A Musical Anniversary

Does a 125th birthday count as a significant anniversary? If so — also if not — today is Alban Berg’s 125th. In commemoration, I’m playing the only really tolerable pieces written by the New Vienna School, Berg’s Violin Concerto and Lyric Suite for String Quartet. Schoenberg, Webern, and Berg published a few other pieces that are not just tolerable but very pleasant, but they are arrangements of Strauss waltzes — the Old Vienna School reworked by the New — so they don’t really count.

So what would we call a 125th birthday? A hemi-demi-semi-millennium, of course.

By the way, ‘Alban’ seems an odd name for a German. I mostly know it from the name of the Alban Mount, southeast of Rome. It’s odd that ‘Berg’ is German for mount(ain), though the mountain is apparently not called the Albanberg in German. The ancient Roman name is singular, Albanus Mons, but German Wikipedia gives the plural ‘Albaner Berge’ as the preferred form, with ‘Albaner Hügel’ and ‘Albanergebirge’ as alternatives. I still wonder if Alban’s father was indulging in a pun: perhaps a native speaker can tell us.

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One Response to A Musical Anniversary

  1. Gene O'Grady says:

    When the second of the three names of a German/Austrian is Maria, any saint’s name probably isn’t odd in the first place.

    In point of fact, the old Catholic cathedral in Denmark and one of the gates of Basel, as well as a town in Southern Germany, are all named Sankt Alban. I mean, we’re looking for the rather peculiar map of Catholic devotion in the middle ages/19th century revival — after all, San Cataldo in Palermo bears the name of an Irish monk.

    One of the good teachers at the rather over sold Catholic high school I attended was named Father Pius. Once the German class worked up the nerve to ask him why he had picked that name. He explained that when he came to be professed at the large abbey of Pannonholma the rule was that each new monk had to take a name from the approved list that wasn’t currently held by a living monk. In his year the alternative name available had been Hyacinth! (Yes, there is a Saint Hyacinth.) I’m sure he would have gone for Alban if it had been offered.

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