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  • Print publication year: 1997
  • Online publication date: September 2011

3 - Berg and Adorno

from Part 1 - Culture and environment


When Berg was in Frankfurt for the premiere of the Three Fragments from ‘Wozzeck’ in 1924 he was introduced to a twenty-one-year-old student named Theodor Wiesengrund. Wiesengrund was about to submit a doctoral dissertation in philosophy on the then fashionable topic of Husserlian phenomenology, but he also had some training as a musician and had published a number of journalistic pieces on contemporary music. Later, Wiesengrund would claim that at the time he saw in Berg a representative of the ‘true new music’ – ‘at the same time Schoenberg and Mahler’. He proposed to move to Vienna to study composition with Berg as soon as the formalities for the granting of his doctoral degree were completed. Berg agreed to take him as a student.

Wiesengrund was the only son of a wealthy Jewish wine merchant, Oskar Wiesengrund, and of Maria Calvelli-Adorno, a French singer. He was a highly intelligent, deeply cultured and aesthetically sensitive young man, but had in some ways a not very attractive character. Schoenberg found his oily, self-important manner, arrogance and beady-eyed stare repulsive, and certainly Wiesengrund's writings give the impression of being the work of a more than usually self-absorbed person. Despite this, Berg seems to have had a genuine affection for him and a high opinion of his compositions, although no interest at all in his philosophical speculations.

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The Cambridge Companion to Berg
  • Online ISBN: 9781139002288
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