February 9, 1885, Vienna – December 24, 1935
Alban Maria Johannes Berg was an Austrian composer who wrote atonal and 12-tone compositions that remained true to late 19th-century Romanticism. He composed orchestral music (including Five Orchestral Songs, 1912), chamber music, songs, and two groundbreaking operas, Wozzeck (1925) and Lulu (1937).
At first, the romantically inclined youth leaned toward a literary career. But, as in most Viennese middle-class homes, music was regularly played in his parents’ house, in keeping with the general musical atmosphere of the city. Encouraged by his father and older brother, Alban Berg began to compose music without benefit of formal instruction. During this period his output consisted of more than 100 songs and piano duets, most of which remain unpublished.
In September 1904 he met Arnold Schoenberg, an event that decisively influenced his life. In the circle of Schoenberg’s students, Berg presented his first public performance in the fall of 1907: Piano Sonata (published 1908). This was followed by Four Songs (1909) and String Quartet (1910), each strongly influenced by the young composer’s musical gods, Gustav Mahler and Richard Wagner.
He was a member of the Second Viennese School with Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern, and produced compositions that combined Mahlerian Romanticism with a personal adaptation of Schoenberg’s twelve-tone technique. Berg was a part of Vienna’s cultural elite during the heady fin de siècle period.
Three Pieces for Orchestra Berliner Philharmoniker, Conductor Sir Simon Rattle, 2011