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

10 - Compositional technique 1923–6: the Chamber Concerto and the Lyric Suite

from Part 3 - After Wozzeck


The two major works of the period 1923 to 1926 – the Chamber Concerto (1923–5) and the Lyric Suite (1925–6) - embodied major developments in Berg's compositional technique. Between these two scores, Berg composed his second setting of Theodor Storm's poem ‘Schliesse mir die Augen beide’, which, in a letter to Webern, he described as his ‘first attempt at a strict twelve-note composition’. Roughly speaking, the Chamber Concerto is mostly atonal, while the Lyric Suite is mostly twelve-note, although the Chamber Concerto does contain ‘passages that correspond to the laws […] for “composition with twelve notes related only to one another”’ and, conversely, the second and fourth movements of the Lyric Suite, as well as parts of the third and fifth, are ‘free’ in ‘style’. Twelve-note composition thus connects all three of these works and is the central topic addressed in this chapter.

Klein and Hauer

Berg's twelve-note technique has always been recognised as different from that of Schoenberg and Webern, and, as Douglas Jarman writes, ‘although characteristics of both Schoenberg's and [Josef Matthias] Hauer's systems can be found in Berg's music, none of his works employs either method exclusively’. The import of this statement has been scrutinised by the American musicologist Arved Ashby, who questions the significance of Hauer's theory of tropes for Berg's twelve-note technique and suggests that ‘the concept of additional, systematically derived rows’, which in practice sets Berg's technique apart from that of Schoenberg and Webern, originated in the work of Berg's pupil Fritz Heinrich Klein (1892–1977).

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The Cambridge Companion to Berg
  • Online ISBN: 9781139002288
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