Alban Berg

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Berg, Alban

(äl`bän bĕrk), 1885–1935, Austrian composer. In his youth he taught himself music but in 1904 he became the pupil and close friend of Arnold Schoenberg. Later Berg himself taught privately in Vienna. He adopted atonality and later the twelve-tone technique of SchoenbergSchoenberg, Arnold
, 1874–1951, Austrian composer, b. Vienna. Before he became a U.S. citizen in 1941 he spelled his name Schönberg. He revolutionized modern music by abandoning tonality and developing a twelve-tone, "serial" technique of composition (see serial
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 (see serial musicserial music,
the body of compositions whose fundamental syntactical reference is a particular ordering (called series or row) of the twelve pitch classes—C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B—that constitute the equal-tempered scale.
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), although he tempered it with the lyric and dramatic qualities of the Viennese romantic tradition. His masterpiece, the opera Wozzeck (based on the play Woyzeck by Georg BüchnerBüchner, Georg
, 1813–37, German dramatist. He was a student of medicine and a political agitator. He died at the age of 24, leaving a powerful drama, Danton's Death (1835, tr.
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; Berlin, 1925), written in a free atonal style (see atonalityatonality
, in music, systematic avoidance of harmonic or melodic reference to tonal centers (see key). The term is used to designate a method of composition in which the composer has deliberately rejected the principle of tonality.
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) with occasional intrusions of tonality, aroused strenuous protest, but it has since been acclaimed as a major work of the 20th-century musical stage. His Chamber Concerto (1927) marked a turn to twelve-tone composition, but it is in his Lyric Suite (1927) for string quartet and his opera Lulu (based on two plays by WedekindWedekind, Frank
, 1864–1918, German dramatist. He was also a journalist and publicist, and he worked on the staff of Simplicissimus. A forerunner of the expressionists, he employed grotesque fantasy and unconventional characters in order to attack the bourgeois
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; Zürich, 1937) that the mature twelve-tone style is manifested with great technical intricacy yet richly expressionistic. Though Lulu was left incomplete in its orchestration, it was completed by Friedrich Cerha. His Violin Concerto (Barcelona, 1936), his last completed work, written as an elegy on the death of Alma Mahler's 18-year old daughter, combines eloquent lyricism with the rigors the twelve-tone technique and of the classical form. He also wrote songs and chamber music.


See his letters to his wife, ed. and tr. by B. Grun (1971); G. Perle, The Operas of Alban Berg (2 vol., 1980–85); biographical studies by W. Reich (tr. 1965) and D. Jarman (1979).

Berg, Alban


Born Feb. 9,1885, in Vienna; died there on Dec. 24, 1935. Austrian composer. One of the most prominent representatives of expressionism in music.

Berg studied composition under A. Schönberg, who was an important influence in the formation of Berg’s creative principles. Berg’s first works were written in the early 1900’s, but he became widely known for his opera Wozzeck (based on G. Büchner’s play; composed, 1917–21; produced in 1925 in Berlin and in Leningrad in 1927). This opera partly reflected the composer’s personal experiences in the army during World War I (1914–18). Social criticism and antimilitaristic tendencies are expressed in Wozzeck. The opera’s music is distinguished by its great dramatic force and depth. At the same time, Wozzeck is marked by a mystical, fatalistic concept of the world that is characteristic of expressionism.

Other very important works by Berg include a chamber concerto (1923–25), a lyric suite for string quartet (1925–26), and a concerto for violin and orchestra (1935). The opera Lulu (based on F. Wedekind’s plays The Earth Spirit and Pandora’s Box) was not completed by Berg (but it was staged in 1937).


Votstsek A. Berga: Sb. statei. Leningrad, 1927.
Keldysh, Iu. ”Votstsek i muzykal’nyi ekspressionism.” Sovetskaia muzyka, 1965, no. 3.
Kremlev, Iu. “Etika i estetika opery ’Votstsek.’ “ In the collection Voprosy teorii i estetiki muzyki, vol. 5. Leningrad, 1967.
Reich, W.Alban Berg. Vienna, 1937. (Supplement contains articles by Berg.)
Reich, W. A. Berg: Leben und Werk. Zürich, 1963.
Redlich, H. F. Alban Berg. New York, 1957.
References in periodicals archive ?
Ya un clasico de la lirica musical del siglo XX, una autentica vuelta de tuerca, el Wozzeckde Alban Berg supuso un complejo trabajo de sujecion solo posible a partir de un pleno conocimiento de la critica situacion que implica la supresion de los solo hasta despues probados y seguros medios de la tonalidad, de todas las posibilidades creacionales a partir de ella.
In 1922, Alban Berg composed Wozzeck, soon recognized as a deeply moving stage work consistently on the highest level of musical thought.
He was intensely jealous not only of Helene's other friendships with men but also of her friendship with his sister Smaragda, a lesbian who had herself sent Helene a fairly explicit love-letter (see Knaus & Sinkovicz, Alban Berg, pp.
In a number of works by Alban Berg I think I can hear the almost inaudibly high sound--gleaming from afar, and then slowly passing on, its point piercing the air, brighter than the droning sunlight of the very brightest of all the sunny days that have come before today--of that transparent insect, and its almost microscopic echo, conjuring in the tremendously rapid and delicately tremolo-like vibrato of the humming wings along its sides an echo overtaking a cry that hasn't sounded yet, a cry like the pain of a forced smile that needs to find a means of composing itself in advance when faced with the possibility of hearing a lovable but horrible joke that hasn't even been invented yet.
Alli, tras presenciar la interpretacion protagonica a manos del explosivo actor aleman Albert Steinruk, el compositor Alban Berg --alumno de Schonberg, con quien formaria parte de la Segunda Escuela de Viena-- supo que alguien debia poner la musica a las palabras de Buchner.
The Alban Berg Quartett is augmented by Per Arne Glorvigen on bandoneon (an eighteenth-century German variation of the accordion that has become inextricably identified with the Argentine tango) and Alois Posch on double bass.
I acknowledge the kind assistance of the librarians in the Musiksammlung in the Austrian National Library and the generosity of the caretakers of the Alban Berg Foundation in Hietzing, Austria.
Despite his admiration for Alban Berg, he never followed Berg's advice to "write nothing difficult, but something that everyone can understand.
His piano works include five sonatas, Nostalgic Waltzes, Variations on a Theme by Alban Berg, Lost Whale Calf, Narrative in Retrospect and Narrative in Argument.
The Welsh National Opera opens its first spring season at its new home with Wozzeck by Alban Berg, Verdi's La Traviata and the double bill of Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci by Mascagni and Leoncavallo.
In 1935, violinist Louis Krasner, concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra, offered Austrian composer Alban Berg $1,500 to write a violin concerto.
Adorno Alban Berg Briefwehsel 1925-1935, Theodor W.