Berg, Alban

1885 - 1935

Viennese pupil of Schoenberg who brought to maturity the atonal style of 20th-century music.

Under Schoenberg's guidance, Berg moved from a tonal approach to a purely atonal style over the course of his first three works. In 1914 he saw a production of George Buchner's play Woyzeck. The play had a great impact on Berg, and he transformed the work into an opera (Wozzeck).

Through his next works, Berg embraced the twelve-tone procedure more fully. The Lyric Suite (1926), his Violin Concerto (1935) and Lulu, his second opera, left incomplete at his death.

Berg's life came to an early end. In the fall of 1935 a simple insect bite turned into fatal blood poisoning. He died on Christmas Eve.


Mahler, Gustav

1860 - 1911

Bohemian composer and conductor of the Vienna Court Opera. In his world music he used huge orchestras, the largest for his 'Symphony for a Thousand'.

Mahler's aim was to preserve the tradition of composers of the past, but in his composition he embodied many of the new ideas of modernism and fostered the music of his more radical contemporaries, such as Arnold Schoenberg.

Vienna was a city with deep undercurrents of anti-Semitism - Mahler had to renounce Judaism and convert to Catholicism. In spite of this he had to leave the city and emigrated to the United States.

In New York, he was engaged as conductor for the Metropolitan Opera. His symphony, Das Lied von der Erde (a setting of six poems by the eighth century Chinese poet Li Po) serves as a fitting summary of his symphonic style, and one of his true masterpieces.


Schoenberg, Arnold

1874 - 1951

German composer whose revolutionary method of composition (based on a series of 12 tones) influenced many later composers.

In 1933 he was forced, as a Jew, to emigrated from Berlin to the United States. He remained in Los Angeles until his death in 1951.

From 1915 to 1923, Schoenberg produced relatively few works, in part due to wartime service.

At the same time, he was working on his theoretical ideas of twelve-tone writing. Starting in 1923 he began writing in a fully twelve-tone musical language. Along with this came a return to more classical means of formal organization and larger works such as his 'Variations for Orchestra'.

After his move to the United States, he more freely blended tonal elements within his twelve-tone writing.