the work as ‘a men's world brashly taking revenge for its own guilt’. Berg's doublings not only symbolized this revenge strikingly but also, by equating the characters who inhabit the respectable bourgeois world of the first half with the shady inhabitants of the demi-monde depicted in the final act, draw attention to the sexual hypocrisy which is the subject of the work, and which gives it a wider moral and social significance.

With the exception of the two months in the summer of 1929 spent on Der Wein, Berg worked on the composition of Lulu from mid-1928 until the spring of 1934, by which time the whole opera was complete in short score. He then began to orchestrate the work, starting with those sections he intended to form part of a concert suite, the Symphonische Stücke aus ‘Lulu’. Having completed the suite he went back to the Prologue and scored the rest of the opera in order, pausing only for a period of about four months in the summer of 1935 to compose the Violin Concerto, the commission for which, from the American violinist Louis Krasner, he had initially accepted out of financial necessity. With the coming to power of the Nazi party in Germany in January 1933, performances of his music became rare in both Germany and Austria, and he grew desperately short of money – so short that he was even, at one point, forced to consider selling the Waldhaus, the retreat at Velden in Carinthia he had bought in 1932. The emotional and artistic stimulus for the concerto – the death from poliomyelitis of the 18-year-old Manon Gropius, the daughter of Alma Mahler and Walter Gropius – only came after Berg had accepted the commission and begun work on the piece. On learning of Manon's death he resolved to dedicate the work to her memory (‘To the memory of an angel’) and create a tone poem which would paint her portrait.

The row of the Violin Concerto is based on a series of overlapping major and minor triads and a final whole-tone tetrachord, an ingenious set in which the inversion on B♮ is identical to a cyclic permutation of the prime form in retrograde. In Der Wein Berg had derived harmonies from a scale-like row by systematically extracting notes; in the Violin Concerto he arrived at non-triadic figures by the opposite method of inserting notes: the long lamenting solo line in the final section of the work, for example, is produced by systematically alternating notes from three different row forms. The overtly tonal implications of the set also enabled Berg to include a number of diatonic references, some to particular sources (a Carinthian folksong and Bach's harmonization of the chorale Es ist genug), others to genres such as the ländler and the Viennese waltz. Written at a time when his music, labelled as a manifestation of ‘cultural bolshevism’, was no longer played in Germany or even in his native Austria, and when he himself was no longer regarded as an indigenous composer, the Violin Concerto, with its overt references to the Austro-German tradition, is perhaps as much a rejection of that narrow nationalism which denied him and other composers a place in their tradition as it is a depiction of the life and death of a young girl.

Shortly after completing the concerto Berg received an insect sting which formed an abscess. Returning to Vienna from the Waldhaus in November 1935 he was able to attend the Vienna première of the Symphonische Stücke aus ‘Lulu’, but was rushed to hospital shortly after, and died there during the night of 23–4 December. The Violin Concerto had not yet been performed or published; as to Lulu, Acts 1 and 2 had been scored, together with the first 268 bars of Act 3 and the two later sections (the orchestral variation interlude and the final 70 bars) that appear in the Symphonische Stücke, leaving 940 bars unorchestrated. The world première of the opera took place in Zürich in 1937, when, as a ‘temporary’ solution pending the expected – and, indeed, announced – publication of a complete Act 3, the opera was presented as a two-act torso, with the last moments acted to the music of the final Adagio of the Symphonische Stücke. The ‘temporary’ two-act version held the stage for 40 years, as Berg's widow gradually became more and more convinced that the opera should remain unfinished and refused all access to the sketches and short score. Only after her death in 1976, and after a court action instituted by the foundation set up by her to manage the Berg estate had attempted and failed to stop the performance, was it possible to perform the complete opera with Friedrich Cerha's brilliantly realized orchestration of Act 3 and thus finally, after almost half a century, to appreciate the full stature of Berg's final achievement.

6. Conclusion.

Though Berg was always the most popular of the three Viennese composers with concert and opera audiences, his posthumous critical standing fluctuated considerably. Until the 1960s, when Perle published his first articles on Lulu, there had been little detailed study of Berg's music, and it was generally accepted that he was the least strict, the least systematic and the most conservative and backward-looking of the composers of the Second Viennese School. Whether his supposed lack of system and of modernist conviction was seen as an asset or a failing depended on the writer's attitude to what was happening in contemporary music. To Boulez and other young composers who spearheaded the period of total serialism in the Europe of the 1950s, and for whom Webern was the most important of the three Viennese composers, Berg's attachment to tradition was a sign of an unacceptable willingness to compromise. ‘Dodecaphony’, wrote Boulez of the Violin Concerto, ‘has more pressing duties than to tame a Bach chorale’.

But such views of Berg were based on mistaken premisses. His ‘free’ music has been revealed as at least as systematic as – and, in some ways, more systematic than – that of his colleagues and contemporaries, involving methods of organizing pitch, metre, rhythm and proportion that seem strikingly relevant to what has happened in music since his death. That such innovative and apparently ‘abstract’ organizational procedures take place within, and indeed give rise to, an intensely expressive music invoking the emotional world of Tristan, Mahler and the late Romantics is one of the many paradoxes that underlie Berg's music. The bringing together of elements that would normally be regarded as mutually exclusive – tonality with atonality, subjective autobiographical elements with objective compositional constraints, quotation and reference to popular style with rigorous and integrated handling of all musical parameters – is a constant feature of Berg's music. It is perhaps the rich resulting ambiguity that makes Berg so important an influence on more recent composers, whether modernist or postmodernist. As the 20th century closed, the ‘backward-looking’ Berg suddenly came as Perle remarked, to look like its most forward-looking composer.


Early works: c80 songs, 1v, pf, 1901–8; sonata fragments, variations, etc., pf; variations, str; for detailed list see Hilmar (1980), only those pubd listed below


Jugendlieder, i, 1901–4, 1v, pf (1985): Herbstgefühl (S. Fleischer), Spielleute (H. Ibsen), Wo der Goldregen steht (F. Lorenz), Lied der Schiffermädels (O.J. Bierbaum), Sehnsucht I (P. Hohenberg), Abschied (E. von Monsterberg-Muenckenau), Grenzen der Menschenheit (J.W. von Goethe), Vielgeliebte schöne Frau (H. Heine), Sehnsucht II (Hohenberg), Sternefall (K. Wilhelm), Sehnsucht III (Hohenberg), Ich liebe dich! (C.D. Grabbe), Ferne Lieder (F. Rückert), Ich will die Fluren meiden (Rückert), Geliebte Schöne (Heine), Schattenleben (M. Greif), Am Abend (E. Geibel), Vorüber! (F. Wisbacher), Schummerlose Nächte (Greif), Es wandelt, was wir schauen (J.F. von Eichendorff), Liebe (R.M. Rilke), Im Morgengrauen (K. Stieler), Grabschrift (L. Jakobwski)

Jugendlieder, ii, 1904–8, 1v, pf (1985): Traum (F. Semler), Augenblicke (R. Hamerling), Die Näherin (Rilke), Erster Verlust (Goethe), Süss sind mir die Schollen des Tales (K.E. Knodt), Er klagt das der Frühling so kortz blüht (A. Holz), Tiefe Sehnsucht (D. von Liliencron), Über den Bergen (K. Busse), Am Strande (G. Scherer), Winter (J. Schlaf), Fraue, du Süsse (L. Finckh), Verlassen (Bohemian trad.), Regen (Schlaf), Traurigkeit (P. Altenberg), Hoffnung (Altenberg), Flötenspielerin (Altenberg), Spaziergang (A. Mombert), Eure Weisheit (J.G. Fischer), So regnet es sich langsam ein (C. Flaischlein), Mignon (Goethe), Die Sorglichen (G. Falke), Das stille Königreich (Busse)

Sieben frühe Lieder, 1v, pf, 1905–8, rev. and orchd 1928; orch version Vienna, 6 Nov 1928; vs (1928), fs (1969), critical edn (1997): Nacht (C. Hauptmann), Schilflied (N. Lenau), Die Nachtigall (T. Storm), Traumgekrönt (Rilke), Im Zimmer (Schlaf), Liebesode (O.E. Hartleben), Sommertage (Hohenberg)

Schliesse mir die Augen beide (T. Storm), 1v, pf, 1st setting, 1907, pubd in Die Musik, xxii (1930), separately (1955)

An Leukon (J. Gleim) 1v, pf 1908; pubd in Reich (1937), separately (1985)

Frühe Klaviermusik, i (1989)

Zwölf Variationen über ein eigenes Thema, C, pf, 1908, Vienna 8 Nov, 1908; pubd in Redlich (1957) and as Frühe Klaviermusik, ii (1985)

Symphony and Passacaglia, frag., 1913, facs. (1984)


Piano Sonata, 1907–8, Vienna, 24 April 1911 (1910)


Vier Lieder, 1v, pf ?1909–10 (1910): Schlafen, schlafen (C. Hebbel), Schlaffend trägt man mich (Mombert), Nun ich der Riesen Stärksten (Mombert), Warm die Lüfte (Mombert)


String Quartet, 1910, Vienna, 24 April 1911 (1920)


Fünf Orchesterlieder nach Ansichtkartentexten von Peter Altenberg, S, orch, 1912; 2 nos. cond. Schoenberg, Vienna, 31 March 1913; all 5 E. Calveti, cond. Horenstein, Rome 24 Jan 1953; vs (1953), fs (1966), critical edn (1997): Seele, wie bist du schöner, Sahst du nach dem Gewitterregen, Über die Grenzen des All, Nichts ist gekommen, Hier ist Friede


Vier Stücke, cl, pf, 1913, Vienna, 17 Oct 1919 (1920)


Drei Stücke, orch, 1914–15: Präludium, Reigen, Marsch, nos.1–2 cond. Webern, Berlin, 5 June 1923, all 3 cond. J. Schüler, Oldenburg, 14 April 1930 (1923)


Wozzeck (op, 3, Büchner), 1917–22, cond. E. Kleiber, Berlin, Staatsoper, 14 Dec 1925 vs (1923)

Drei Bruchstüche aus ‘Wozzeck’, S, orch, cond. Scherchen, Frankfurt, 11 June 1924 (1924)

Kammerkonzert, pf, vn, 13 wind, 1923–5, cond. Scherchen, Berlin, 27 March 1927 (1925), critical edn (2000)

Adagio, vn, cl, pf (1956) [arr. of Kammerkonzert, movt 2]

Schliesse mir die Augen beide (Storm), 1v, pf, 2nd setting, 1925; pubd in Die Musik, xxii (1930), separately (1955)

Lyrische Suite, str qt, 1925–6, Kolisch, Vienna, 8 Jan 1927 (1927)

Drei Sätze [2–4] aus der Lyrischen Suite, arr. str orch, cond. Horenstein, Berlin, 31 Jan 1929 (1928)

Der Wein (C. Baudelaire, trans. S. George), concert aria, S, orch, 1929, R. Herlinger, cond. Scherchen, Königsberg, 4 June 1930; vs (1930), fs (1966), critical edn (1997)

Four-part Canon ‘Alban Berg an das Frankfurter Opernhaus’ (Berg), 1930 (1937)

Lulu (op, 3, Berg, after Wedekind: Erdgeist, Die Büchse der Pandora), 1929–35, orch of Act 3 completed F. Cerha; cond. R.F. Denzler, Zürich, 2 June 1937 [inc.], cond. P. Boulez, Paris, 24 Feb 1979 [complete]; vs of Acts 1–2 (1936), fs of Acts 1–2 and excerpts from Act 3 contained in suite (1964), complete vs, ed. E. Stein (1979), complete fs (1985)

[5] Symphonische Stücke aus der Oper ‘Lulu’ (Lulu-Suite), S, orch, cond. Kleiber, Berlin, 30 Nov 1934 (1935)

Violin Concerto, 1935; L. Krasner, cond. Scherchen, Barcelona, 19 April 1936 (1936), new critical edn (1996)

Arrs. in vs of F. Schreker: Der ferne Klang (Vienna, 1911); A. Schoenberg: Gurrelieder (Vienna, 1912), Litanei and Entrückung from Str Qt no.2, 1912 (Vienna, 1921); arr. of J. Strauss II: Wein, Weib und Gesang, pf, hmn, str qt, 1921 (Vienna, 1977)

MSS mostly in A-Wn; for locations of other individual MSS see Jarman (1979)

Principal publisher: Universal


for fuller list see Ploebsch (1968)

  • Arnold Schönberg, Gurrelieder: Führer (Vienna, 1913); ed. R. Stephan and R. Busch as ‘Gurrelieder’ von Arnold Schönberg: Führer und Thementafel (Vienna, 1997)
  • Pelleas und Melisande, Symphonische Dichtung für Orchester von Arnold Schönberg Op.5: kurze thematische Analyse (Vienna, c1903)
  • Arnold Schoenberg, Kammersymphonie, Op.9: thematische Analyse (Vienna, n.d.)
  • Der Verein für musikalische Privataufführungen (Vienna, 1919) [prospectus]; Eng. trans. in Reich (1965)
  • ‘Die musikalische Impotenz der “neuen Ästhetik” Hans Pfitzners’, Musikblätter des Anbruch, 2 (1920), 399–408; Eng. trans. in Reich (1965)
  • ‘Warum ist Schoenbergs Musik so schwer verständlich?’, Musikblätter des Anbruch, 6 (1924), 329–41; Eng. trans. in Reich (1965)
  • ‘Offener Brief an Arnold Schoenberg’, Pult und Taktstock, 2/Feb (1925); Eng. trans. in Reich (1965) [on the Kammerkonzert]
  • ‘A Word about “Wozzeck”’, MM, 5/1 (1927–8), 22–4; repr. in Reich (1965)
  • Lecture on Wozzeck, 1929; Eng. trans. in Redlich (1957)
  • ‘Die Stimme in der Oper’, Gesang: Jb 1929 der UE (Vienna, 1929); repr. in Reich (1965)
  • Praktische Anweisungen zur Einstudierung des ‘Wozzeck’ (Vienna, 1930); repr. in Reich (1937); Eng. trans. in MT, cix (1968), 518–21
  • ‘Was ist Atonal?’ [radio interview, Vienna, 23 April 1930]; Eng. trans. in N. Slonimsky: Music since 1900 (New York, 1937, 5/1994)
  • ed. H. Berg: Alban Berg: Briefe an seine Frau (Munich, 1965; Eng. trans., 1971)
  • J. Brand, C. Hailey and D. Harris, eds.: The Berg-Schoenberg Correspondence (New York, 1987) [in Eng.]


Monographs and collections of essays
  • ‘Alban Bergs “Wozzeck” und die Musikkritik’, Musikblätter des Anbruch, 8 (1926) [Berg issue]
  • W. Reich, ed.: 23: ein Wiener Musikzeitschrift, nos. 24–5 (1936) [Berg issue]
  • W. Reich: Alban Berg: mit Bergs eigenen Schriften und Beiträgen von Theodor Wiesengrund-Adorno und Ernst Křenek (Vienna, 1937)
  • H.F. Redlich: Alban Berg: Versuch einer Würdigung (Vienna, 1957/R; Eng. trans., abridged, 1957, as Alban Berg: the Man and his Music)
  • W. Reich: Alban Berg: Leben und Werk (Zürich, 1963; Eng. trans., 1965)
  • T.W. Adorno: Alban Berg (Vienna, 1968, rev. 2/1978; Eng. trans., 1991)
  • G. Ploebsch: Alban Bergs ‘Wozzeck’: Dramaturgie und musikaltische Aufbau (Strasbourg,1968)
  • International Alban Berg Society Newsletter (1968–)
  • K. Schweizer: Die Sonatensatzform im Schaffen Alban Bergs (Stuttgart, 1970)
  • M. Reiter: Die Zwölftontechnik in Alban Bergs Oper ‘Lulu’ (Regensburg,1973)
  • M. Carner: Alban Berg: the Man and the Work (London, 1975, 2/1983)
  • K. Vogelsang: Dokumentation zur Oper ‘Wozzeck’ von Alban Berg: die Jahre des Durchbruchs 1925–32 (Laaber, 1977)
  • 50 Jahre Wozzeck von Alban Berg: Berlin 1975
  • R. Hilmar: Alban Berg: Leben und Wirken in Wien bis zu seinen ersten Erfolgen als Komponist (Vienna,1978)
  • F. Cerha: Arbeitsbericht zur Herstellung des 3. Akts der Oper Lulu von Alban Berg (Vienna, 1979)
  • D. Jarman: The Music of Alban Berg (London, 1979)
  • R. Hilmar: Katalog der Musikhandschriften, Schriften und Studien Alban Bergs im Fond Alban Berg und weiteren handschriftlichen Quellen im Besitz der Österrichischen Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, 1980)
  • G. Perle: The Operas of Alban Berg, i: Wozzeck (Berkeley, 1980)
  • Alban Berg: Vienna 1980
  • J. Schmalfeldt: Berg's Wozzeck: Harmonic Language and Dramatic Design (New Haven, CT, 1983)
  • E. Berg: Der unverbesserliche Romantiker: Alban Bergs, 1885–1985 (Vienna, 1985)
  • R. Hilmar: Katalog der Schrifstücke von der Hand Alban Berg, der fremdschriftlichen und gedruckten Dokumente zur Lebensgeschichte und zu seinem Werk (Vienna, 1985)
  • G. Perle: The Operas of Alban Berg, ii: Lulu (Berkeley, 1985)
  • D. Jarman: Alban Berg: Wozzeck (Cambridge, 1989)
  • D. Jarman, ed.: The Berg Companion (London, 1989)
  • D. Gable and R.E. Morgan, eds.: Alban Berg: Historical and Analytical Perspectives (Oxford, 1991)
  • D. Jarman: Alban Berg: Lulu (Cambridge, 1991)
  • A. Pople: Berg Violin Concerto (Cambridge, 1991)
  • C. Floros: Alban Berg: Musik als Autobiographie (Wiesbaden, 1992)
  • T.F. Ertelt: Alban Bergs ‘Lulu’: Quellenstudien und Beiträge zur Analyse (Vienna,1993)
  • S. Morgenstern: Alban Berg und seine Idole: Erinnerungen und Briefe (Lüneburg, 1995)
  • G. Perle: Style and Idea in the Lyric Suite of Alban Berg (Stuyvesant, NY, 1995)
  • P. Hall: A View of Berg's ‘Lulu’ through the Autograph Sources (Berkeley,1996)
  • D. Headlam: The Music of Alban Berg (New Haven, CT, 1996)
  • U. Krämer: Alban Berg als Schüler Arnold Schonbergs: Quellenstudien und Analysen zum Frühwerk(Vienna,1996)
  • A. Pople, ed.: The Cambridge Companion to Berg (Cambridge, 1997)
  • S. Bruhn, ed.: Encypted Messages in Alban Berg’s Music (New York, 1998)
Other literature
  • E. Viebig: ‘Alban Bergs “Wozzeck”: ein Beitrag zum Opernproblem’, Die Musik, 15 (1922–3), 506–10
  • F.H. Klein: ‘Die Grenzen der Halbtonwelt’, Die Musik, 17 (1924–5), 281–91
  • K. Blaukopf: ‘Autobiographische Elemente in Alban Bergs “Wozzeck”’, ÖMz, 9 (1954), 155–8
  • J. Russell: Erich Kleiber: a Memoir (London, 1957/R)
  • G. Perle: Serial Composition and Atonality (Berkeley, 1962, 6/1991)
  • M. DeVoto: ‘Some Notes on the Unknown Altenberg Lieder’, PNM, 5/1 (1966–7), 37–74
  • A. Peryne: ‘Alban Berg und die Zahlen’, SM, 9 (1967), 141–61
  • B. Archibald: ‘The Harmony of Berg's “Reigen”’, PNM, 6/2 (1967–8), 73–91
  • G. Kassowitz: ‘Lehrzeit bei Alban Berg’, ÖMz, 23 (1968), 323–30
  • W. Stroh: ‘Alban Berg's Constructive Rhythm’, PNM, 7 (1968–9), 18–31
  • D. Jarman: ‘Dr. Schön's Five-Strophe Aria, some Notes on Tonality and Pitch Association in Berg's Lulu’, PNM, 8/2 (1969–70), 23–48
  • D. Jarman: ‘Some Rhythmic and Metric Techniques in Alban Berg's Lulu’, MQ, 56 (1970), 349–66
  • N. Chadwick: ‘Berg's Unpublished Songs in the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek’, ML, 52 (1971) 123–40
  • N. Chadwick: ‘Franz Schreker's Orchestral Style and its Influence on Alban Berg’, MR, 35 (1974), 29–46
  • H. Knaus: ‘Studien zu Alban Bergs Violinkonzert’, De ratione in musica: Festschrift Erich Schenk, ed. T. Antonicek, R. Flotzinger and O. Wessely (Kassel, 1975), 255–74
  • L. Treitler: ‘“Wozzeck” et l’Apocalypse’, SMz, 106 (1976), 249; Eng. trans. in Critical Enquiry, iii (1976–7), 251–70, and The Garland Library of the History of Western Music, ed. E. Rosand (New York, 1985), xii, 307–26; repr. in Music and the Historical Imagination (Cambridge, 1989), 242–63
  • D. Green: ‘Berg’s De Profundis: the Finale of the Lyric Suite’, International Alban Berg Society Newsletter, no.5 (1977), 13–23
  • D. Green: ‘The Allegro misterioso of Berg's Lyric Suite: Iso- and Retrorhythms’, JAMS, 30 (1977), 507–16
  • G. Perle: Twelve-Tone Tonality (Berkeley, 1977/R)
  • G. Perle: ‘The Complete “Lulu”’, MT, 120 (1979), 115–20
  • E. Berg: ‘Eine naturlicher Tochter: zur Biographie Alban Berg’, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (21 May 1979)
  • E. Berg: ‘Bergiana’, SMZ, 120 (1980), 147–9
  • C. Ayrey: ‘Berg's “Scheideweg”: Analytical Issues in Op.2/ii’, MAn, 1 (1982), 189–202
  • D. Jarman: ‘The “Lost” Score of the Symphonic Pieces from Lulu’, International Berg Society Newsletter, 12 (1982), 14–16
  • D. Jarman: ‘Alban Berg: the Origins of a Method’, MAn, 6 (1987), 273–88
  • J. Bard and C. Hailey: ‘Further Berg–Schoenberg Correspondence’, Journal of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute, 12/2 (1989), 133–74
  • G. Perle: The Listening Composer (Berkeley, 1990)
  • A. Ashby: ‘Of Modell-Typen and Reihenformen: Berg, Schoenberg, F.H. Klein and the Concept of Row Derivation’, JAMS, 48 (1995), 67–105
  • D. Jasman: ‘“Correcting” Berg: some Observations on Analysis and Editorial Responsibility’, International Journal of Musicology, 4 (1995), 155–67
  • G. Perle: The Right Notes (Stuyvesant, NY, 1995)
  1. See also from The New Grove Dictionary of Opera: Alban Berg; Lulu; and Wozzeck

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