Bard Music Festival 2010
Berg and His World
August 13–15 and August 20–22, 2010
Alban Berg (1885–1935) has a unique place in the history of 20th-century music. He embraced a radical modernist approach to musical composition. But his music gained not only the admiration of musicians but also the allegiance and affection of audiences. His work speaks with immediacy to the heart. Its disciplined and complex modernity notwithstanding, Berg’s music, from the start, evoked an intense sense of truthfulness, communicating, as one of his contemporaries put it, “summer, the depth of the night, loneliness, pain and happiness.” In contrast, the music of Schoenberg still inspires distance and fear, as does much of 20th-century modernist music, no matter its quality and power—one reason that it has largely vanished from the concert and operatic stage.
But Berg remains. Wozzeck and Lulu are performed regularly all over the world. String quartets readily program Berg’s Op. 3 and the Lyric Suite. The Violin Concerto has become standard and competes with concertos by Mendelssohn and Sibelius. Yet Berg’s appeal and accessibility to the widest range of listeners does not emerge from any concessions or simplifications. A devoted disciple of Schoenberg, Berg was a composer with an uncanny sense of drama and expression who was obsessed with structural intricacy and the ingenious and even ironic use of the most minute detail. The genius of Alban Berg rested precisely in his capacity to integrate into modernism, with its rigorous insistence on formal aesthetic integrity, the lyric intensity associated with late Romanticism, the expressionist will to break with the past, and an abiding affection for the Classical tradition.
Berg lived only half a century. Yet no modernist composer of the early 20th century has had such a lasting impact on the hearts and minds of audiences after 1945. No composer has more eloquently demonstrated how the impulse to be original and contemporary in music can lead to art that illuminates the human condition beyond the reach of language.
The 21st volume of the award-winning Bard Festival series, published by Princeton University Press, will be Alban Berg and His World, edited by Christopher Hailey.
Weekend One: Berg and Vienna
Weekend Two: Berg the European
About the Festival
Photo credit: Imagno/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Berg and Vienna
Friday, August 13 - Sunday, August 15
Photo credit: Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY
©2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VBK, Vienna
Berg the European
Friday, August 20 - Sunday, August 22
By the mid-1920s, Berg had become world-famous through the success of Wozzeck. Schoenberg envied his pupil’s achievement, but that did not prevent Berg from continued allegiance to his mentor, as shown in his work for a new organization, a society in Vienna created by Schoenberg and Berg, designed to create a proper context for new music based on principles that included ample rehearsal and the absence of critics. But Berg also became active in international organizations for new music in the 1920s. The post–World War I modernist experiment had its detractors. Franz Schmidt’s magnificent oratorio The Book of the Seven Seals reveals that the reaction against modernism itself inspired great music. By the early 1930s, Fascism came to dominate Europe, and Berg found himself again at the margin as politics once again helped shape the course of music history.
Photo credit: Imagno/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
History of the Festival
Leon Botstein, Christopher H. Gibbs, and Robert Martin, Artistic Directors
The Bard Music Festival was founded in 1990 to promote new ways of understanding and presenting the history of music to a contemporary audience. Each year, a single composer is chosen as the main subject. The biography of the composer, the influences and consequences of that composer's achievement, and all aspects of the musical culture surrounding the time and place of the composer's life are explored. Perhaps the most important dimensions of the festival are the ways in which it links music to the worlds of literature, painting, theater, philosophy, and politics and brings two kinds of audience together: those with a long history of interest in concert life and first-time listeners, who find the festival an ideal place to learn about and enjoy the riches of our musical past.The festival also seeks to bridge the worlds of performance and scholarship in new and exciting ways. As a result of this collaboration, each concert is curated and the concert format varies, so that different genres and instrumental groupings appear in a single program, breaking the mold of the standard vocal recital, piano recital, or quartet concert. Concerts are complemented by informative preconcert talks, panel discussions by renowned musicians and scholars, and special events. In addition, each season Princeton University Press publishes a book of essays, translations, and correspondence relating to the festival’s central figure.
The 2011 festival will be devoted to Jean Sibelius, and 2012 will explore the life and work of Camille Saint-Säens.