In-Depth Survey of Music by Great Viennese Modernist Alban Berg and His Contemporaries is Centerpiece of Seven-Week 2010 Bard SummerScape Festival
“Part boot camp for the brain, part spa for the spirit” – New York Times
Described by the Los Angeles Times as “uniquely stimulating,” the world-renowned Bard Music Festival returns for its 21st annual season, to fill the last two weekends of Bard SummerScape 2010 with a compelling and enlightening exploration of “Berg and His World.” Twelve concert programs over the two mid-August weekends, complemented by pre-concert lectures, panel discussions, expert commentaries, and a symposium, make up Bard’s examination of Alban Berg, the composer whose enduring impact on the hearts and minds of post-war audiences is unique among the modernists of his generation. The twelve concerts present Berg’s complete orchestral oeuvre, all of his published chamber, instrumental, and vocal works, and Berg’s own suites from his operas, Wozzeck and Lulu, alongside a wealth of music from more than 40 of his contemporaries. Weekend One—“Berg and Vienna” (August 13–15)—contextualizes Berg within the cultural melting pot he shared with Schoenberg, Mahler, and Freud, while Weekend Two—“Berg the European” (August 20–22)—takes stock of the diversity of music between the wars, including the backlash against modernism.
The Bard Music Festival has won international acclaim for its unrivaled, in-depth exploration of the life and works of a single composer and his contemporaries, offering, in the words of the New York Times, a “rich web of context” for a full appreciation of that composer’s inspirations and significance. Leon Botstein, co-artistic director of the festival and music director of the resident American Symphony Orchestra, will conduct the orchestral programs; these, like many of the other concerts and special events, will take place in the beautiful Frank Gehry-designed Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts on Bard’s glorious Hudson Valley campus. As in previous seasons, choral programs will feature the Bard Festival Chorale directed by James Bagwell, while this year’s impressive roster of performers includes the Daedalus and FLUX Quartets, pianist Jeremy Denk, violinist Soovin Kim, and soprano Christiane Libor.
Through the prism of Berg’s life and career, the 2010 festival will explore the origins, varieties, and fate of modernism in music. Listeners will encounter music ranging from the familiar Viennese waltzes of Berg’s youth to the most avant-garde experiments of the 1920s and ’30s, by way of serialism, the conservative reaction against it, neo-classicism, and jazz. Usually hailed as a pioneer of the modernist movement along with his teacher, Arnold Schoenberg, and fellow student Anton Webern, here Berg will be considered in a richer and more nuanced context as a contemporary of Mahler, Zemlinsky, Pfitzner, Reger, Busoni, and Karl Weigl, and as one who engaged the new music of Bartók, Debussy, Stravinsky, Ravel, Gershwin, Casella, and Szymanowski.
The twelve musical programs, built thematically and spaced over the two weekends, open with a pair of chamber concerts. “Alban Berg: The Path of Expressive Intensity” traces Berg’s stylistic development from early works like the Seven Early Songs (1905-08), composed while under Schoenberg’s tutelage, to the maturity of his Lyric Suite (1925-26), a twelve-tone string quartet dedicated to Zemlinsky, from whose Lyric Symphony it quotes. Also featured is Berg’s 1921 arrangement of Wein, Weib, und Gesang (“Wine, Women, and Song”) by Johann Strauss II, Vienna’s “waltz king,” whose music was highly regarded by the Schoenberg circle. Program Two presents “The Vienna of Berg’s Youth,” coupling selections from Berg’s early piano pieces and songs with other works, also from the early 1900s, which share the same preoccupation with extending tonality without yet breaking the bounds of Romanticism. Webern’s Piano Quintet of 1907, for example, is predominantly Brahmsian, despite the extremity of its chromaticism. Like Berg, Webern was at the time taking lessons from Schoenberg, who in turn studied counterpoint with Zemlinsky, two of whose works are featured.