Best known for the opera Wozzeck, Alban Berg (1885-1935) was one of the composers of the Second Viennese School, a small group clustered around master teacher Arnold Schoenberg. Taking their point of departure from the highly chromatic music of the late 19th century, the composers of the Second Viennese School saturated their music with still more chromaticisms to the point where key (i.e. major/minor tonality) was obliterated. Thus was born ‘atonal’ music – music in which all notes of the chromatic spectrum were granted equal standing. The aforementioned Wozzeck is an atonal work. Berg subsequently adopted the 12-note technique – a system for writing atonal music – devised by his erstwhile master, Schoenberg. The Lyric Suite, a string quartet, is an example of an atonal work written according to this system. Another 12-note work is the Violin Concerto, a profoundly moving piece of music dedicated to the memory of Manon Gropius, daughter of Alma Mahler-Gropius and Walter Gropius, who died in April 1935 at the tragically young age of 18. In a further tragedy, Berg himself died (of septicaemia, following an insect bite) in December that same year. Little did he suspect that the Violin Concerto would be his own requiem.

© Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra