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Alban Berg

3 Bruchstücke

for soprano and orchestra

In January 1923 Berg sent a note to potential subscribers announcing the publication of the piano reduction of his opera Wozzeck. The cost of printing this score had been largely funded by Alma Mahler (to whom the opera is dedicated) and Berg hoped with its publication not only to recoup some of the costs but also to attract the attention of opera companies, conductors and critics to some of whom he also sent complimentary copies. At about the same time a short article on Berg and Webern by Berg’s fellow Schoenberg student Erwin Stein appeared in Universal Edition’s house magazine Anbruch and in April an enthusiastic article about the opera by Ernst Viebig was published in the Berlin periodical Die Musik. Although the uproar occasioned by the performance of two of the Altenberg-lieder at the famous ‘Skandalkonzert’ in 1913 had brought him a certain unwelcome notoriety, Berg’s music was little known outside the tiny Viennese elite around the Schoenberg School and the ‘Society for Private Musical Performances’, and there seemed little hope of an opera company taking on so difficult and complex a work by a young unknown composer. Things were to change, however. On 5 June 1923 Webern conducted the premiere of the first two of the Drei Orchesterstucke op. 6 in Berlin and on 2 August the Havemann Quartet played the String Quartet op. 3 at the ‘Salzburger Kammermusikfest’. According to Berg himself the performance was ‘fantastic’ and the work was warmly received. Amongst the audience at the performance was Hermann Scherchen who suggested to Berg that it might be possible to perform some excerpts from the opera in a concert performance. Berg sent a copy of the piano score of Wozzeck a few weeks later and in March 1924 Scherchen wrote to say that, while it was not possible to perform the whole opera, the committee of the ‘Allgemeiner Deutscher Musikverein’ had agreed to include the excerpts in a concert at the International Music Festival in Frankfurt that June. Scherchen was still, at this stage, unsure what the ‘Fragments’ would consist of: ‘Please tell me once again where the scenes should begin and end’, he wrote. Berg replied giving him the exact bar numbers in the piano score (the only score available at that point) of the Drei Bruchstücke as we know them but also asking ‘Is it possible to arrange for a tenor? [...] in which case it would be possible to perform the last scene of Act I as well’. Berg also asked for there to be a small group of ten children and a solo child to sing in the final piece. The preparations for the performance raised a number of difficulties. Berg had ‘terrible worries’ that the soprano would not have time to learn her part properly; Scherchen was worried about the military band in the first piece: ‘We have to do it in the orchestra: an extra orchestra of 20 is too costly and one can’t simply let a concert orchestra, all of whom are in full view, go off.’ But the chief problem was obtaining the material at such short notice. The Drei Bruchstücke had not yet been printed and there was very little time to make the handwritten parts and score that Scherchen and the orchestral musicians seem to have had to use: ‘Unfortunately there are many mistakes: I’ve found 50 (!) in the score alone’, wrote Scherchen after the second rehearsal a day before the premiere, but ‘the orchestra enjoys it despite our recently having spent three hours on the 1st and 3rd piece and yesterday two hours on the second and first piece’. The first performance took place in Frankfurt on 11 June 1924 with Beatrice Sutter-Kottlar of the Frankfurt Opera as soloist in a programme that included three other premieres; Ferruccio Busoni’s Faust Suite (presumably the Two Studies from Doktor Faust), a work by Ernst Wolf and a symphony by Erhard Ematinger. The Drei Bruchstücke were one of the great successes of the Festival and Berg was delighted: ‘Everything was splendid’, he wrote to Webern, ‘the performance itself, the singer who improved with every rehearsal, and the public performances [the final rehearsal and the concert] were a triumph – with the public, the musicians and the press.’ By that time, however, Erich Kleiber had already declared his intention of staging the whole opera. Kleiber had seen the piano score in the autumn of 1923 and, when in Vienna for a few days in January 1924, had arranged that the work should be played for him by the pianist Ernst Bachrich. By the time that the first two scenes had been played Kleiber had already decided to do the piece in Berlin and Wozzeck received its world premiere at the Staatsoper on 14 December 1925. The Drei Bruchstücke centre on the figure of Marie, Wozzeck’s mistress and mother of his child. The first starts with the orchestral interlude that closes act 1, scene 2, as night falls and the sound of military fanfares call Wozzeck and Andres back to the barracks, and continues into scene 3 in which Marie watches the Drum Major marching at the head of the military band that passes her house and then, slamming the window shut to escape the lewd remarks of her neighbour, sings a lullaby to the child. The second piece comprises the whole of act 3, scene 1 and the following orchestral interlude in which, overcome by guilt because of her infidelity, Marie reads the biblical story of Christ forgiving the woman taken in adultery. Like all the other scenes in the opera the scene has a strict ‘abstract’ formal design – in this case as a set of seven variations and a fugue. The final fragment opens with the music that depicts Wozzeck’s drowning at the end of act 3, scene 4. This leads into the great D minor interlude which forms the expressive climax of the whole work, followed by the final scene of the opera in which, playing in the street with other children, Wozzeck and Marie’s child (now an orphan) hears of the death of his mother. The music, marked ‘senza rit.’, fades to ppp and, rather than ending, simply stops – suggesting that the whole tragedy could start again with the child taking his father’s place. Douglas Jarman, July 2012

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The tale of the free-thinking and crafty vixen Bystrouška goes back to the 1890s. In the beginning were the tiny sketches of the painter and forester Stanislav Lolek (1873–1936), a distinguished landscape artist. The story of Bystrouška was serialized in Lidové noviny from 7 April to 23 June 1920 and had a huge success. The merry and immediately accessible drawings with a witty and topical text found a readership throughout the entire social spectrum. It is certainly true that Janá?ek began considering composing an opera on this theme since he acquired cuttings of all the episodes in Lidové noviny. And in fact, as soon as Janá?ek completed the work on Katja Kabanowa he immediately started on Das schlaue Füchslein. The dates on the autograph show that he began composition as early as January 1922. The author of the literary model T?snohlídek got the news only indirectly that Janá?ek wanted to compose an opera on his text. The composer himself invited him to come and see him at the time when he was already working on the opera. Meanwhile Janá?ek composed, and started out on his study of nature to a whole series of bird notations – of thrushes, sparrows, finches and blackbirds. He wrote down notations for doves, a little toad, and a frog with the instrumental comment ‘like a xylophone’. He also noticed animals and took down in his notebook his impressions of walks in the game reserve, where the forester even tracked down a vixen’s den with young so that the composer could observe and study them. No wonder that several of Janá?ek’s newspaper reviews in Lidové noviny in the years 1921– 1922 had animal motifs. Meanwhile frantic negotiations broke out over who would publish the composer’s latest work. As in the case of Jen?fa, Die Ausflüge des Herrn Brou?ek and Katja Kabanowa, interest was shown essentially by two publishers: Hudební matice in Prague and Universal Edition in Vienna. The first to approach the composer was Hudební matice, but, as before, Janá?ek used this offer rather as a tactic to firm up his dealings with Universal Edition. The contract with Universal Edition was signed between March and April 1924. The celebrated world premiere of the opera P?íhody lišky Bystroušky (Die Abenteuer des Füchsleins Schlaukopf) took place in the Brno theatre Na Hradbách on 6 November 1924. The reception was tremendous and the composer himself was happy with the staging by Ota Zítek and the set design by Eduard Milén (who also designed the cover of the piano vocal score). The composer himself characterized the opera as a forest idyll, one that would awaken the notion of the unity of life – both human and animal.

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From a letter Béla Bartók wrote during World War I: “I consider it my goal in life to continue my study of Romanian folk music, at least in Transylvania, and carry it to its end …”. However, the war initially forestalled publication, planned for 1914-1915, from the Máramaros county collection; it was issued in 1967. The 1115 instrumental melodies include the seven which Bartók assembled to form the cycle Romanian Folk Dances from Hungary. He enqueued the seven melodies into one and the same category; they all have a solid, closed form, mostly in four lines, shaped into seven airs around six different dances originating in four areas of Transylvania. He selected the pieces from a large region, also altering their sequence according to his own conception. First is The Dance with the Staff, performed by one youth alone; it is embellished with complicated steps, finishing – as Bartók notes – with a leap so high that the youth can kick the low ceiling. The second is a round dance called Brâul, which a 30 ear-old man played for Bartók on a shepherd’s flute. Bartók likely learned the third dance from the same flutist. The name The Stomper refers to the choreography; a pair of performers clops out the dance on the spot. The fourth dance, The Dance of the Butschumers, comes from the Romanian village of Bucium (Butschum). Bartók heard this beautiful andante theme, rocking in 3/4 time, played by a gypsy on the violin. The Romanian polka (poarga romancasca, allegro) is rhythmically the most interesting piece in the cycle, thanks to its constant alternation of 2/4 and 3/4 metre. It begins the sequence of finale dances. The cycle closes with two rapid dances, called m?runtel. Only those who have heard and revelled in the Romanian folk dances in Transylvania can truly appreciate Bartók’s arrangements; the entire wealth and colourful variety of village life come alive in the concert hall. From: (c) Universal Edition and György Kroó, Bartók Handbuch

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