Beginning this Friday at 8 p.m. in Bard Fisher Center’s Sosnoff Theater, two weekends of orchestral, choral, and chamber concerts explore the cultural world, works, and life of the early 20th-century Viennese composer Alban Berg and his contemporaries. Through the prism of Berg’s life and career, this year’s festival will explore the origins, varieties, and fate of modernism in music. Listeners will encounter music from the era of Mahler to the age of fascism. The early 20th-century fascination with the psyche and sexuality and the post-World War I critique of the relationship between art and society—between aesthetics and ethics—led Berg to confront the works of writers and thinkers such as Sigmund Freud, Karl Kraus, August Strindberg, and Thomas Mann.
During this first weekend (a second follows on August 20-22), a variety of concerts, talks, and panel discussions shed light on Berg and Vienna, contextualizing the composer within the cultural melting pot he shared with Schoenberg, Mahler, and Freud. Bard Music Festival audiences may take in a panel discussion on “Berg: His Life and Career” and attend a performance with commentary on “Eros and Thanatos,” the conflicting drives that Freud identified as governing human nature.
Highlights of this weekend include Program 1 on Friday evening, titled “The Path of Expressive Intensity,” with Christine Goerke singing seven early songs written by Berg between 1905 and 1908; and the famous Lyric Suite (1925–26), which Berg secretly dedicated to his lover. Program 3 on Saturday evening, titled “Mahler and Beyond,” includes Berg’s Violin Concerto, with Akiko Suwanai, violin; and Berg's Altenberg Lieder, with Christiane Libor, soprano.
“The Orchestra Reimagined” – the weekend’s final program, on Sunday at 5:30 pm – features Berg’s Kammerkonzert of 1923-25, his first work to use a tone row, alongside similarly pared-down orchestral works by Schoenberg, Busoni, and Hindemith.
On Thursday, August 19, the Bard Spiegeltent will present Bard Music Festival Program 8, “You Can't Be Serious! Viennese Popular Music and Operetta.” Works by Alban Berg, Franz Schreker, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and others will trace the history of light opera, or operetta, and its roots and influences leading up to the development of the American musical in the 1930’s. Program 8 will be repeated on Saturday, August 21 in Olin Hall.
For tickets and additional program information go to fishercenter.bard.edu, or call the box office at 845-758-7900.
Reviewing a previous season of the festival, a critic for the New York Times reported, “As impressive as many of the festival performances were, they were matched by the audience’s engagement: strangers met and conversed, analyzing the music they’d heard with sophistication, and a Sunday-morning panel discussion of gender issues in 19th-century culture drew a nearly full house. All told, it was a model for an enlightened society.”