Alban Berg's Violin concerto, dedicated "To the memory of an angel," was composed in 1935. The dedication is not a poetic reference. The "angel" mentioned by the composer is Manon Gropius, daughter of Alma Mahler (Gustav Mahler's ex-wife) and Walter Gropius, architect and founder of the Bauhaus movement. Alban Berg, a close friend of the Gropius couple, was deeply affected by Manon's death, at the early age of 18.
Alban Berg's Concerto for violin is a composition based on a musical series, i. e. a set of twelve tones (the whole chromatic scale) freely organised by the composer. Serial composition was invented by Berg's teacher, Arnold Schoenberg, in order to free composers from the traditional harmonic system. The cornerstone of the whole composition is the musical quotation of a choral work by Bach expressing the distress of human beings in the material world and their hope in salvation through death: "It is enough!/Therefore, Lord, take my spirit/from here to the spirits of Zion." ("Es ist genug!/So nimm, Herr, meinen Geist/zu Zions Geistern hin").
Nathan Milstein's last recital
First Come the Sounds. A film by Christopher Nupen