Alban Berg

Schoenberg’s influence

a. melody/harmony

b. form [structure]

    -redistribution of traditional forms

    -thematic transformations, interconnections

    -[arch forms, palindromes, cyclic form]

6 years Berg studied w/ Schoenberg during vital years of Schoenberg’s development:

    -First String Quartet in D minor to works such as Five Orchestra Pieces, Op. 16 and Erwartung


    Schoenberg abandoned tonality [1908-09] because it no longer fulfilled its primary organizational
    functions, that of unity and articulation; a crucial step in which Berg and Webern followed

    Berg crosses the border in Vier Lieder, Op. 2 #4, and in String Quartet, Op. 3, of 1910


    Schoenberg’s First Quartet, Pelleas und Melisande, First Chamber Symphony:

    movements of traditional four-movement symphonic structure are welded into a single span

Schoenberg’s First Quartet:

a. sonata-form movements are redistributed

    exposition separated from first reprise by a scherzo; first reprise separated from development by a
    slow movement; development from final sonata by a ‘finale’

b. thematic interconnections and transformations:

    subsidiary accompanying part may reappear as a main melodic idea

    secondary theme in one movement may return as main theme of another

    this type of thematic interconnection first appears in op. 1 and is a consistent feature of all of Berg’s
    subsequent works

    except for the Violin Concerto, all of Berg’s works after 3 Orchestral Pieces include movements
    framed by retrograde-related episodes [Praeludium] or have large-scale palindromes in the center

    rhythmic cells [‘a rhythm in the form of a motive’]

pre-Wozzeck structural and technical summary

    1. precisely balanced symmetrical structures: complex arches and large-scale palindromes

    2. works are single formal entity in which invidual movements/scenes are self-contained structural
    elements as well as constituent parts of a single large scale design

        Berg’s larger structures differ from those of most of his predecessors in:

            a. complexity of thematic, harmonic, rhythmic, textual references that unify the work

            b. nature of the overall forms that depend for their balances on the symmetrical devices

        Berg desired the greatest possible variety and differentiation between a work’s different
        movements with the greatest possible overall formal and thematic unity

    3. use of rhythmic patterns as vehicles for various pitch structures

    4. use of traditional forms for thematic and formal techniques discussed in (1) and (2)

    5. tendency towards lyrical expansiveness and large dramatic gestures


Piano Sonata, Op. 1, Vier Lieder, Op. 2, nos. 1-3

    tonality weakened from whole-tone and other tonally ambiguous structures; however these are
    integrated into a diatonic context

Altenberg Lieder, Op. 4 (1912)

    -five brief songs are conceived are a single entity

    -linked through complex and subtle melodic, harmonic and rhythmic motives

    -each middle three songs has arch-shape

    -second half of #2 presents compressed, retrograde of harmonic and motivic progression of first half

    -#4 begins and ends with the same solo flute notes

    -#3 center-12-note chord gradually dismantled in opening bars is reassembled in the closing bars

    -overall arch shape of cycle

    -first main theme of #1 reappears as passacaglia of #5

    -harmonic progression of #1 used in retrograde at work’s end

Three Orchestral Pieces, Op. 6

    Berg alone confronts issue of creating large-scale atonal structures


    introduces a number of small motivic three-note cells for use in the entire work (see DeVoto)

    arch form: opening harmonic sonic reappears in retrograde at end

    Wozzeck begun during composition of this work


    structure design of each act is dominated by a single large-scale form, of which the constituent parts
    are distributed in the manner of Schoenberg’s first quartet