The Three Pieces (nos. 2, 3, 4) for String Orchestra were originally part of Berg’s Lyric Suite for string quartet (1926), one of the Austrian composer’s most important pieces and the turning point in his compositional work, marking his first extensive use of the twelve-tone technique developed by his teacher Arnold Schönberg. It is also considered a secret message of love to the wife of Prague industrialist Herbert Fuchs-Robettin: Hanna Fuchs, for whom Berg had developed a great passion, as evinced in a handwritten copy dedicated to her with the words “May it [the score] be a small token of a great love.”
Berg himself arranged the three pieces (No. 2, Andante amoroso: No. 3, Allegro misterioso: No. 4, Adagio appassionato) for string orchestra in 1927, after being asked to do so by Emil Hertzka, who was managing director of Universal Edition at the time, as we see in a letter Berg wrote to his friend and colleague Anton Webern on 10 August 1927: “… after issuing a whole series of works for string orchestra (incl. Schönberg’s sextet and F-sharp minor quartet), Hertzka also wants pieces from the Lyr. Suite. I am thinking of movements II, III and IV.”
The Three Pieces (nos. 2, 3, 4) for String Orchestra were premièred on 31 January 1929 in Berlin, Jascha Horenstein conducting the Berlin Philharmonic. Erich Kleiber conducted them for the first time in the United States with great success the following year. Dutch composer Theo Verbey completed the version of the Lyric Suite for string orchestra, arranging nos. 1, 5 and 6, which Berg had not reworked.