Berg (1885 - 1935)

Violin Concerto (27')

A Vienna born composer Alban Berg began to study the fundamentals of music with Arnold Schönberg when he was nineteen years old. Two years later Berg became Schönberg’s composition student. In 1913 Berg was the center of attention. On March 31 of that year in Vienna, two songs from Berg’s Fünf Orchesterlieder (Five Orchestral Songs), Op. 4 were performed for the first time. The audience at the concert was astonished by the rather provocative qualities of the new type of compositions in the program, which included, besides Berg’s songs, works by Anton Webern, Alexander von Zemlinsky, and Schönberg. The audience overreacted and set off a riot while Berg’s composition was being performed. Later, however, the composer was fully accepted by the Viennese public after the success of his first opera Wozzeck, completed in 1922.

Berg’s Violin Concerto is his last completed work composed shortly before his death in 1935. The concerto was commissioned by the American violinist Louis Krasner, who played the solo part at the premiere of the work on April 19, 1936. The piece was in part composed in memory of Manon Gropius, the daughter of Gustav Mahler’s widow Alma. It consists of two movements, each comprising two sections. Berg constructs the whole work based on the twelve-tone technique developed by his teacher Schönberg; at the same time, however, he also writes melodies that deviate from the strict atonal system. In the concerto, for instance, a chorale from Johann Sebastian Bach's Cantata O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort (Eternity, thou voice of thunder), BWV 60 is cited in the final section of the composition.

[Akira Ishii]