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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 The study is based not only on the sources in print but also on the rich unpublished material.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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3.8 String Quartet for Hanna: the Lyric Suite

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3.8String Quartet for Hanna: the Lyric Suite

“Now since in my life I have never enjoyed the real happiness of love, I want to erect a monument to this most beautiful of all dreams, in which this love is for once to sate itself utterly from the beginning to the end: I have in my head the outline of a Tristan and Isolde, the simplest but most full-blooded musical conception; with the black flag that waves at the end I will then cover myself in order – to die.” Richard Wagner to Franz Liszt532

“It [the composition with twelve tones], my Hanna, has also yielded me some other freedoms! For example that of secreting time and again our initials H, F and A, B in this music; of bringing every movement and part of a movement into relation with our numbers 10 and 23. I have written this and much else that is suggestive into this score for you (for whom alone, after all – despite the official dedication overleaf – every note of this work was written). May it thus be a small monument of a great love.” Berg to Hanna Fuchs in the copy of the Lyric Suite dedicated to her.

3.8.1The State of Reseach

On the surface, the Lyric Suite gives the impression of being “absolute music.” In reality, however, as we now definitely know, it is based on a secret program. Since it is one of he most personal of Berg’s...

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