Some Thoughts on Lulu
The following communication of interest was submitted by Mr. Filip Herschkowitz, an honorary member of the <Alban Berg> Society residing in Moscow. <...>
The translation <from German> is by Robby Merkin.
The information I can give you concerning Lulu is scanty, and nowadays can be considered almost selfevident by an expert. I was able to obtain the score of this opera some years ago, but have not as yet had time to occupy myself with it, and will, presumably, not be able to for quite a while. Before that there are other tasks which absolutely must be completed.
I attended to the printing of the piano reduction of Lulu prepared by Ervin Stein. I also corrected (together with Greissle, if I'm not mistaken) the copy of score as well as the orchestral parts, in accordance with the manuscript, for the Zürich premier. In connection with the printing of the piano reduction, I had at my disposal for a rather long time not only the manuscript of the score of the first two acts of the opera, but also the particell of its third act. That was a secondary assignment demanding the greatest attention and devotion, often becoming my primary task, without, however, giving rise to genuine study of the work. What I know about Lulu, which is a little but cardinal. I learned from Berg in my lessons with him: that the forms in Lulu are not juxtaposed in succession (as in Wozzeck), but interpenetrate one another. Each acting character of the drama carries a musical form, which intersects form intended for other characters. For example, Dr. Schön is the bearer of the sonata form, whose parts (main theme, secondary theme, etc.) do not follow one another directly, but, as stipulated by the course of the dramatic action, are separated from one another by similary separated parts of the forms belonging to the other characters. That is the information that I can communicate to you. Of course, I have not read this, but heard it, from him who created it without precedent.
In me lives the moment when, reading the galleyproofs of the Lulu piano reduction, I was seized by the colossal beauty of that unique canon which is carried not by two voices, but by one voice and a single piese of stationery: the letter which Lulu dictates to Dr. Schön. Here, for the first time in the history of musik, one canon expresses not a single unit, but a duality: the words of Lulu and the thoughts with which Dr. Schön, submitting himself, reacts to these words. Such a memory is very precious. It forms a narrow connection between past and present, to which it belongs.
In Lulu form would interest me above all. Penetration of the form, however, demands a thorough investigation of the harmony of this work; that is, the scrutiny of its organically conditioned harmonic unity. That the form in Lulu is really form, that it belongs (in the full sense of the word) to the physical essence of this music, must be thoroughly proven, must be thoroughly anchored in our consciousness. Without this proof, the form of Lulu is a paradox, which the ingenious Berg treated in the sense of creative metaphor. On the contrary, however, evidence, which would unequivocably establish that the form is a plant grown out of the soil of tradition, would be a significant, genuine, warm ray of sunshine, of great value to musicology.
In my opinion, it is possible to produce this evidence. Schönberg's Quartet in d-minor and his Chamber Symphony signified a step (that is actually not a first step!) in the direction of the metamorphosis undergone by the musical form in the second act of Berg's opera. The welding together of the parts of the sonata-cycle into an indivisible totality in the above-named work of Schönberg was a preliminary study for Lulu. Already here the "juxtaposition" of forms had necessarily involved their "interpenetration". Hadn't the fusion of the cycle-forming sections enabled some of them to break through the unity of others? Already in Schönberg one can find the scherzo separating the exposition of the sonata-form from its development. Therefore the mutual intercutting of forms in Lulu is no "first born". What is new here is the factor of concrete function for this intercutting of forms. Here, it is the organic bearer of the dramatic events, and this novelty, or better said, the structural function of this novelty must, in my view, be the object of a deep, probing investigation.
Returning again to Schönberg (without, however, leaving Berg), it must be said that the cross-cuting of forms, contingent on the fusion of the parts of the cycle, should be considered from still another standpoint. We must establish that the rule of Schönberg: "every verticality is the result of a corresponding linearity" is not an exclusively harmonic law. This law applies beyond the confines of harmony to the area of form, in which "interpenetration" is an abstract "verticaiity“ - its only possible formal shape!
The "Formgestalt" of Wagner's music-drama was discovered more than 60 years ago by Lorenz (requiring, however, supplementary investigation). Schönberg, Berg, and Webern, the great pioneers in the field of musical form, who also served as epoch-making theorists in the full sense of the word, did not concern themselves with tackling the problem of the musical cycle as such. However their theoretical bequest (whose oral portion, to be sure, was significantly greater than the written) enables us to suspect (and perhaps establish) that the seed contained in the Wagnerian "Formgestalt" came to full fruition in Lulu.
The fact of the matter is that Lulu Is a cycle, exactly like Fidelio. (1 mean a cycle that is identical, as far as its essence is concerned, to the sonata-cycle.) The libretto of this opera has always been spoken of; how terrible it is, how very detrimental it is to the wonderful music it carries. In reality Fidelio exists entirely independent of its libretto. And indeed not as an amorphous collection of wonderful music — "numbers" — but as an indivisible totality. As a Kohinoor of form. In this connection, it is my belief that we still don't have the correct concept of the actual greatness of Beethoven and Mozart. Some of us have researched the nature of the form of isolated parts of the work of these Viennese Masters rather thoroughly, but as far as the connection of these parts is concerned, one can say that only now can the trail be found which will lead to its real comprehension.
- The International Alban Berg Society Newsletter Nr. 7, Fall 1978