Record of the day: A. Berg, "Concerto for violin and orchestra"

Record of the day: A. Berg, “Concerto for violin and orchestra”

Alban Berg
Concerto for violin and orchestra (Cd DG 439435-2)

Since its first performance, which took place in 1936 after the composer’s death, this work has established itself as one of the masterpieces of the entire history of music thanks to its qualities of great lyricism, formal perfection and admirable orchestral writing. Berg is one of the three members of the so-called Second Vienna School, together with Anton Webern and Arnold Schönberg, who was also their teacher and spiritual guide.

Compared to the other two musicians Berg has always enjoyed greater popularity among concert hall audiences, probably because his use of the twelve-tone technique (theorized by Schönberg) was less dogmatic and his
music (an authentic swansong of an entire civilization) is rich in suggestions that reflect, albeit in a transfigured way, the splendor of pre-war Great Vienna, mixing Waltz and expressionism, Mahlerian influences and twelve-tone, with a character of perennial yearning which however does not not even for a moment does it transform itself into banal nostalgia for the good old days but with chilling foresight it seems to point to the arrival of the disintegration of a world (it is no coincidence that two years after Berg’s death Vienna witnessed the triumph of Hitler’s troops within of its own walls).

The cry of anguish that works like “Lulu” and “Wozzeck” seemed to hurl against humanity is tempered in this “Violin Concerto” by a shadow of almost mystical resignation, symbolically depicted by the use of quotes from the Chorale “Es ist genug” by Bach, which provide the harmonic framework of the second movement. However, it is not necessary to analyze the score and look for all the numerous technical devices with which Berg manages to bring together the modernity of the serial language together with the tonality that it itself had contributed to undermining. The wonderful melancholy of this music can simply be appreciated for the beauty it brings to life.

Of course, if you’re not in a particularly good mood maybe this isn’t the album for you today, but as soon as I started listening
I’m sure that the interpretation of the violinist Henryk Szeryng, which corresponds to Rafael’s masterful orchestral conducting
Kubelik at the head of the Munich Radio Orchestra will be able to convince you.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.