Berg’s “Altenberg Lieder”: Five Orchestral Songs on Postcard Texts

The year 1913 was infamous for riotous musical premieres. The May 29, 1913 premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring in Paris remains the most famous example. Yet, an equally scandalous event occurred two months earlier on March 31 at Vienna’s Musikverein. The program, conducted by Arnold Schoenberg, included Webern’s Six Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6, Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony No. 1, Op. 9, and two of Alban Berg’s Five Orchestral Songs after Postcards …

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Musical Beginnings

Think about the way your favorite piece begins. From the ferocious opening four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, which form the DNA for the entire symphony that follows, to the quiet, mysterious tremolos of Bruckner’s symphonies, to the attention grabbing (and audience quieting) opening fanfares of Rossini’s opera overtures, the way a piece starts tells us a lot about what will follow. As you jump, grudgingly tip toe or stride boldly into 2014, listen …

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