In Memory of... at New York City Ballet
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Louis Krasner, an American violinist, commissioned a violin concerto from Alban Berg in early 1935. Berg, absorbed in the orchestration of his opera, Lulu, did no work on it until the death, from polio, of 18-year-old Manon Gropius. Her parents, Alma Mahler (composer Gustav Mahler's widow) and Walter Gropius were Berg's close friends. The concerto uses melodic themes from Mahler and a Carpathian folk song, and concludes with a treatment of J. S. Bach's cantata, O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort. Alban Berg (1885-1935), an Austrian, had little formal musical training before beginning his studies with the musical innovator Arnold Schoenberg in 1904. Berg, Schoenberg, and Berg's student Anton Webern formed the Second Viennese School. They were the originators of serialism: the 12-tone row of atonal music. Berg is most famous for his two operas, Wozzeck and Lulu. His writing, dense, dissonant and full of personal allusions and complex devices, was well regarded critically, but won little popular acceptance during his life.