Lyric Suite (Berg) - Composition and Analysis

Composition and Analysis

According to Berg's friend and Schoenberg pupil Erwin Stein in the preface to the score, "The work (Ist and VIth part, the main part of the IIIrd and the middle section of the Vth) has been mostly written strictly in accordance with Schoenberg's technique of the 'Composition with 12 inwardly related tones.' A set of 12 different tones gives the rough material of the composition, and the portions which have been treated more freely still adhere more or less to the technique."(Perle 1990, 123) Perle points out that the first movement is not strictly twelve-tone, with the opening four chords being derived not from the series but from the interval-7 cycle (Perle 1977, 21).

According to René Leibowitz it is "entirely written in the twelve-tone technique, is a sonata movement without the development. Thus the recapitulation follows directly upon the exposition; but, because of the highly advanced twelve-tone technique of variation, everything in this movement is developmental" (Leibowitz 1947,). However, the first analysis was undertaken by H.F. Redlich, who notices that, "the first movement of the Lyric Suite develops out of the disorder of intervals in its first bar, the notes of which, strung out horizontally, present the complete chromatic scale, and from this in the second and following bars, grows the Basic Set in its thematic shape" (Redlich 1957,).

Theodor Adorno called the quartet "a latent opera" (Sandberger 1996). Redlich (1957, p. 142) described, "the concealed vocality of the Lyric Suite," despite having no knowledge of the setting of Baudelaire in the finale movement, deciphered by Douglass M. Green in 1976 from what George Perle calls "Berg's cryptic notations". Perle discovered a complete copy of the first edition annotated by Berg for his dedicatee, Hanna Fuchs-Robettin (Franz Werfel's sister, with whom Berg had an affair in the 1920s), later that year (Perle 1990,).

Berg used the signature motif, A-B♭-H-F, to combine Alban Berg (A. B.) and Hanna Fuchs-Robettin (H. F.) (Reel 2010). This is most prominent in the third movement. Berg also quotes a melody from Zemlinsky's Lyric Symphony in movement four which originally set the words "You are mine own". In the last movement, according to Berg's self-analysis, the, "entire material, the tonal element too … as well as the Tristan motif" is developed "by strict adherence to the 12-note series" (Sandberger 1996).

The outer sections of the Allegro misterioso present the same music forwards and then backwards, while the Trio ecstatico, the B section of the ABA, is through-composed (Pople 1991, 17-18). Berg generates a characteristic rhythmic cell through partitioning the series into a seven note chromatic segment and a complementary five-note motive from the remaining notes (Pople 1991, 15). See below.

Despite assertions by Berg and others, George Perle, however, "had not yet been informed, as Leibowitz and Redlich were by the time they came to write their respective books, that everything in the 'strictly' dodecaphonic first movement had to be derived from a single serial ordering of the twelve notes of the chromatic scale." Rather, he, "recognized that the first three chords unfold tetrachordal segments of a single statement of the cycle of fifths (C7), and that at the bottom of the same page, in bars 7-9, the cello presents a linear statement of the same cycle." The second violin unfolds "the initial tetrachordal segmentation of the perfect-5th cycle," again at the beginning of the recapitulation. He asks: "How could one of the initial bar as 'disordered'? If anything is to be designated as an Urform here, surely it is this perfect-5th cycle, given its background role in relation to the tone row and other components of the movement."

The "Row" of the Lyric Suite is an all-interval row. It is the first all-interval row derived by its discoverer and Berg student Fritz Heinrich Klein (Whittall 2008, p. 68.).

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