Alban Berg (1885-1935)

Episodes

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A Small Monument To A Great Love20190418

Berg needed to visit Prague to hear fragments of Wozzeck performed. It was through his connection with Mahler’s widow Alma, that he came to stay, in May 1925, in Prague, with Alma’s sister in law, Hanna Fuchs-Robettin and her husband. Berg believed in the guiding force of destiny: that he was fated to meet Hanna and fall in love with her. He was 40, she was in her early 30s with two children. Divorce was unthinkable and so was the idea that Berg’s wife Helene might discover the truth. But Alban’s love affair with Hanna lasted the rest of his life and there exist more than a decade’s worth of letters to demonstrate the depth of their passion and reveal that everything he was to write from thereon in would be influenced by his love for Hanna. So, when Berg came to compose his Lyric Suite, he wrote a document of their love affair. But this detail was hidden within musical riddles and codes and it wasn’t until the 1970’s that the true meaning of this work was discovered.

Chamber Concerto for piano, violin and 13 wind instruments (Adagio)
Daniel Barenboim, piano
Pinchas Zukerman, violin
Ensemble InterContemporain
Pierre Boulez, conductor

Lyric Suite
Dawn Upshaw, soprano
Kronos Quartet

Der Wein
Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo soprano
Vienna Philharmonic
Claudio Abbado, conductor

Produced by Rosie Boulton for BBC Wales

Berg meets and falls in love with Hanna Fuchs-Robettin.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

I Corrected The Deficiency20190415

Alban Berg ended up writing two operas full of depravity, bloodshed and sex. And he was once described as a musician dangerous to the community. But far from being dissolute and degenerate, Berg was a man of great sensitivity and ambiguity. He was born and lived all his life in Vienna. At the turn of the 20th Century, the city embodied a sense of crisis, standing at the heart of a whirlwind in which artistic and cultural forces came together to disorientate a whole generation.

As a youngster, Berg loved the music of Brahms, Mahler and Richard Strauss and the plays of Strindberg and Ibsen. Between the ages of 16 and 19 he composed 34 songs and maybe this would have been the end of it, but his brother Charly secretly took some of these songs to show a music professor in the city - Arnold Schoenberg. He was taken on as a composition pupil and Berg regarded Schoenberg as his teacher for the rest of his life. It wasn’t always an easy relationship.

Über den Bergen – Over the Mountains
Dietrich Fischer Dieskau, baritone
Aribert Reimann, piano

Lied de Lulu from Lulu Suite
Arleen Auger, soprano
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Simon Rattle, conductor

Still is where the graves are (Schattenleben)
Dietrich Fischer Dieskau, baritone
Aribert Reimann, piano

Where the Laburnum Grows
Jessye Norman, soprano
Ann Schein, piano

Passacaglia (arr. Von Borries)
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Mario Venzago, conductor

Piano Sonata, Op 1
Mitsuko Uchida, piano

String Quartet, Op 3
Alban Berg Quartet

Produced by Rosie Boulton for BBC Wales

Berg meets Schoenberg and his composition takes off.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

This Is Hell In The True Sense Of The Word20190417

Faced with the squalor of conditions at an army training camp and the regular drills and tough exercise required, Alban Berg had a physical breakdown and was taken to hospital. A series of tests revealed the damaged state of his lungs, and he was declared only suitable for orderly duties. He spent the rest of the war on guard duty and in the War Ministry in Vienna.
He turned his attention to a play Woyzeck, written 80 years earlier by George Büchner, based on a historical case of a barber who killed his mistress in a jealous rage. The barber was tried and condemned to death, but for the first time in the history of German law, the question was raised of diminished responsibility on the grounds of mental instability.
Berg’s opera, inspired by Buchner’s play, came to be known as Wozzeck. At the opening night on the 14th of December 1925, it was described as sounding like: Massed attacks and convulsions of instruments….tortured, mistuned cackling….. A capital offence…… A dissonant orgy….scarps, shreds, sobs and belches… But there was also talk of: the strange perfection and uniqueness of this work which places him right next to the most important music dramatist of our time not only was the evening the greatest sensation of the season it was a significant event in history of music drama in general. Berg was finally and firmly on the musical map.

Ferne Lieder – Distant Songs
Jessye Norman, soprano
Ann Schein, piano

Wozzeck: Act 3, Tanzt Alle
Walter Berry, baritone (Wozzeck)
Ingeborg Lasser, contralto (Margret)
Orchestra and Choir Of Paris Opera
Pierre Boulez, conductor

Wozzeck: Act 3, Scenes 4 and 5
Walter Berry, baritone (Wozzeck)
Orchestra and Choir Of Paris Opera
Pierre Boulez, conductor

Three Pieces for Orchestra
Vienna Philharmonic
Claudio Abbado, conductor

Wein, Weib und Gesang (Waltz Op 333 by Johann Strauss II, trans. Berg)
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Mario Venzago, conductor

Produced by Rosie Boulton for BBC Wales

Berg suffers a brutal time in the army and writes a shocking, brilliant opera.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

Watch Over His Legacy20190419

In the summer of 1935, Berg started to be bothered by an abscess at the base of his spine. He thought it might have been caused by insect sting. Rather than seeking professional medical help, Helene kept on lancing the boils, which kept on appearing. It’s thought that the major abscess burst internally, and poisoned Berg’s blood. He was rushed to hospital, operated on and given a transfusion. There was a turn for the worse on the 23rd of December 1935. He died just about midnight. He was 50 years old.

Berg left the score of his opera Lulu incomplete. Thereafter ensued years of legal wrangles between opera houses, music publishers and Helene.
She set up a shrine to their marriage, setting in aspic their homes in Vienna and in the countryside. “Alban can wait with confidence until this Hell on earth has ceased to rage,” she wrote. “His time will come - a better time, I am convinced…. My life’s sole purpose is to watch over his legacy and preserve its purity. What else is left for me in this world estranged from God!" Helene died in 1976 and disputes about the opera continued until 1979 when, nearly 44 years after Berg’s death, Lulu was finally performed, in its entirety.

Schliesse mir die Augen beide (1907)
Jessye Norman, soprano
Ann Schein, piano

Schliesse mir die Augen beide (1925)
Jessye Norman, soprano
Ann Schein, piano

Lulu Suite: Variationen
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Simon Rattle, conductor

Violin Concerto
Isabelle Faust, violin.
Orchestra Mozart
Claudio Abbado, conductor

Produced by Rosie Boulton for BBC Wales

Berg dies from an infected insect sting and his wife Helene sets up a shrine to his memory

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

201901I Corrected The Deficiency20190415

Alban Berg ended up writing two operas full of depravity, bloodshed and sex. And he was once described as a musician dangerous to the community. But far from being dissolute and degenerate, Berg was a man of great sensitivity and ambiguity. He was born and lived all his life in Vienna. At the turn of the 20th Century, the city embodied a sense of crisis, standing at the heart of a whirlwind in which artistic and cultural forces came together to disorientate a whole generation.

As a youngster, Berg loved the music of Brahms, Mahler and Richard Strauss and the plays of Strindberg and Ibsen. Between the ages of 16 and 19 he composed 34 songs and maybe this would have been the end of it, but his brother Charly secretly took some of these songs to show a music professor in the city - Arnold Schoenberg. He was taken on as a composition pupil and Berg regarded Schoenberg as his teacher for the rest of his life. It wasn’t always an easy relationship.

Über den Bergen – Over the Mountains
Dietrich Fischer Dieskau, baritone
Aribert Reimann, piano

Lied de Lulu from Lulu Suite
Arleen Auger, soprano
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Simon Rattle, conductor

Still is where the graves are (Schattenleben)
Dietrich Fischer Dieskau, baritone
Aribert Reimann, piano

Where the Laburnum Grows
Jessye Norman, soprano
Ann Schein, piano

Passacaglia (arr. Von Borries)
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Mario Venzago, conductor

Piano Sonata, Op 1
Mitsuko Uchida, piano

String Quartet, Op 3
Alban Berg Quartet

Produced by Rosie Boulton for BBC Wales

Berg meets Schoenberg and his composition takes off.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

201902Show Me The Way To Glory20190416

At 21, Berg wrote to a friend: I hope that when I go out into the big wide world, I’ll find an honourable, wonderful young woman who will be devoted to me and show me the way to glory. He soon met and married the beautiful Helene Nahowski. She was rumoured to be the illegitimate offspring of the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph. From the outside, the Berg’s relationship looked ideal. There are 488 letters spanning their courtship and 28-year marriage which, on the surface, depict a loving, attentive, devoted partnership. But underneath the veneer lie years of hidden secrets.

Vielgeliebte schone Frau
Dietrich Fischer Dieskau, baritone
Aribert Reimann, piano

Seven Early Songs
Anne Sophie von Otter, mezzosoprano
Vienna Philharmonic
Claudio Abbado, conductor

Four Pieces for Clarinet and Piano, Op 5
Anthony Pay, clarinet
Daniel Barenboim, piano

Five Altenberg Lieder
Jessye Norman, soprano
London Symphony Orchestra
Pierre Boulez, conductor

Chamber Concerto for piano, violin and 13 wind instruments (Rondo)
Daniel Barenboim, piano
Pinchas Zukerman, violin
Ensemble InterContemporain
Pierre Boulez, conductor

Produced by Rosie Boulton for BBC Wales

Berg meets and marries Helene Nahowski.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

201903This Is Hell In The True Sense Of The Word20190417

Faced with the squalor of conditions at an army training camp and the regular drills and tough exercise required, Alban Berg had a physical breakdown and was taken to hospital. A series of tests revealed the damaged state of his lungs, and he was declared only suitable for orderly duties. He spent the rest of the war on guard duty and in the War Ministry in Vienna.
He turned his attention to a play Woyzeck, written 80 years earlier by George Büchner, based on a historical case of a barber who killed his mistress in a jealous rage. The barber was tried and condemned to death, but for the first time in the history of German law, the question was raised of diminished responsibility on the grounds of mental instability.
Berg’s opera, inspired by Buchner’s play, came to be known as Wozzeck. At the opening night on the 14th of December 1925, it was described as sounding like: Massed attacks and convulsions of instruments….tortured, mistuned cackling….. A capital offence…… A dissonant orgy….scarps, shreds, sobs and belches… But there was also talk of: the strange perfection and uniqueness of this work which places him right next to the most important music dramatist of our time not only was the evening the greatest sensation of the season it was a significant event in history of music drama in general. Berg was finally and firmly on the musical map.

Ferne Lieder – Distant Songs
Jessye Norman, soprano
Ann Schein, piano

Wozzeck: Act 3, Tanzt Alle
Walter Berry, baritone (Wozzeck)
Ingeborg Lasser, contralto (Margret)
Orchestra and Choir Of Paris Opera
Pierre Boulez, conductor

Wozzeck: Act 3, Scenes 4 and 5
Walter Berry, baritone (Wozzeck)
Orchestra and Choir Of Paris Opera
Pierre Boulez, conductor

Three Pieces for Orchestra
Vienna Philharmonic
Claudio Abbado, conductor

Wein, Weib und Gesang (Waltz Op 333 by Johann Strauss II, trans. Berg)
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Mario Venzago, conductor

Produced by Rosie Boulton for BBC Wales

Berg suffers a brutal time in the army and writes a shocking, brilliant opera.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

201904A Small Monument To A Great Love20190418

Berg needed to visit Prague to hear fragments of Wozzeck performed. It was through his connection with Mahler’s widow Alma, that he came to stay, in May 1925, in Prague, with Alma’s sister in law, Hanna Fuchs-Robettin and her husband. Berg believed in the guiding force of destiny: that he was fated to meet Hanna and fall in love with her. He was 40, she was in her early 30s with two children. Divorce was unthinkable and so was the idea that Berg’s wife Helene might discover the truth. But Alban’s love affair with Hanna lasted the rest of his life and there exist more than a decade’s worth of letters to demonstrate the depth of their passion and reveal that everything he was to write from thereon in would be influenced by his love for Hanna. So, when Berg came to compose his Lyric Suite, he wrote a document of their love affair. But this detail was hidden within musical riddles and codes and it wasn’t until the 1970’s that the true meaning of this work was discovered.

Chamber Concerto for piano, violin and 13 wind instruments (Adagio)
Daniel Barenboim, piano
Pinchas Zukerman, violin
Ensemble InterContemporain
Pierre Boulez, conductor

Lyric Suite
Dawn Upshaw, soprano
Kronos Quartet

Der Wein
Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo soprano
Vienna Philharmonic
Claudio Abbado, conductor

Produced by Rosie Boulton for BBC Wales

Berg meets and falls in love with Hanna Fuchs-Robettin.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

201905 LASTWatch Over His Legacy20190419

In the summer of 1935, Berg started to be bothered by an abscess at the base of his spine. He thought it might have been caused by insect sting. Rather than seeking professional medical help, Helene kept on lancing the boils, which kept on appearing. It’s thought that the major abscess burst internally, and poisoned Berg’s blood. He was rushed to hospital, operated on and given a transfusion. There was a turn for the worse on the 23rd of December 1935. He died just about midnight. He was 50 years old.

Berg left the score of his opera Lulu incomplete. Thereafter ensued years of legal wrangles between opera houses, music publishers and Helene.
She set up a shrine to their marriage, setting in aspic their homes in Vienna and in the countryside. “Alban can wait with confidence until this Hell on earth has ceased to rage,” she wrote. “His time will come - a better time, I am convinced…. My life’s sole purpose is to watch over his legacy and preserve its purity. What else is left for me in this world estranged from God!" Helene died in 1976 and disputes about the opera continued until 1979 when, nearly 44 years after Berg’s death, Lulu was finally performed, in its entirety.

Schliesse mir die Augen beide (1907)
Jessye Norman, soprano
Ann Schein, piano

Schliesse mir die Augen beide (1925)
Jessye Norman, soprano
Ann Schein, piano

Lulu Suite: Variationen
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Simon Rattle, conductor

Violin Concerto
Isabelle Faust, violin.
Orchestra Mozart
Claudio Abbado, conductor

Produced by Rosie Boulton for BBC Wales

Berg dies from an infected insect sting and his wife Helene sets up a shrine to his memory

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.