Front Cover
J. Calder, 1990 - Music - 112 pages
In 1972 Elias Canetti said: 'with Wozzeckm Buchner achieved the most complete revolution in the whole of literature'. The same can be said of Berg's opera, as revolutionary in the history of music in our century as in opera in particular. Mark DeVoto and Theo Hirsbrunner discuss why this infinitely complex and formal score perfectly suits the confused and disordered nature of the play. In his famous essay about the opera (written in 1968, but given here for the first time in English) Theador Adorno shows how what seems fragmentory in the text is actually complete, and how the music responds to the words; Kenneth Segar offers a new interpretation of the play in the light of the most recent Buchner research. Also for the first time, the complete edition of the play as Berg knew it is set out with a translation so that readers can see not only what he kept for his liberetto but also what he omitted. This unique source material is complemented by a series of critical reactions to the first London production in 1952 illustrating the controversy which has surrounded the opera since its 1925 Berlin premiere, and the extent to which our aesthetics have changed over the last forty years.

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an Interpretation Kenneth Segar
On the Characteristics of Wozzeck Theodor W Adorno
Thematic Guide

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About the author (1990)

Born in Vienna, Austria, in 1885, Alban Berg received no formal music instruction. At the age of 18, he tried to commit suicide after a frustrating love affair and a failure on a school examination. As he was emerging from his depression, Berg's older brother introduced him to Arnold Schoenberg. Berg's lessons with Schoenberg were his first formal instruction in music. He studied with Schoenberg for six years, in which time he completed a number of works, including a piano sonata (1908); Four Songs (1909); and a string quartet (1910). Berg's first piece independent of Schoenberg was Five Orchestral Songs, opus 4 (1912). Before the outbreak of World War I, Berg had completed two more works-Four Pieces, for clarinet and piano (1913), which he dedicated to Schoenberg and Three Orchestral Pieces (1914). These works represent the way in which Berg assimilated Schoenberg's atonal language and intricate contrapuntal textures but used them in a unique way. Berg brought together in his atonal writing a romantic, intimate approach and a strong, dramatic viewpoint. After World War I, Berg began work on the operatic score for Wozzeck, a play by Georg Buchner. Berg had written the libretto himself in 1917. He completed the basic score by 1920 and the orchestration by 1921. Wozzeck received mixed reviews: Some regarded it as pure genius; others regarded the opera as the ravings of a madman. Wozzeck is a highly complex opera; it fuses avant garde methods with such classical forms as the fugue, suite, march, and symphony. During the last seven years of his life, Berg labored on Lulu, an opera he did not live to complete. He wrote the libretto, which he adapted from two dramas, Die Buchse der Pandora and Erdgeist, by Frank Wedekind. Lulu relies exclusively on the 12 tone system, the row on which the opera is based appearing at the very beginning. When Berg died of blood poisoning brought about by a bee sting, he had only finished the first two acts of Lulu, 268 measures of the third act, and the finale.

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