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Alban Berg

Music as Autobiography- Translated by Ernest Bernhardt-Kabisch

Constantin Floros

The central point of this book is the realization that the creative work of Alban Berg, which in recent years has moved to the forefront of scholarly interest, is largely rooted in autobiography, so that therefore one can gain access to the music by studying the inner biography of its creator. Accordingly, the first of the three parts of this volume outlines a character portrait of this great composer. Part two considers the conditions relevant to a deeper understanding of Berg and of the Second Viennese School generally. In part three, then, Berg’s key works will be analyzed and semantically deciphered in terms of his inner biography. The study is based not only on the sources in print but also on the rich unpublished material. Alban Berg was incapable of composing without a program. He needed an extra-musical stimulus. With him, personal experience was the indispensable condition of the creative process: the autobiographic reference was all-important for composing.
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Afterword: Berg – a Janus Face


“Alban Berg was certainly the most gifted of the entire crop of Schönberg pupils, probably altogether the most significant of the time.” Mahler692

“With faithful insistence, Berg, one of the boldest musical inaugurators of the twentieth century, yet preserved the postulates of the nineteenth, conserved the unbroken even after the break.” Adorno693

“For everything reassuring that these worthy musicians discover in Berg is precisely what we value the least: his Romanticism and – one regrets to have to say it – his dependence on tradition.”

“In truth, Berg is merely a final supreme flowering of the Wagner succession, one in which additionally the amiability of the Viennese waltz – in all its ghastly literal sense – and the emphatic nature of Italian verismo fuse in equal measure.” Pierre Boulez694

In historical perspective, Alban Berg presents the twofold countenance of an artist who looks to the past as well as to the future. He was, to speak with Theodor W. Adorno, one of the boldest musical inaugurators of the twentieth century. His work contains germs that came to fruition only after his death. At the same time he was not prepared to dispense with certain aesthetic postulates of the nineteenth century. Adorno’s dialectically balanced aperçu conforms much more closely to the facts of the matter than the rather undifferentiated judgments of Pierre Boulez.

The broad appeal of Berg’s work is in large measure due to this twofold character of his art....

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