9th February – Alban Berg
|Berg (February 9th 1885 – December 24th 1935) is our composer for 9th February, to mark the day of his birth.|
|Lifespan: 50 years|
|Genre: 20th Century|
|Education: with Schoenberg|
|Fame Ranking: 2|
Alban Berg was a pupil of Schoenberg’s, and a member of what is known as the “Second Viennese School”. The “First Viennese School” refers to the big classical names – Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. The “Second” school was a pioneer group of innovative composers who began by moving away from the established “diatonic” system that had been in place for several hundred years. “Diatonic” refers to the system of major and minor keys which the vast majority of Western music is based on. The “Second Viennese School” composers initially expanded the system and then invented “serialism” which is a restrictive system where every note in the chromatic scale is given equal importance. This contrasts with the diatonic system in which the tonic and dominant notes are more important than the other notes of the scale.
Serialism is not everybody’s cup of tea, and at its inception it was beyond comprension for many concert goers. Berg’s first public performances did not go down well, and his confidence took a hit as a result. In 1913, the premiere of his ” Five Songs on Picture Postcard Texts by Peter Altenberg” received such a bad reception that Berg withdrew the work and it was not performed again until about half a century later.
During the First World War, Berg worked on his first opera, “Wozzeck”, and in 1924 he achieved his first public acclaim when three excerpts of it were performed. “Wozzeck”, which has a heavy subject matter of poverty, is an important work in the history and development of music, as it was the first atonal opera to be composed.
Berg is considered by many to be a more accessible composer than his mentor, Schoenberg. Where Schoenberg has been criticised for being overly mathematical in his approach, Berg’s music is more emotional.
Here is the finale of “Wozzeck”:
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