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

8 - Secret programmes

from Part 3 - After Wozzeck


In January 1977 the American composer and Berg scholar George Perle made a trip to Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania to visit Dorothea Robetin, “the daughter of Herbert and Hanna Fuchs-Robettin, who had in her possession a previously unexamined copy of the first published score of the Lyric Suite given to her mother by the composer. Annotated in red, blue and green ink by Berg himself and consisting of ninety pages, only eight of which were without some annotation in Berg's hand, this extraordinary document revealed that the work had behind it a detailed extra-musical programme charting the course of a love affair between Alban Berg and Hanna Fuchs-Robettin.

For many years, scholars had known that extra-musical programmes of some kind lay behind much of Berg's music – Willi Reich's description of the programme of the Violin Concerto in the first article ever published about the work and Berg's own ‘Open Letter’ on the Chamber Concerto had made that much clear. Such things as the sequence of tempo directions that head the movements of the Lyric Suite (Allegretto giovale, Andante amoroso, Allegro misterioso and Trio estatico, Adagio appassionato, Presto delirando, Largo desolato), and the various musical quotations from Zemlinsky and Wagner that appear during the course of the work, had already led commentators to indulge in speculation about it. Only with the publication in the summer of 1977 of Perle's articles about his discovery, however, did the precise nature of the programme of what Adorno had called ‘a latent opera’ and the extent to which the details of the programme were incorporated into and influenced the structure of the final work become clear.

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The Cambridge Companion to Berg
  • Online ISBN: 9781139002288
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