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Alban Berg died on 24 December 1935, before he could finish his opera Lulu; the orchestration of the third act is incomplete, existing only as a short-score. Of the 1300 bars of this short score (comprising the totality of Act III), 416 are orchestrated by Berg himself; the best part of the remainder consists of instrumental indications, and the music of 88 bars is somewhat uncertain.
Berg wrote his “Symphonic Pieces from the Opera Lulu,” the Lulu Suite, a year before his death, in order to give the eagerly expectant music world an impression of his new creation.
After a long and thorough study of all the related material and similar consideration of the positive and negative aspects involved, Friedrich Cerha decided to make a playable version of Act III. He worked on it from 1962 to 1974 and, after Helene Berg died, he revised it again in 1976 –1977 and 1981 in light of newly accessible sources.
Since comparison of the short score and the full score of the first two acts and the orchestrated parts of Act III shows that there are no significant divergences, Cerha saw no reason why he should not adhere to the layout as it was set down in the short score.
The posthumous premiere of the first two acts took place in Zurich on 2 June 1937, while the first performance of the entire opera was given on 24 February 1979 in Paris. Cerha’s reconstitution of Act III made it possible to choose between the two-act and the three-act versions.
“Thirty years on, Berg's opera seems an indisputable candidate for the greatest opera of the 20th century.” (Philip Hensher, The Guardian, 1 June 2009)