Alban Berg

Pieces (4) for clarinet & piano, Op. 5

    Description by Alexander Carpenter

    Alban Berg's Four Pieces for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 5 (1913) are the composer's only true miniatures. Many musicologists and biographers date these pieces from the spring of 1913, but according to Berg's wife, they were completed in June --a n important distinction, since the latter was the month of Berg's fateful meeting with his former teacher, Arnold Schoenberg. Musicologists have documented Berg's trip to Berlin in 1913, which included a traumatic encounter with Schoenberg. It is presumed that Schoenberg roundly criticized his slavish disciple, attempting to discourage him from composing songs and small-scale works, and encouraging him toward extended instrumental composition. Musicologist Brian Archibald has remarked that Schoenberg likely delivered some "strong criticism of Berg's recent work, and possibly even of his personality."

    Schoenberg's harsh rebuke of Berg may indeed have been triggered by Berg's Op. 5 miniatures. Archibald notes the irony in Schoenberg's attack on Berg in light of the fact that Berg's Four Pieces were strongly influenced by Schoenberg's own set of miniatures, the Six Little Piano Pieces, Op. 19 (1911). Berg's fellow Schoenberg pupil, Anton Webern, also wrote a number of miniatures, and indeed his music became best-known for its concise expressivity, its cool character, angular melodies, and pointillistic texture. In contrast, Berg's miniatures -- and indeed, his music in general -- are decidedly more Romantic in gesture, texture, and timbre. The Four Pieces are very brief and complex; Berg abandons motivic connections in favor of deep structural relationships beneath a perpetually moving surface. As with most of Berg's early works, there is a preponderance of quartal and whole-tone harmonies; like the String Quartet, Op. 3 (1910), the Four Pieces undergo constant changes in tempi, dynamics, and articulation according to Berg's intricate instructions (which sometimes change from beat to beat). The first and last of the Four Pieces are the longest, flanking a slow second piece and a scherzo.

    The Four Pieces were not performed until 1919, when they received their premier, despite Schoenberg's earlier admonishments, at a meeting of Schoenberg's Society for Private Musical Performances in Vienna.


    1. Mässig - Langsam
    2. Sehr langsam
    3. Sehr rasch (w/Landler as Trio)
    4. Langsam

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Orchid Classics ORC 100077
    2017 Vermeer VRM 40009
    2017 Mark / Mark Custom Recording 51608 MCD
    2017 Deutsche Grammophon 4797371
    2016 Melodiya MELCD 1002242
    2015 Melodiya MELCD 1002310
    2015 Ars Produktion / Ars Produktion ARS 38182
    2015 Centaur Records CRC 3393
    2014 Harmonia Mundi HMX 290871015
    2012 MDG / Zebralution
    2012 Audite AUDITE 21412
    2011 Paul Green PJGLADG
    2011 Genuin 11198
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Soundset 1030
    2009 Metier 28505
    2008 Brilliant Classics 8999
    2007 Tudor Records 7076
    2007 EMI Classics
    2007 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 0946381771
    2006 Harmonia Mundi 901930
    2005 Harmonia Mundi 911853
    2004 Summit Records 394
    2004 Centaur Records 2590
    2004 MDG 6131217
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 474 657-2GB8
    2003 EMI Music Distribution 557523-2
    2003 Arts Music 47586
    2003 Naxos 8557232
    2000 Deutsche Grammophon 463 599-2GH
    2000 Koch International Classics 7496
    1999 Arsis 97017
    1998 Tall Poppies 086
    1997 Camerata Records 30CM454
    1996 Caprice Records 21551
    1996 Deutsche Grammophon 4471122
    1995 Doron Music 3014
    Accord 200552
    Chandos 9999
    EMI Music Distribution 557524
    REM 311239