The first ever complete presentation of Berg’s extensive song output on CD, including a world premiere recording: a must-hear for all Lieder devotees and students of the Second Viennese School.
As first a Romantic and then a modernist, as a sensualist fascinated by form, Alban Berg produced one of the richest bodies of music in the 20th century. He began composing as a teenager, guided by little more than his piano tuition. By the time he began lessons with Arnold Schoenberg in 1904, he had composed 35 Lieder – more than a third of his total eventual output. Writing to his publisher Emil Hertzka in 1910, Schoenberg observed: ‘Alban Berg is an extraordinarily gifted composer, but the state he was in when he came to me was such that his imagination apparently could not work on anything but lieder. Even the piano accompaniments to them were songlike.’
‘An extraordinarily gifted composer’: no small praise from the notoriously hard-to-please Schoenberg. In fact Berg’s early Lieder undertake their own stylistic journey, from an initial (understandable) debt to Schubert and Schumann, to a more chromatic language which points in the direction of Richard Strauss and Hugo Wolf. Once under Schoenberg’s influence, however, Berg adopted a new approach in his compositions of songs, adding to the consistency of the piano part and handling his thematic material with more counterpoint and rhythmic variation. Here the influence is that of Brahms, a model composer for Schoenberg and his school.
Berg’s further compositional evolution may be traced in the Seven Early Songs, from the Brahms of No.5, ‘Im Zimmer’, to the allusive, Debussyan piano part and floating tonality of No.1, ‘Nacht’. By the time of the Altenberg-Lieder of 1911 Berg’s language of condensed Romanticism had reached maturity, and this was the work, in its orchestral version, that caused such uproar at the infamous Skandalkonzert staged in Vienna in 1913.
The set presents an unrivalled guide to the development of one of the major musical voices of the last century, as well as a still-rarer opportunity to enjoy a plethora of little-known, exquisitely crafted Romantic Lieder. The project is masterminded by the pianist Filippo Farinelli, who also contributes an extensive and authoritative booklet essay, and has gathered a quintet of singers who are equipped to do full justice to the passionate, hot-house world of turn-of-the-century Vienna.
This 3CD set contains the complete songs by Alban Berg (1885-1935), including the complete Jugendlieder.
Throughout this musical journey we witness Berg’s development as a composer, setting out in his Jugendlieder under the influence of Schubert, Schumann, Wagner and Mahler, through his chromatic and enharmonic language inspired by Johannes Brahms, Richard Strauss and Hugo Wolf, towards his own personal style in which the twelve-tone system of his teacher Arnold Schönberg finds its free, fluid and lyrical expression.
The excellent singers include Elisabetta Lombardi, Myung Jea Kho, Mark Milhofer, Mauro Borgioni and speaker Stefanie Köhler.
Another remarkable recording project by pianist Filippo Farinelli, who already make wonderful recordings of the complete songs by Ravel, Jolivet, Dallapiccola and chamber music by Debussy, Koechlin and Jolivet for Brilliant Classics.