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Alban Berg: Wozzeck

  • Opera in 3 acts (15 scenes) (1917-1922)
  • 4 4 5 4 - 4 4 4 1 - timp(2), perc(4), cel, hp, str, stage: "Heurigenmusik" - fiddle (2-4), cl, acc, guit, bass tuba, military band - 3 2 2 2 - 2 2 3 1 - perc, pno, chamber orch - 1 2 3 2 - 2 0 0 0 - str(1 1 1 1 1)
  • Duration: 90’
  • Soloists:
    baritone, speaker
  • Instrumentation details:
    1st flute (+picc)
    2nd flute (+picc)
    3rd flute (+picc)
    4th flute (+picc)
    1st oboe
    2nd oboe
    3rd oboe
    4th oboe (+c.a)
    1st clarinet in Bb (+cl(A))
    2nd clarinet in Bb
    3rd clarinet in Bb (+cl(Eb))
    4th clarinet in Bb (+cl(Eb))
    bass clarinet in Bb
    1st bassoon
    2nd bassoon
    3rd bassoon
    1st horn in F
    2nd horn in F
    3rd horn in F
    4th horn in F
    1st trumpte in F
    2nd trumpte in F
    3rd trumpte in F
    4th trumpte in F
    1st alto trombone
    2nd tenor trombone
    3rd tenor trombone
    4th bass trombone
    contrabass tuba
    timpani (2 players)
    percussion (4 players)
    violin I
    violin II
    stage (military band): piccolo
    1st flute
    2nd flute
    1st oboe
    2nd oboe
    1st clarinet in Eb
    2nd clarinet in Eb
    1st bassoon
    2nd bassoon
    1st horn in F
    2nd horn in F
    1st trumpte in F
    2nd trumpte in F
    1st trombone
    2nd trombone
    3rd bass trombone
    contrabass tuba
    stage (Heurigenmusik): 1st fiddle
    2nd fiddle
    1st fiddle (transposed)
    2nd fiddle (transposed)
    clarinet in Bb or C
    bass tuba
    piano out of tune (on the stage)
    stage (chamber orchestra): flute (+picc)
    cor anglais
    clarinet in Eb
    clarinet in A
    bass clarinet in Bb
    1st horn in F
    2nd horn in F
    violin I(1)
    violin II(1)
  • Choir: Soldaten und Burschen, Tenor I u. II, Bariton I u. II und Baß I u. II Mägde und Dirnen, Soprane und Alte (zweistimmig) Kinder (einstimmig)
  • Roles: Wozzeck, baritone and Sprechstimme Tambourmajor, heroic tenor Andres, lyric tenor and Sprechstimme Hauptmann, tenore buffo Doktor, basso buffo 1. Handwerksbursch, low bass and Sprechstimme 2. Handwerksbursch, high baritone Der Narr, high tenor Marie, soprano Margret, alto Mariens Knabe, voice ein Soldat, tenor
  • Composer: Alban Berg
  • Librettist: Alban Berg
  • Writer of pre-existing text: Georg Büchner
  • Original language: German
  • Translator: Vida HarfordEric BlackallRichard Stokes
  • Table of contents:
    1. Akt
    2. Akt
    : 3. Akt
  • Dedication: Alma Maria Mahler zugeeignet
  • Remarks: Revision after the posthumous final corrections by the composer

Work introduction

Remarks by Alban Berg

“Give unto the theatre what is the theatre’s …“

I did not dream of wishing to reform the art form of opera by composing Wozzeck, nor was that my intention as I began to compose it; nor did I ever consider, assume or expect that the result would be an object lesson in what should be exemplary in creating another opera – either of my own or by another composer.

Apart from the desire to make good music, to musically realise the psychological matter in Büchner’s immortal drama, to translate his poetic language into a musical one, at the moment when I decided to write an opera I had no other notion (not even in terms of compositional technique) than to give unto the theatre what is the theatre’s. That is, designing the music so that it was conscious at every moment of its duty to serve the drama – indeed, to go further; making the music so that everything the drama needs to translate into the reality of the stage comes from the music alone, the composer thus arrogating all the essential tasks of an ideal director – and all that notwithstanding such music’s other absolute (purely musical) right to exist, notwithstanding its own life, unimpaired by anything extra-musical.

Alban Berg, in Musikblätter des Anbruch, Vol. XII, No. 2, January 1930


The complete perusal score (PDF-preview)

Next performances

World première

Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin (DE)
Erich Kleiber
Main soloists:
Leo Schützendorf - Wozzeck; Sigrid Johanson - Marie; Waldemar Henke - Hauptmann; Fritz Soot - Tambourmajor; Gerhard Witting - Andres; Martin Abendroth - Doktor; Jessika Koettrik - Margret

Press reviews

If the evening began poignantly, it ended, as a powerful performance of Berg’s opera must, in utter devastation. Kenneth Richardson’s semi-staging had the singers acting on a sliver of stage with a handful of props and costumes. (Kate Molleson, The Guardian, 24.10.2014)

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