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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 The study is based not only on the sources in print but also on the rich unpublished material.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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3 Part Three: Life and Work


3Part Three: Life and Work

“Art is mute to him, who has not lived; as it is meant to transfigure life, life must therefore precede it.” Hieronymus Lorm, Die schöne Wienerin (Quotation Collection, no. 421)

…should I remind you of Ibsen, Wedekind, Peter Altenberg, of Strauss and Pfitzner? Need I tell you that having mastered the technique of drama and the theory of composition hardly suffices to write such works, to produce such divinely ideal thoughts – that all of these great ones have preserved for themselves, besides an ‘open eye,’ an evergreen idealism, the belief in Love?” Berg to Helene, June 2, 1907 (ABB 13)

3.1Helene and Alban: “The Story of a Great Love”

“O shield me, Helene, only you can –“ Berg to Helene, summer 1908 (ABB 25)

“O Helene, we can never let go of each other.” Berg to Helene, July 14, 1909 (ABB 68)

“O, write soon again, my one and only, your letters are better than any medicine.” Berg to Helene, July 14, 1909 (ABB 69)

“Ah, to get up to you quickly: there blooms salvation, life and eternity for me.” Berg to Helene, July 25, 1909 (ABB 91)

“All the more I know, in a word, THAT WITHOUT YOU I CANNOT LIVE.” Berg to Helene, January 18, 1911 (ABB 213)

“I will always be a faithful companion to you, a lover and support – here and yonder...

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