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An Evening with: Berg's Lyric Suite

Alex Klassen

On first listening to The Lyric Suite of Alban Berg I was very very confuse!" #ot by the tone rows or bi$arre soun!s e%anating fro% the Kronos &uartet's recor!ing but because of the 'resence of (awn )'shaw whose soulful voice sang out through the final %ove%ent of the 'iece" On selecting the recor!ing I ha! thought her 'resence to be self ex'lanatory" She was there to 'ut the 'lyric' in lyric suite" Listening to the first five %ove%ents I was not !issua!e! fro% %y hy'othesis an! coul! not wait for her honeye! tones to !ri' forth fro% %y s'ea*ers an! her lines to a''ear ato' those of the string +uartet who ha! been about as lyrical as well so%ething 'retty unlyrical" ,aybe Bernar! -er%ann on a gru%'y !ay" An! then there she was honeye! tones an! all" An! confusion cre't in" .hat was she singing/0 It was not there at all" Oh of course she was rather singing along with the 1irst 2iolin" But not really" I searche! bac* on the trusty i%sl' for so%e hint as to what %ight be going on then fruitlessly turne! to the scholar's ho%e co%'anion .i*i'e!ia" Though that !i! turn u' so%e interesting infor%ation on this !ay in history" At this 'oint 3an! it %ay have been because the 'articularly raucous thir! %ove%ent ha! been re'laying4 the internet was !ea! to %e an! I ha! to go out" To the Library/ Before I continue !own that 'ath I %ust !igress bac* 3regress04 to the %atter at han!" That is the Lyric suite itself" I %entione! above that the tone rows an! !o!eco'hony were not the cause of %y confusion a state%ent I'% still sur'rise! at having written" An! yet it is +uite true" I won't go so far as to say that they are as easy to gras' as a the%e of ,o$art 3or anyone4 but I woul! !are to believe that to the uninitiate! their %usical use an! !evelo'%ent woul! har!ly be %ore !ifficult to follow than the 'rogression of a the%e in the fugal han!s of the great 5"S"" I won't go so far to say that they woul! soun! as inviting but then who's to *now" The rather ungracious unfol!ing of the %aterial in the Lyric suite was a bit sur'rising es'ecially in contrast to blosso%ing of the the%atic %aterial of Berg's earlier atonal !ebutante nu%ber the 6iano Sonata o'us 7" A co%'osition which see%s to continually bloo% an! shift its !ra%a originating entirely fro% an internal struggle for still greater beauty" A 'iece al%ost !esigne! to be 'laye! with the legs crosse!" #ecessitating a vocal obbligato 3also curiously unscore! in %y e!ition4 an! a straight ahea! view of the *eys throughout" The o'enings of these two se%inal wor*s of Berg's oeuvre coul! al%ost be sonic reflections of one another" The one 'ulsing fro% an initial blast while the other no less har%onically !issi!ent %ean!ers forth an! stretches its legs before lea!ing us on" -ar%onically !issi!ent 8 'erha's there's so%ething to that" Even Schoenberg's hin*y suite for 'iano co%es off rather 'layfully on the 3relatively s'ea*ing4 %onochro%atic 'iano" It 9ust gels there un!er the han!s without exce'tional harshness ever being necessary" A %ore theoretical ga%e than that 'laye! in these new fangle! string +uartets they've got these !ays" So here I a% listening to Schoenberg's secon! String +uartet soon to be acco%'anie! by ,s" Evelyn Lear an! I thin* there %ay be so%ething in this" 5ust now about a thir! of the way through the secon! %ove%ent Schoenberg has %anage! to co%'ose the soun! of balloons being 'o''e! an! flying aroun! the roo% with the hel' of #ewton's thir! law 3%easure 7:;4" So now I a% still confuse!" Because here we are thir! %ove%ent of the Schoenberg an! there is 'lain as !ay a line for so'rano written right there on the 'age" Also this is on the whole a %uch %ore relaxe! 'iece than ,r" Berg care! to write" An! so we %ight as well let the cat out of the bag here" Its the Kronos' !oings that have a!!e! this so'rano line" ,y tri' to the library uncovere! it< The

hi!!en song -i!!en no %ore" A song Berg ha! set twice before 3once !e!icate! to his wife once to his 'ublisher4 here invisibly ren!ere! to his girlfrien! to who% he ha! secretly !e!icate! the whole thing" .hich it turns out is littere! easter egg fashion with nu%erological love notes throughout" So then is the !e!ication to his frien! =e%lins*y so%e sort of ironic 9o*e0 It woul!n't be the first or last 'gotcha/' The universe woul! have in store for A" =e%lin*sy 3he *in! of ran the ga%ut that way4" Though as a gag this one's not that great exce't for the no! to his Lyric Sy%'hony 3actually lyrical 3actual singing44 which berg lifte! a chun* fro%" This Berg see%s li*e a 'retty shifty guy" An! this 'iece" I 9ust !on't *now" As a 7> tone string +uartet o*ay sure" But then as a !ouble secret love song with nu%bers an! =e%lins*y0 It's a stretch" It's 9ust so 9agge!" Living at extre%es of tone an! colour" )nless your girlfrien!'s a cry'to %usicologist into 7> tone cover tunes that aren't an! unless there's a 'leasant song hi!!en so%ewhere insi!e for her ears only I thin* you've got to rethin* this one"