Alban Berg and His World

Alban Berg and His World

Alban Berg and His World

Alban Berg and His World


Alban Berg and His World is a collection of essays and source material that repositions Berg as the pivotal figure of Viennese musical modernism. His allegiance to the austere rigor of Arnold Schoenberg's musical revolution was balanced by a lifelong devotion to the warm sensuousness of Viennese musical tradition and a love of lyric utterance, the emotional intensity of opera, and the expressive nuance of late-Romantic tonal practice.

The essays in this collection explore the specific qualities of Berg's brand of musical modernism, and present newly translated letters and documents that illuminate his relationship to the politics and culture of his era. Of particular significance are the first translations of Berg's newly discovered stage work Night (Nocturne), Hermann Watznauer's intimate account of Berg's early years, and the famous memorial issue of the music periodical 23. Contributors consider Berg's fascination with palindromes and mirror images and their relationship to notions of time and identity; the Viennese roots of his distinctive orchestral style; his links to such Viennese contemporaries as Alexander Zemlinsky, Franz Schreker, and Erich Wolfgang Korngold; and his attempts to maneuver through the perilous shoals of gender, race, and fascist politics.

The contributors are Antony Beaumont, Leon Botstein, Regina Busch, Nicholas Chadwick, Mark DeVoto, Douglas Jarman, Sherry Lee, and Margaret Notley.

Bard Music Festival:

Berg and His World

Bard College

Annandale-on-Hudson, New York

August 13-15, 2010 and August 20-22, 2010


Christopher Hailey

Vienna is not the product of successive ages but a layered composite of its accumulated pasts. Geography has made this place a natural crossroads, a point of cultural convergence for an array of political, economic, religious, and ethnic tributaries. By the mid-nineteenth century the city’s physical appearance and cultural characteristics, its customs and conventions, its art, architecture, and literature presented a collage of disparate historical elements. Gothic fervor and Renaissance pomp sternly held their ground against flights of rococo whimsy, and the hedonistic theatricality of the Catholic Baroque took the pious folk culture from Austria’s alpine provinces in worldly embrace. Legends of twice-repelled Ottoman invasion, dreams of Holy Roman glories, scars of ravaging pestilence and religious persecution, and the echoes of a glittering congress that gave birth to the post-Napoleonic age lingered on amid the smug comforts of Biedermeier domesticity. the city’s medieval walls had given way to a broad, tree-lined boulevard, the Ringstrasse, whose eclectic gallery of historical styles was not so much a product of nineteenth-century historicist fantasy as the stylized expression of Vienna’s multiple temporalities.

To be sure, the regulation of the Danube in the 1870s had channeled and accelerated its flow and introduced an element of human agency, just as the economic boom of the Gründerzeit had introduced opportunities and perspectives that instilled in Vienna’s citizens a new sense of physical and social mobility. But on the whole, the Vienna that emerged from the nineteenth century lacked the sense of open-ended promise that characterized the civic identities of midwestern American cities like Chicago or St. Louis, or European upstarts like Berlin. This was certainly true in a physical sense because to the east, north, and west Vienna’s growth was checked by wetlands and alpine foothills. But the containment was temporal as well. It was as if Vienna were approaching a kind of saturation point in which density, not sprawl, would be the strategy for accommodating modernity.

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