February 9, 1885: Alban Maria Johannes Berg is born at the Schönbrunner House at Tuchlauben 8 in Vienna, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the third of four children born to Conrad Berg, proprietor of a book and art store, and Johanna Maria Anna Braun, daughter of a court jeweler.
July 23, 1900: A few months after his father’s death, Alban Berg (15) suffers his first asthma attack, a condition which will continue through his life. From this date, the number 23 will have a mystical significance for him.
October 15, 1904: Arnold Schoenberg (30) begins a course “for professionals and serious amateurs” in harmony and counterpoint in Vienna, along with Alexander von Zemlinsky (analysis and instrumentation) and Dr. Elsa Bienenfeld (music history). One of his students is Alban Berg (19), who was brought to the attention of Schoenberg by the young man’s brother and sister. Upon seeing Berg’s compositions, Schoenberg invites him to the course free of charge.
October 18, 1904: Alban Berg (19) enrolls in a course in accounting at the University of Vienna. He will need this certification to become a civil servant.
May 29, 1905: Alban Berg (20) is present for a private performance of Pandora’s Box, a play by Frank Wedekind, in Vienna. It has been banned from public theatres because of its licentious story. The name of the heroine is Lulu. See 2 June 1937.
October 7, 1906: Because of the inheritance from a recently deceased aunt, Alban Berg (21) quits his job as an accountant for the government of Lower Austria.
November 7, 1907: At an evening devoted to the music of the students of Arnold Schoenberg (33) at the Saal des Gremius of the Wiener Kaufmannschaft, Alban Berg (22) makes his first appearance as composer. Berg’s works premiered include the three songs, Liebesode (words by Hartleben), Die Nachtigall (words by Storm), and Traumgekrönt (words by Rilke), and the Double Fugue for string quartet and piano. The Piano Quintet of Anton von Webern (23) is also premiered.
July 1, 1908: Alban Berg (23) presents himself before Army medical examiners in Vienna and is declared unfit for military service.
November 8, 1908: Variations on an Original Theme for piano by Alban Berg (23) is performed for the first time, in Vienna.
August 8, 1909: Alban Berg (24) witnesses a performance of Parsifal in Bayreuth. He writes to his wife that it made a “gigantic, vivifying and shattering impression” on him. (Floros, 58)
April 24, 1911: Disciples of Arnold Schoenberg (36) figure prominently in a performance at the Ehrbarsaal, Vienna. Premiered this evening are two works by Alban Berg (26), the Piano Sonata op.1 and the String Quartet op.3, along with the Four Pieces for violin and piano op.7 by Anton von Webern (27).
May 3, 1911: Alban Berg (26) marries Helene Nahowski, the daughter of an Austrian civil servant, in the Swiss Reform Church, Dorotheergasse, Vienna. The bride’s father is so opposed to the marriage (on the grounds of Berg’s ill health and lack of profession) that as a condition of his consent, the couple must become Protestant, in order to facilitate a divorce. They will return to Catholicism and remarry in the Church before Berg enters the army in 1915.
March 31, 1913: A concert in the Musikvereinsaal, Vienna is planned to include Anton von Webern’s (29) Six Pieces for large orchestra op.6 (premiere), Four Orchestral Songs by Alexander von Zemlinsky, the Chamber Symphony op.9 by Arnold Schoenberg (38), two of the Five Orchestral Songs op.4 by Alban Berg (28) to words of Altenberg, and the Kindertotenlieder of Gustav Mahler (†1). During and following the Webern, opposing parties applaud and hiss. After the Schoenberg, whistles on door keys are added to the din, as are fights in the second balcony. Berg’s work elicits laughter from some audience members. Schoenberg, who is conducting at this point, stops Berg’s music, turns to the audience and threatens that all demonstrators will be evicted by force. This announcement causes the fighting to begin anew, including several demands for satisfaction on the field of honor. Webern shouts from his box that “all the baggage should be thrown out.” Opponents of the music suggest that proponents would best be served by a term in the Steinhof insane asylum. The President of the Academic Association for Literature and Music pleads with the audience to at least honor the memory of Mahler by listening to his Kindertotenlieder. He is forced to withdraw under a barrage of insults. Several audience members then storm the stage, causing the musicians to end the performance for the sake of their well being. The riot continues for another thirty minutes, as several differences of artistic opinion are settled in the street. See 24 January 1953.
May 5, 1914: Alban Berg (29) witnesses a performance of Büchner’s play Wozzeck at the Residenz Theatre, Vienna. He decides immediately that he will compose an opera on this play. “What affects me so, is not only the fate of this poor man, who is exploited and tormented by the whole world, but also the incredible density of mood in each scene.” (Floros, 160)
July 20, 1914: Over a year after he first heard Pierrot Lunaire, Alban Berg (29) writes to Arnold Schoenberg (39), “I only know that on the two occasions when I heard Pierrot I was conscious of the deepest impression ever made on me by a work of art, and that the enigmatic power of these pieces has left indelible traces on my mind.” (Jarman, 106)
November 8, 1914: Alban Berg (29) records, “Today I saw a long column of wounded soldiers—horrible. And soon afterwards a company of soldiers shouting and singing on their way to the front. These are memories that won’t be wiped out in a hurry. I sometimes feel here as if I were living outside this world.”
January 13, 1915: An earthquake centered around Avezzano, Italy causes 29,980 deaths. Alban Berg (29) will write to Arnold Schoenberg (40), “Here God has for once demonstrated how without any human contribution—within 10 seconds—he can dictate a ‘list of casualties’ of which even the nations that have been warring for months cannot have any conception.” (Floros, 57-58)
August 14, 1915: Alban Berg (30) reports for an Army medical examination in Vienna and is found fit to serve.
November 6, 1915: After a month of training camp in the Austro-Hungarian army at Bruck an der Leitha, Alban Berg (30) suffers acute asthma attacks and a bronchial catarrh. He is immediately hospitalized.
December 20, 1915: Medically unfit to be sent to the front, Alban Berg (30) reports for guard duty in Vienna.
June 26, 1916: Because of his continuing bad health, the Austrian military declares Alban Berg (31) fit only for desk work.
October 17, 1919: Four Pieces for clarinet and piano op.5 by Alban Berg (34) are performed for the first time, by the Society for Private Performances, Vienna.
September 1, 1920: Alban Berg (35) enters his contract as editor of the house newspaper of Universal Edition, Musikblätter des Anbruch. Unfortunately, he is presently in a sanitarium for his lung ailment and nerves.
November 8, 1920: Alban Berg (35) is released from a sanitarium but never takes up his post as editor of the house newspaper of Universal Edition, Musikblätter des Anbruch. He will go back to work for Schoenberg’s (46) Society for Private Performances.
September 1, 1921: Alban Berg (36) becomes the editor of the house journal of Universal Edition, Vienna, Die Musikblätter des Anbruch.
April 11, 1923: Through the intercession of Alma Mahler, Universal Edition accepts Alban Berg’s (38) Wozzeck and Three Orchestral Pieces for publication.
June 11, 1924: Drei Bruchstücke aus Wozzeck for soprano and orchestra by Alban Berg (39) are performed for the first time, in Frankfurt-am-Main.
May 14, 1925: Alban Berg (40) travels to Prague for a performance of his music from Wozzeck. He will stay for a week as the guest of Herbert von Fuchs-Robettin and his wife Hanna. Berg considers this a turning point in his life. He begins a romantic relationship with Hanna Fuchs-Robettin.
May 20, 1925: While in Prague, Alban Berg (40) confesses his love to Hanna Fuchs-Robettin. In July he will write to her, “I am no longer myself since this greatest of events. I have become a madman staggering about with an ever pounding heart, to whom everything, yes, everything that once moved him…has become completely indifferent, inexplicable even hateful…One thought alone animates me, one desire, one longing: you!” (Floros, 66)
December 11, 1925: The Berliner Morgenpost reports that recently, Alban Berg (40) risked his life to save another person from an oncoming train at the Friedrichstadt subway.
December 14, 1925: Wozzeck op.7, an opera by Alban Berg (40) to words of Büchner, is performed for the first time, in the Berlin Staatsoper. During the performance disturbances break out including hisses, whistles, and fistfights. The critics are also divided.
November 6, 1926: In Prague for a performance of Wozzeck, Alban Berg (41) downs some alcohol and attempts to find the house of his ferne geliebte Hanna Fuchs-Robettin. He wanders through the city for hours, sometimes misdirected, and manages to reach it after midnight. He walks around the house but refrains from entering and makes it back to his hotel at 03:00. Berg calls it “a night of madness.”
November 14, 1926: Before leaving Prague, Alban Berg (41) writes a letter to Herbert Fuchs-Robettin telling him that although he “reveres” Fuchs’ wife, he is not “capable of any action touching your honor and that of your house.” (Floros, 45)
November 29, 1926: After disturbances rocked the third Prague performance of Wozzeck by Alban Berg (41), city authorities ban further productions of the opera.
January 8, 1927: Lyric Suite for string quartet by Alban Berg (41) is performed for the first time, in Vienna. It is a great success.
November 6, 1928: An orchestration of the Seven Early Songs for voice and orchestra by Alban Berg (43) is performed for the first time, in Vienna, 20 years and more after they were originally composed.
January 31, 1929: Alban Berg’s (43) Three Pieces from the Lyric Suite, for orchestra, is performed for the first time, in Berlin.
June 4, 1930: Der Wein for solo voice and orchestra by Alban Berg (45) to words of Baudelaire (tr. George), is performed for the first time, in Königsberg.
June 21, 1932: After conducting a concert in Vienna of works by Schoenberg (57), Berg (47), and Mahler (†21), Anton Webern (48) is admitted to the Rudolfsstiftung for diagnostic evaluation. He fainted during the last rehearsal for this performance. After twelve days, no physical problem is found and he is diagnosed as having a “nervous condition.” The composer will undergo “cures” at various establishments through the summer.
May 9, 1933: Joseph Haas of the Allgemeiner Deutscher Musikverein writes to Alban Berg (48), telling him that “you, Herr Berg, are the exponent of an artistic direction to which the German national movement is most vociferously opposed. The central committee respects your artistic beliefs but sees no way for you to continue to represent those convictions in the music selection committee. For that reason the central committee has concluded that the most forthright way to resolve this tricky question would be for those members of the music selection (including you), who are likely to become the focus of the debate, to offer their voluntary resignations now.” (Hailey, Berg, 22)
May 17, 1933: Pursuant to a letter of 9 May, Alban Berg (48) resigns from the Allgemeiner Deutscher Musikverein, and sends proof that he is not Jewish.
November 30, 1934: After overcoming great political difficulties, Five Symphonic Pieces from Lulu, the unperformed opera by Alban Berg (49), are performed for the first time, in Berlin. Press and public are strongly divided, some voicing loud opinions at the close of the performance. One patron shouts “Heil, Mozart!” The conductor, Erich Kleiber, responds, “You are mistaken, the piece was by Alban Berg.” In a few days, Kleiber, will resign his post as conductor of the Berlin Staatsoper due to the artistic restraints of the Nazi regime.
April 22, 1935: Manon Gropius, 18 year-old daughter of Alma (Schindler) Mahler Gropius, dies in Vienna. This event will lead Alban Berg (50) to compose a violin concerto in her honor.
September 1, 1935: The Nazi Party sends out one of several letters listing composers whose music is considered degenerate and may not be played. Among those honored are Erik Satie (†10), Ernst Bloch (55), Joseph Matthias Hauer (52), Alfredo Casella (52), Alban Berg (50), Kurt Weill (35), Ernst Krenek (35), and Aaron Copland (34).
December 11, 1935: Alban Berg (50), in considerable pain, attends the Vienna premiere of the Lulu “Symphony”. It is the last music he will hear.
December 16, 1935: The pain which Alban Berg (50) has been suffering for months suddenly leaves him. The abscess which has been causing the pain has burst internally, creating general blood poisoning.
December 17, 1935: Alban Berg (50) is admitted to a Vienna hospital suffering from blood poisoning. Doctors immediately operate, but the source of the malady can not be found.
December 22, 1935: After spending a few restful and improving days in hospital after a blood transfusion, Alban Berg (50) suddenly collapses.
December 24, 1935: 01:15 Alban Maria Johannes Berg dies in the Archduke Rudolf Hospital, Vienna, Republic of Austria, of general septicaemia presumably resulting from an insect bite, aged 50 years, ten months, and 15 days.
April 8, 1936: After a third rehearsal of Alban Berg’s (†0) Violin Concerto in Barcelona, Anton Webern (52), upset by what he sees as the inability of the Catalan musicians to follow his directions, takes the score and locks himself in his hotel room. He gives up the score only when Helene Berg, widow of the composer, on her knees, pleads through tears for his permission to perform the work. Hermann Scherchen will take over tomorrow.
April 19, 1936: Three works are performed for the first time, in Barcelona: Violin Concerto by Alban Berg (†0), composed to the memory of Manon Gropius, Fragmente aus dem Bühnenwerk Karl V for soprano and orchestra by Ernst Krenek (35), and Ariel, a ballet by Roberto Gerhard (39) to a story by Foix and the composer, in a concert setting. In the audience is Benjamin Britten (22).
June 2, 1937: Alban Berg’s (†1) incomplete opera Lulu, to his own words after Wedekind, is performed for the first time, in Zürich.
May 24, 1938: As part of the Reichsmusiktage which began two days ago, an exhibition of degenerate music opens in Düsseldorf. Among the composers enshrined as “cultural bolsheviks” are Arnold Schoenberg (63), Igor Stravinsky (55), Alban Berg (†2), Paul Hindemith (42), Kurt Weill (38), and Ernst Krenek (37).
January 24, 1953: Fünf Orchesterlieder nach Ansichkartentexten von Peter Altenberg by Alban Berg (†17) are performed completely for the first time, in Rome. See 31 March 1913.