## 1-11 recorded March 23, 1967, Walthamstow, England. BBC Symphony Orchestra, Pierre Boulez
## 12-14 recorded March 23, 1967, Walthamstow, England. BBC Symphony Orchestra, Pierre Boulez
## 15-16 recorded November 21, 1984, EMI Studios, London. London Symphony Orchestra
========= from the cover ==========
There were quite a few things that Arnold Schoenberg didn't like about his pupil: the careless dress, the constant procrastination, the rambling letters in an almost illegible scrawl - but above all, the lack of productive, artistic drive. Alban Berg, on the other hand, was poorly equipped to bear the trenchant criticisms of his disgruntled master even for short periods: Berg's relationship to his mentor was one of extreme admiration and dependency. Though there were rebellious moments in which he complained of being "patronized, even brutalized," the need "to convince Schoenberg of my committed and un-shakeable attachment" always won out. It was this need that - according to Berg's own statement - sparked the composition of his Opus 6, which he dedicated to his "teacher and friend Arnold Schoenberg in boundless gratitude and love." "The Three Orchestral Pieces," he wrote, "were truly the product of my most intense and holy endeavor to write character pieces in the form that you requested." Berg was able to deliver "Praludium" and "Marsch" in time for Schoenberg's fortieth birthday on September 13, 1914; "Reigen" was completed the next year.
The first complete performance of Berg's Opus 6 was on April 14, 1930 in Oldenburg under the direction of Johannes Schuler. The program booklet contained a commentary based on analytical remarks by the composer. In it we read that a "symphonic process" is concentrated within these three orchestral pieces: "In this 'fictitious symphony,' the Traludium' would be the first movement; the 'Reigen' would comprise both scherzo and slow movement (in that order!); and the 'Marsch' would furnish the closing movement." The first piece is indeed based on a symphony that Berg began in 1913 but never completed. "It simply was not to be," Berg wrote a year later, in July 1914, to his wife. "I didn't get beyond the 'Praludium.' Well, instead of the symphony, it can introduce the Orchestral pieces." The beginning of the "Praludium," which arises from nothingness and gradually takes on form, is in the best symphonic tradition; so is the "Reigen" which, with its echoes of landler and waltzes, takes the position of the dance movement; and the "Marsch," as the final "catastrophe", caps a climactic development that spans all three of the pieces. During work on this final movement, Berg admitted in a letter to Schoenberg that, "Though I am doing my utmost to keep the 'tears' out of it, it probably won't be the march of an erect person marching joyously, but at most [. ..| the 'march of an asthmatic,' which I am, and, it seems, will always remain." Was this merely an ironic remark made in passing? Or is the third orchestral piece not rather to be seen as a type of self-portrait of a composer who was indeed plagued by asthma? Is this not a musical conjuration of his own powerlessness and fear unto death, of physical deterioration and his personal experience of nightmarish suffering?
For a time, Berg entertained the idea of creating a monument to his friendship with Schoenberg in the form of an opera: Vincent was to have as its subject the friendship between Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin. Though the project was never realized, a monument was nonetheless constructed: the Chamber Concerto for piano and violin with 13 wind instruments that Berg dedicated to his teacher on the occasion of his fiftieth birthday. (Characteristically, it was only completed several months after the anniversary, on July 23,1925.) Initiating the first movement is a short, five-measure musical motto in which Berg - as far as was possible - transcribed the names of the trio ArnolD SCHoenBErG, Anton wEBErn, and AlBAn BErG. (The German system of notation is more favorable to this sort of game than the English: not only is the English B written as H in German, but the German syllable for E-flat, Es, is pronounced like the letter S.) Berg explained that the motifs composed in this fashion played "an important role in the melodic development of this music." The opening movement comprises five variations on a "Thema scherzoso", each of which, as the musicologist Constantin Floros discovered in his studies of Berg's preparatory sketches, corresponds to one of the salient personalities of Schoenberg's circle. For the first variation (for piano alone), Berg noted the name "Stein." (Er-win Stein was a Schoenberg pupil and close collaborator.) For the second, he first wrote "ich" (myself), then "Kolisch." (The violinist Rudolf Kolisch joined Schoenberg in 1919; the violin, otherwise silent during the entire first movement, is heard here for a brief two measures.) The third variation is a graphic portrayal of Josef Polnauer, a man of athletic stature, who maintained order - serving as bouncer when necessary - in Schoenberg's "Club for Private Musical Performances." For the fourth variation, Berg first noted the name "Web[ern]," then struck this out and replaced it with the name "Stein." Finally, for the fifth, he noted: "Canons: the others (that follow, want to pass, etc.)." Whereas the first movement of the Chamber Concerto celebrates the idea of friendship, the second is dedicated to love: to Arnold Schoenberg's love for his wife Mathilde, who had died on October 18,1923 after a painful illness. The motif formed of the tone sequence A-H-D-E (mAtHilDE) permeates the moving Adagio. This slow movement is divided into two halves, the second of which is the retrograde of the first. In the middle, at the "turning point," twelve "bell strokes," a musical symbol of fate, are sounded on the piano, which in this movement is otherwise silent. Constantin Floros thus conjectures "that the two halves of the Adagio are meant to suggest Mathilde's rise and fall," and that the end of the movement is meant to portray the "final illness and passing" of Arnold Schoenberg's wife.
There is a third movement; indeed, how could the Chamber Concerto not have three movements? For above the musical motif at the beginning, Berg wrote the words, "Aller guten Dinge..." and in German, it is all good things, and not bad luck, that come in threes! This Rondo ritmico with its piano and violin introduction eloquently illustrates Berg's standpoint that a concerto should furnish proof not only of the soloists' virtuosity, but also of the composer's. Here, Berg performs the remarkable trick of recapitulating the two preceding movements simultaneously. Explained Berg: "It was bringing all these dissimilar components and characteristics together, and finding within them a new movement with a tone completely of its own, that gave the Rondo ritmico its form."
Berg had already acceded to a request by the American violinist Louis Krasner to write a violin concerto, when a shock in the circle of Berg's closest friends gave new meaning to a commission that had been accepted for financial reasons. On April 22, 1935, Manon Gropius, the daughter of Alma Mahler-Werfel from the lat-ter's marriage with Walter Gropius, died at the age of eighteen. "Before this terrible year has passed," Berg wrote in a letter to Alma Mahler, "you and Franz [Werfel] will be able to hear, in the form of a score which I shall dedicate to the memory of an angel, that which I feel and today cannot express." The next weeks were devoted entirely to the Violin Concerto, which was completed by mid-August 1935 - in time for Alma Mahler's fifty-sixth birthday.
Berg confided to his friend and biographer, Willi Reich, that in the Concerto's Andante and Allegretto movements he "had tried to translate the young girl's characteristics into musical characters." This first major division of the Concerto thus contains the actual portrait of the angelic Manon, whereby the Allegretto, as Reich says, "captures the vision of the lovely girl in the form of a graceful round dance with at times a gentle, dreamlike quality, at times the sturdy unaffectedness of a Carinthian folk tune." Beginning with a "shriek", the Allegro that introduces the second division conjures up the horror of the death struggle, broken only by a last reminiscence of ebbing life. "Groans and shrill cries for help grow in the orchestra, to be smothered by the oppressive rhythm of impending ruin" (Willi Reich). With the first measure of the following Adagio, the solo violin intones the chorale "Es ist genug!" (It is enough!), taken by Berg from the collection Sixty Choral Works by Johann Sebastian Bach: there, it closes the Cantata O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, BWV 60. The violinist alternates with four woodwinds in playing this melody in Bach's original arrangement: "It is enough! Lord, if it be Thy will, give me rest!" Then, in ever-increasing intensity, the ...