Alban Berg

The composer Alban Berg lived from 1885 to 1935. He was born and died in Vienna, Austria. He was one of four children born to Conrad, a successful businessman and property owner, and Johanna, a shop keeper. The family lived well until Conrad’s death in 1900. Family finances became more difficult after his death.

In his early years, Berg was more interested in literature than music and he was not a good student. He did pursue music on his own and taught himself for a while. After finally graduating found himself facing the possibility of working as a civil servant, based partly on his lack of scholarly success. At the age of 17, he fathered a child out of wedlock with a family servant. At the age of 19, his family members were finally able to secure him a position as a student of Schoenberg.

In 1911, Berg finished his formal music studies and continued his musical life connected to the Second Viennese School. 1911 was also the year he married singer Helene Nahowski. Helene’s wealthy and Protestant family had opposed the marriage initially to the underemployed and Catholic Berg. The courtship lasted seven years until her father’s consent was finally won over.

At the age of 50, in 1935 Berg died suddenly of blood poisoning, leaving his opera Lulu unfinished. The third act was almost finished and 2 acts had already been publicly performed, however, Helene refused to allow it to be completed. It was not finished until after Helene’s death in 1976. The complete opera premiered in 1979.

You can hear a taste of Berg’s work when the Daedalus Quartet perform his String Quartet, Op. 3 on November 20th.


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