ALBAN BERG by Theodor W. Adorno


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The three leading atonalists, Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern flourished in Vienna during the decade that aesthetician Adorno was both friend and student of Berg. Adorno's critical biography is one part memoir and the rest musical analysis of Berg's small body of thirteen works. Small? Not with the operas Wozzeck and Lulu to his credit. Wozzeck is a moonlit, expressionistic tragedy -- a weird, stunning tearjerker that absolutely fulfills the composer's every intention. He was at work on act three of Lulu when he died in 1935. The story of a sensual archdemoness who infects every man or woman who knows her, Lulu ""sometimes. . .seems as though the composition itself actually overpowers the orchestra!"" Adorno's Berg is a warm, tall, fragile, pessimistic giant full of self-mockery and ""a gift for making rather depressing punch lines and puns."" He is also a connoisseur of good food and fine wines (he looked a lot like Oscar Wilde) and had an immense longing for happiness. ""This was expressed in his respect for every sort of fortune: even a fatal disease was 'all right' -- it had to be."" Adorno on Berg's music is often discerning but sometimes confusing in his use of the dreadful jargon of esthetics. Special; in no sense a popular biography.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1974
Publisher: Grossman