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BERG, ALBAN - Revolutionary Austrian Composer of 'Lulu,' Alban Berg to an American Composer
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BERG, ALBAN - Revolutionary Austrian Composer of 'Lulu,' Alban Berg to an American Composer

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BERG, ALBAN. (1885-1935). Austrian composer who, with his teacher Arnold Schoenberg and colleague Anton Webern, founded the Second Viennese School, characterized by atonality and a twelve-tone notational system. TLS. (“Alban Berg”). 1¼pp. 8vo. Wörthersee, August 1, 1933. Written on the stationery of his summer home, “Waldhaus” to American composer ETHEL GLENN HIER (1889-1971). In German with translation.


“Dear Miss, Thank you for your very kind letter!  I am very sorry, that you had such difficulties getting in touch with me. However, I don’t quite understand it: I n e v e r received the letter you wrote last winter; I would certainly have answered it, and not left you in doubt. I am also certain that while you were in Vienna last June, a letter from you would have reached me, no matter where it was sent, to my address in Vienna, or to this address, or to Universal Editions, or even to the Vienna State Opera. I could have already confirmed to you two months ago my whereabouts and my summer plans. I will very much enjoy seeing you here, and want to let you know, that the 12th of August is also fine with me. You can also find housing near me in an inexpensive pension at that time. However, this boarding house would like news from you as soon as possible that you are coming for certain on August 12th, in order that they don’t give away your room elsewhere.


The address is: [In red ink:]


Pension Prüggler in Auen

Post Velden at the Wörthersee in Kärnten


In anticipation of your final decision…”


Berg began studying with Arnold Schoenberg in 1904 and composing songs and piano works in 1907. His String Quartet, Opus 3 premiered in 1911, the same year his studies with Schoenberg came to an end. He became part of Vienna’s fin de siècle artistic elite, and the 1913 Vienna premiere of portions of his Five Songs on Picture Postcard Texts by Peter Altenbergcaused a riot. After serving in World War I, he joined forces with Schoenberg to explore and promote new music. His opera Wozzeck premiered in 1925 and brought him prominence before it was condemned by the Nazis as “degenerate art.” In 1926, he completed his Lyric Suite,the first major work in which he employed the twelve-tone system. The six-movement work for string quartet, which contains many coded references to his mistress, is a highly regarded work, which “for all its subjective and tragic character, remains one of the most brilliant and effective virtuoso display pieces in its genre,” (The New Grove Dictionary).


Our letter was written several months after Hitler came to power in January 1933, an event that deeply affected Berg whose despondency over the fate of his Jewish friends, particularly his mentor, Schoenberg, impaired his ability to compose. Berg’s own musical career was curtailed because of his association with Schoenberg, and performances of his works became more unwelcome in Germany and Austria as anti-Semitism increased. Berg died of blood poisoning on Christmas Eve 1935, two years after writing our letter.


Hier was an Ohio native of Scottish descent who studied piano at the Cincinnati Conservatory, Julliard and in Europe, studying with Hugo Kaun in Berlin, Gian-Francesco Malipiero in Italy and Ernest Bloch. While there, she was undoubtedly influenced by Berg and Schoenberg and the Vienna School. She returned to the United States to teach piano and composition in Cincinnati and New York. Her own compositions include The Bird in the Rainwhich set poet Elinor Wylie’s poems to music; Down in the Glen; If You Must Go, Go Quickly; andCarolina Suite. In 1930-31, she was one of two women to be awarded a Guggenheim fellowship, and our letter possibly relates to her Guggenheim-funded travel.


Folded once and in fine condition.



Item #20273

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