Leila Josefowicz on Berg Violin Concerto Second Movement - part 1

LJ-cr-Chris-Lee

ln the first of two articles, Leila Josefowicz explores ideas of feverishness, hallucination, death and resurrection in the second movement of a great 20th-century concerto

This piece is a work of art of the Viennese School. It is dramatic, deeply emotional, genius writing of unbelievable music at the most profound level, and it uses the 12-tone-row serialist technique so masterfully. Please have a full orchestral score on hand as you read this article, so that we can go through it together. Pay close attention to the opening legend, because it forms one of the backbones of 12-tone writing.

The Viennese sound

I first studied the concerto with Felix Galimir at the Curtis Institute of Music when I was 16 years old and he was about 80. That was one of the great experiences of my teens, and from him I got a very clear idea of how I wanted Berg to sound. Galimir came to America to escape the Nazis during the Second World War, but he was from Vienna and he understood the musical inflections of the time. If the waltz at the end of the first movement sounded too refined, for example, he would shout, ‘No, no, no!’ and dance around the room, singing. It wasn’t a buttoned-up, overly elegant waltz; it was rustic, with a growl and a fierceness to it. He would emphasise the bowings and dots to give an Austrian ‘lift’ and authority, without it being too nice or well behaved. He taught me these sounds and showed me that just because something is softer in dynamic, it doesn’t mean it has to be prettier or any less bold.

Read more in The Strad’s December 2019 issue…

Already subscribed? Please sign in

Subscribe to continue reading…

We’re delighted that you are enjoying our website. For a limited period, you can try an online subscription to The Strad completely free of charge.

  • Free 7-day trial

    Not sure about subscribing? Sign up now to read this article in full and you’ll also receive unlimited access to premium online content, including the digital edition and online archive for 7 days.

    No strings attached – we won’t ask for your card details

  • Subscribe - online subscriptions from £4.50/month

    No more paywalls. To enjoy the best in-depth features and analysis from The Strad’s latest and past issues, upgrade to a subscription now. You’ll also enjoy regular issues and special supplements* and access to an online archive of issues back to 2010.

 

* Issues and supplements are available as both print and digital editions. Online subscribers will only receive access to the digital versions.