Summary for Wozzeck by Alban Berg Title: Wozzeck Composer: Alban Maria Johannes Berg (1885-1935) Librettist: George Buchner (1813-1837) Circumstances of composition and place of the work in the composer’s output The roots of Berg’s opera stretch back a century before its creation to 1824, when Johann Christian Woyzeck, soldier, barber and drifter, was publicly beheaded for murder, despite a then-novel defence of insanity stemming from the oppressive turns of his failed life.
The troubling issues of the case gripped Georg Buchner, a young physician, political radical and budding playright, who died of typhoid in 1837 at age 23, leaving unfinished a gritty play envisaging the social pressures Woyzeck had faced. Four decades later, 27 scenes were found, some of only a few lines, but the faded ink, scrawled handwriting and disparities among several fragmentary manuscript drafts posed daunting challenges. In 1914, Alban Berg, an Austrian composer saw a realization in Vienna and was captivated.
His own service in the Austrian military during World War I gave him a sense of Wozzeck’s life as a soldier and provides details for the opera.  Over the next three years, he tightened Buchner’s material into three acts of five scenes to be joined by orchestral interlude and took a final year for the orchestration.  Though Berg began to work on the opera in 1914, he was delayed by the start of World War I and it was not until he was on leave from his regiment in 1917 and 1918 that he was able to devote his attention to it.
Completing Act 1 by the summer of 1919, Act 2 in August 1921, and the final act during the following two month (with orchestration finalized over the following six months), Wozzeck was completed in April 1922.  Wozzeck is regarded as the first opera produced in the 20th century “Avant garde” style and is also one of the most famous examples of employing atonality. Berg was following in the footsteps of his teacher. Arnold Schoenberg, by using free atonality to express emotions and even the thought processes of the characters on the stage.
The expression of madness and alienation was amplified with atonal music. Berg’s bold structure and spare sound stress precision and economy. It is indeed the rawest of any opera.  Berg’s opera presents us with such a “Heightened and distorted” actuality rather than with a documentary realism. There is no attempt in Wozzeck, as there is in Britten’s Peter Grimes for example, to depict the title figure as a misfit in a normal society in which people are going about their everyday business and leading the recognizably ordinary lives.
The picture with which Berg presents us is that of a society in which the underprivileged are at the mercy of an unfeeling, selfish and sadistic ruling class, a class that keeps the less fortunate in their place through its financial domination and its appeals to various moral ideals.  Date and place of first performance Erich Kleiber (1890-1956), the Berlin State Opera institution’s music director, conducted the world premiere at the Berlin State Opera on 14 December 1925.
Reception on first performance and brief subsequent reception history The opera’s first performance received excellent reviews from the audience. It led to a stream of productions in Germany and Austria, before the Nazis consigned it to the dustbin of ‘decadent art’ after 1933. Initially, Wozzeck established a solid place for itself in the mainstream operatic tradition and quickly became so well-established in the repertoire of the major European opera houses that Berg found himself able to live a comfortable life off the royalties.
He spent a good deal of his time through the 1920s and 30s travelling to attend performances and to give talks about the opera. now it is regarded as one of the most successful modern operas and by far the most popular atonal opera.  Vocal and instrumental forces and their deployment Vocal deployment: In Wozzeck Berge employed a style of singing and of declamation totally different from traditional style s of German opera, although foreshadowed in certain passages of the operas of Strauss and Schoenberg.
Berg expounded his views on this subject in his lecture on Wozzeck of 1921: “there are, to be sure, almost no recitatives in my opera. But I believe I have liberally compensated for this omission with the so called “rhythmic declamation: introduced by Schoenberg nearly 20 years ago in the declamatory choruses of “Die Gluckliche hand “ and in the “Melodrama” of his “Pierrot”, which I was the first and for a long time the only person to use on a large scale in opera” . Berge employs in turn different techniques of musical declamation.
They range from emotional “Sprechgesang” in the manner of Wagner and the style of popular song, to the normal speaking intonation of words spoken to synchronized music. Midway between these extremes of vocal expression are the transitional styles of “Sprechstimme” and rhythmic declamation”, used in Schoenberg and expressly mentioned in Berg’s lecture. In the treatment of the voice parts Berg paid special attention to the question of “Intonation”. This becomes particularly noticeable in the rare cantabile sections.
Berg deliberately blurs the outline of melodies in folk style by the intrusion of the atmospheric orchestral background music.  Instrumental deployment: Berg scores for a fairly large orchestra in Wozzeck, and has three onstage ensembles in addition to the large orchestra (a marching band in Act I, Scene 3, a chamber orchestra in Act II, Scene 3, a tavern band in Act II, Scene 4 as well as an upright piano for Act III, Scene 3). The large score contains massive wood wind and brass section which suggests a work rather in line with the mammoth scores of Richard Strauss and early Schoenberg.
However, the orchestral style of Wozzeck differs from that of wager and Strauss chiefly by the fact that its “fortissimo” effects are almost exclusively confined to the interludes between the scenes, while the scenes themselves are accompanied by smaller, selected groups of instruments. For example, the whole first scene, the structure of which closely corresponds with that of the old harpsichord suite is played throughout to the above accompaniment of chamber music line dimensions. The first orchestral tutti occurs in the following orchestral interlude.
This relationship between scene and interlude is found throughout the whole score. Berg also uses a variety of musical techniques to create unity and coherence in the opera. The first is the use of leitmotifs. Each leitmotif is used in a much more subtle manner than being directly attached to a character or object. Even so, motifs for the Captain, the Doctor and the Drum Major are very prominent. Wozzeck is associated with two motifs, one often heard as he rushes on or off stage, the other more languidly expressing his misery and helplessness in the face of the pressures he experiences.
Marie is accompanied by motifs that express her sensuality, as when she accepts a pair of earrings from the Drum major. The most significant motif is first heard sung by Wozzeck himself, to the words ‘Wir arme Leut’ (poor folk like us). Tracing out a minor chord with added major seventh, it is frequently heard as the signal of the inability of the opera’s characters to transcend their situation. Use of the set musical forms Berg decided against the use of the classic operatic forms such as aria or trio for this opera.
Instead, each scene is given its own inner coherence by the use of forms more normally associated with abstract instrumental music. The second scene of Act II for instance, consists of a prelude and triple fugue. The fourth scene of Act I, focusing on Wozzeck and the Doctor, is a set of passacaglia variations. The various scenes of the third act move beyond these structures and adopt novel strategies.  Each scene is a set of variations, but where the term ‘variation’ normally indicates that there is a melody undergoing variation, Berg identifies different musical elements for ‘variation’.
Thus scene two is a variation on a single note (B natural, heard continuously in the scene, and the only note heard in the powerful orchestral crescendos at the end of act two, scene two); scene three is a variation on a rhythmic pattern, with every major thematic element constructed around this pattern; scene four is a variation on a chord, used exclusively for the whole scene; the orchestral interlude is a freely composed passage that is firmly grounded in the key of d minor; the final scene is a moto perpetuum, a variation on a single rhythm. 12] It is then can be said that the opera Wozzeck is a through composed work. ———————–  J. Peter, Burkholder and Claude V. Palisca. Norton Anthology of Western Music. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2010. Print, p. 87  Peter, Guttmann. “Classical Notes-Berg’s Wozzeck, Classical Notes, Peter Gutmann, CD Reviews, Articles, Expaned Goldmine Colums. 2003. Web. 11 Aug. 2011. .  Souster, Tim. Alban Berg and His Life. Cambridge UP, 1969. 65-67. Print.  Peter Guttmann, Op Cite 5] Larry J. Soloman. “Wozzeck. ” Solomons Music Theory Reorusces. Web. 11 Aug. 2011. .  J. Peter, Burkholder and Claude V. Palisca, Op Cite, P. 87  H. F. Redlich. Alban Berg: The Man and His Music. London, 1957. Print. P. 74-110  Ibid, p. 74-110  Ibid, p. 74-110  Larry J. Soloman, Op Cite  Jarman,Douglas. 1979. The Music of Alban Berg. London and Boston: Faber &Faber; Berkeley: University of California press.  J. Peter, Burkholder and Claude V. Palisca, Op Cite, P. 87