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).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
In 1922, Alban Berg composed Wozzeck, soon recognized as a deeply moving stage work consistently on the highest level of musical thought.
Kultur is proud to announce the Blu-ray release of the Alban Berg Opera Lulu Starring Christine Schafer available, October 29, 2013.
Sinkovicz, Alban Berg. Zeitumstande--Lebenslinien ((St.
A well-born Viennese socialite, she was a notoriously liberated woman; had flirtations at various times with Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka and Alban Berg; and married Mahler, Gropius and writer Franz Werfel.
Okonsar performed piecees from Frederic Chopin, Alban Berg, Karlheiz Stockhausen and Igor Stravinsky.
The first half, devoted to Alban Berg's Seven Early Songs, showed his intense romanticism, where the colours of the large orchestra were used to great effect.
This exciting Anglo-Irish foursome studied with members of the Amadeus, Alban Berg, Chilingirian, Takacs and Vanbrugh quartets and, as part of the ProQuartet professional training programme in France, studied with Gyorgy Kurtag, Walter Levin and Paul Katz.
You, sunk in the dark depths of the creative spirit, fearful shadows of life, I bring you courage!" Alban Berg was in no such mood of self-consciousness and pathos when he completed his Piano Sonata op.
Here, I suggest, Burgess is on some level thinking of Alban Berg's Lulu, where Lulu ends up being stabbed to death by Jack the Ripper, but he seems to be at pains to avoid any close connection by saying that his heroine is singing with her throat cut, which nobody could do (unless he is poking fun at the unrealistic conventions even of "realist" opera, and it is worth pointing out that in Lulu the Countess Geschwitz is stabbed but goes on singing).
Muller-Doohm also brought into focus for me the impact on Adorno's sensibility of Vienna, where Adorno at 21 went to study with Alban Berg. His taste for Karl Kraus, the tone of the "Reminiscence" that forms the first chapter of his book on Berg, the surprising lyricism of Adorno's own musical compositions--I hadn't before thought to see (or hear) all this as "Viennese." Doubtless the book's most tantalizing hints concern projects Adorno thought of taking up, but never got around to.