World Premiere of Martyn Harry’s New Reworking of Berg

The coming week sees the important premiere of new work by composer Martyn Harry, Associate Professor here at the Music Faculty. He has been commissioned by the Alban Berg Ensemble Wien, with support from the Alban Berg Foundation, to create a compositional reworking of Alban Berg’s Bruchstücke aus “Wozzeck” for only seven players: flute, clarinet, piano and string quartet.

The reworking will receive its world premiere on Thursday 10th May at the opening concert of the first-ever annual “Bergfrühling” (Berg Spring) chamber music festival in the composer’s home town of Kärnten in the south of Austria. The piece will then receive its Viennese premiere at the Musikverein on Saturday 19th May.

Of his piece, Martyn says ‘Berg’s original piece is scored for soprano and orchestra and lasts twenty minutes. Rather in the manner of Britten’s “Sea Interludes” its three movements are excerpts of characteristic arias and scenes directly taken from “Wozzeck”: comprising respectively Act 1 Scenes 2 and 3, Act 3 Scene 1, as well as Act 3 Scenes 4 and 5.

My main challenge was how to create idiomatic chamber music out of material that was originally conceived for orchestra, and for the character of Wozzeck’s wife, Marie. My solution was to create a solo stand at the front where instruments can come forward to perform the singer’s arias. This quasi-singing role is taken on by the flute in the first movement and the viola in the second. The third movement consists of my transcription of the famous finale D minor interlude, followed by the concluding scene where children tease Marie’s now orphaned child. The children’s taunts are voiced in this instance by the clarinet. The result is an incredibly virtuosic score, which I hope will bring out the best from the remarkable players of the Alban Berg Ensemble Wien, a successor group to the world-famous Alban Berg Quartet that was also originally founded by the Alban Berg Foundation.’