<br><h3> Chapter One </h3> Berg's Worlds <p> CHRISTOPHER HAILEY <p> <p> Vienna is not the product of successive ages but a layered composite of its <i>accumulated</i> pasts. Geography has made this place a natural crossroads, a point of cultural convergence for an array of political, economic, religious, and ethnic tributaries. By the mid-nineteenth century the city's physical appearance and cultural characteristics, its customs and conventions, its art, architecture, and literature presented a collage of disparate historical elements. Gothic fervor and Renaissance pomp sternly held their ground against flights of rococo whimsy, and the hedonistic theatricality of the Catholic Baroque took the pious folk culture from Austria's alpine provinces in worldly embrace. Legends of twice-repelled Ottoman invasion, dreams of Holy Roman glories, scars of ravaging pestilence and religious persecution, and the echoes of a glittering congress that gave birth to the post-Napoleonic age lingered on amid the smug comforts of Biedermeier domesticity. The city's medieval walls had given way to a broad, tree-lined boulevard, the Ringstrasse, whose eclectic gallery of historical styles was not so much a product of nineteenth-century historicist fantasy as the stylized expression of Vienna's multiple temporalities. <p> To be sure, the regulation of the Danube in the 1870s had channeled and accelerated its flow and introduced an element of human agency, just as the economic boom of the <i>Grnderzeit</i> had introduced opportunities and perspectives that instilled in Vienna's citizens a new sense of physical and social mobility. But on the whole, the Vienna that emerged from the nineteenth century lacked the sense of open-ended promise that characterized the civic identities of midwestern American cities like Chicago or St. Louis, or European upstarts like Berlin. This was certainly true in a physical sense because to the east, north, and west Vienna's growth was checked by wetlands and alpine foothills. But the containment was temporal as well. It was as if Vienna were approaching a kind of saturation point in which density, not sprawl, would be the strategy for accommodating modernity. <p> The City <p> Vienna's inner city, the <i>Innenstadt</i>, was all that had once been contained within the walls and fortifications that, in another age, had meant the difference between survival and destruction. Now this cluttered warren of shops and churches, apartments and palaces, here the traces of periwigged elegance, there the vestiges of an ancient Jewish ghetto, was suddenly free to look out upon the world past the open spaces and hulking monuments of the Ringstrasse, past its rows of trees and manicured parks toward the surrounding districts of the <i>Vorstadt</i>. The <i>Innenstadt</i> was Vienna's core, the site of its vast bureaucracy from the imperial court to the myriad ministries that managed the immense, multinational Austro-Hungarian Empire. Within or arrayed along the Ringstrasse were also the institutions of the city's cultural memory, its libraries, archives, museums, and theaters, its schools, academies, university, and conservatory-in short, all that embodied the attainments of ages past. But what brought it all to life were those narrower apertures of the moment, often shoehorned into narrow streets, a cramped courtyard, or along its bustling streets: the editorial offices of its newspapers, the frayed headquarters of its clubs and political organizations, the huddled confabulations of the <i>Fiaker</i> stand, and, above all, the edgy <i>Gemtlichkeit</i> of the coffeehouse. These were the organs of Vienna's self-reflection, its purchase upon the present. <p> Berg was born in the very heart of Vienna's central first district. By economic class, religious upbringing, and educational background, he enjoyed a degree of material comfort, social integration, and professional entitlement that set him apart from many of his colleagues within the Schoenberg circle, and most especially from Arnold Schoenberg himself. Though Berg was an indifferent student who had to repeat two grades and had no ambition toward achieving a university degree, he was an obsessive reader. In her Berg "Dokumentation" prepared late in life, Helene Berg is at pains to frame her husband's early aspirations within the bourgeois cult of <i>Bildung</i>, or self-betterment through cultural edification: <p> Since his family had an excellent library young Alban grew up in a world filled with "wonders," that is, immortal works by our great musicians and thinkers! From these he also absorbed those lasting life <i>values</i> that deeply influenced his spiritual and intellectual development. Thus, barely 16 years old, he had a thorough knowledge of all classical music and was exceptionally well read. There are 11 volumes [...] filled with the most profound and beautiful maxims from the Bible, our great poets, philosophers, and musicians, which Alban copied out between the ages of 15 and 20 in order to be able to read and ponder them always. <p> <p> In Berg's "Von der Selbsterkenntnis" (Of Self-Knowledge), each quotation is assigned a category such as "Beauty" or "Longing" and all are carefully, even pedantically cataloged and cross-referenced. Berg's love of methodical detail is a reflection of his own, sometimes ponderous habits of mind. These habits were cultivated amid bourgeois comforts and pleasures that Berg could not do without, though they might be husbanded when reduced means dictated ascetic privation. But there is pleasure, too, in the savored indulgence, and this was much in keeping with Berg's love of minutiae. His life rocked gently in the wake of <i>Grnderzeit</i> opulence. He, too, had a book-lined study-as we see in his <i>Night (Nocturne)</i>, introduced in this volume by Regina Busch-and his devotion to his library bespeaks a deeper longing for guidance and the confirmation conferred by authority. In this Berg was a child of an age in which home libraries, the clutter of treasured possessions, and the admonitory gaze of hallowed figures peering down from walls or bookcases reflected a world of interdependent, overlapping social, cultural, and historical sureties. Berg's social psyche was predicated upon the pervasive imbrications of this collective order; his moral compass was set by figures who challenged its authenticity. <p> From an early age, perhaps exacerbated by the loss of his father in 1900, Berg was drawn to forceful personalities, to writers like Gerhart Hauptmann, Henrik Ibsen, and August Strindberg. Central, however, were four men Soma Morgenstern described as Berg's <i>Hausgtter</i>-Gustav Mahler, Karl Kraus, Adolf Loos, and Schoenberg-all of whom exercised a powerful influence in shaping his intellectual and aesthetic universe. They offered orientation, prescription, points of affiliation, and the articulation of deeply held experience. But there was something more, for these were outsiders (three of the four were Jews) who had forced their way into the inner sanctums of Viennese culture and proceeded to castigate the moneylenders in the temples at which they all worshipped. These were scourges of society, Berg's society, who provided conduits for his self-righteous anger. It was an anger that bordered at times on self-loathing. <p> Berg chose these <i>Hausgtter</i> not out of elective affinity but from a pronounced obsession with self-discovery. Consider by contrast Schoenberg, Mahler, Kraus, or Loos. These were men of conquest who erected defiant bastions on terrain they won and held. They found allies and engendered fierce loyalties, but they also made and cultivated enemies. Berg, on the other hand, held no ground, was forever pulling back, lacking the talent for making enemies. Not that he shrank from engaging in polemical battles-as in his public attack on Hans Pfitzner or his debates with the music critic Julius Korngold-but he staked his terrain in others' names, never his own. In other issues, such as politics, he was considerably more circumspect, so very unlike his chosen mentors. <p> In their presence Berg could be diffident to the point of obsequiousness. He himself was not a scintillating conversationalist, but was content to sit listening in the background, a tendency exacerbated by his physical self-consciousness. His height was an embarrassment in a world of short men. Moreover, vain as he was, he spent a lifetime cultivating a sensitive, sensuous mouth, whose half-closed lips concealed an awkward and silly gap between his front teeth that undermined his studied likeness to Oscar Wilde. To the acute awareness of his size and appearance were added a perception of internal frailty: he had chronic bouts with asthma and was firm in his belief that his heart was weak and undersized. <p> To Berg's pantheon of <i>Hausgtter</i> Morgenstern adds a fifth name: Peter Altenberg, the apostle of <i>Natrlichkeit</i>, a "character" at once provocative and intensely vulnerable, whose eccentricities bespoke a kind of nave authenticity to which Berg may have aspired but could never emulate. It is through Altenberg that Berg indulged his own vulnerabilities and slipped most easily from Vienna's <i>Innenstadt</i> into other, more private environments. <p> <p> The Suburb <p> In the organism that was Vienna, its outermost districts were like lungs, literally cleansing the air through a belt of green but also absorbing ideas flowing in and out of the inner city through the filtering membranes of civic memory. And that daily, rhythmic act of expansion and contraction, going down into the city-<i>hinunter in die Stadt</i>-and returning home again along the spokes and arteries radiating from the center and into the crooked weave of neighborhoods, was to slip back and forth in time. To look up from the Ringstrasse into that green haze on the hills that announced spring, or watch autumn disappear as limbs grew bare and the fields above turned brown, was to reconnect with nature's cycles. And to pass through the <i>Vorstadt</i> to the <i>Vororte</i>, to communities like Hietzing that bled into the countryside beyond, was an ever-present reminder of life outside Vienna-not of the larger world, not that "Drauen" beyond the borders of the land-but of that alpine <i>Hinterland</i> and the pastures along the Danube from which the city took its deepest breaths. <p> If the "memory" of Vienna's <i>Innenstadt</i> was the past on display, a feast for the eye and the imagination upon the fullness of time, there was in the <i>Vororte</i>, those districts beyond the outer perimeter, a different kind of memory, less public, less constructed, shot through with those little anachronisms from the living past that anchor recall in the particularities of place. Here everyday experience offered a refuge for memory under siege from those insistent abstractions and agendas of modernity. Here those barriers of class, culture, education, or generation so carefully cultivated in the <i>Innenstadt</i> melted away in daily interactions in shops and markets, on park benches or in trams, among neighbors, in social and family circles, through myriad religious, cultural, or civic affiliations. Compared to the outsized scale of the Ringstrasse, the outer districts represented a parallel universe from another age, still cut to human dimensions and flowing at a slower pace. It was the premodern world extolled by Ringstrasse critic Camillo Sitte, the theorist of urban planning who championed organic growth, the picturesque square and winding street against the tyranny of the apartment block and soulless boulevard. <p> For twenty-five years, from 1911 until his death, Berg lived in just such a time-forgotten world, in the quiet, leafy Viennese district of Hietzing in a parterre apartment located on what Heinrich Jalowetz described as "a hidden suburban lane that always seemed to conceal its approach from the visitor." During his studies with Berg, Theodor Adorno made his way there twice a week: <p> At the time I thought the street incomparably beautiful. With its plane trees it reminded me, in a way I would find difficult to explain to day, of Czanne; now that I am older it has not lost its magic for me. When I went to Vienna again after my return from emigration and looked for Trauttmansdorffgasse I got lost and retraced my steps to my starting point at the Hietzing church; then I simply took off without thinking, blindly as it were, relying on my subconscious memory, and found my way there in just a few minutes. <p> <p> For Berg, Hietzing was the world of habits and routine, family, friendships, entanglements-and secrets. <p> Berg's earlier life followed him here. He remained closely involved in family affairs, his own and, increasingly, those of his wife. And despite crises, feuds, even lawsuits, he accepted the responsibilities of a husband, son, brother, uncle, and in-law with the same dogged persistence that characterized his attention to detail in his music. He never lost touch with the schoolmates and acquaintances of his youth, including his fatherly mentor, Hermann Watznauer, whose interest in Berg was tinged with a homoeroticism that may have been reciprocated. Throughout his life Berg inspired devotion from friends and colleagues, and he cultivated close relationships with his students, several of whom he enlisted as couriers in his marital infidelities. <p> These romantic entanglements, only intermittently physical, were largely relegated to correspondence where he could indulge in adolescent fantasies at a safe remove. His capacity for hopeless infatuation is as evident in his courtship of Helene Nahowski as it is in his relationship with Hanna Fuchs-Robettin. Helene Berg was wise enough to look the other way when her husband went in search of stimulus for his flagging creative potency. He made no intellectual demands upon the objects of his affection or indeed upon those with whom he socialized. He was quite content to sit in on a good round of gossip with his wife and her friends, and though he could be blunt in his assessment of Alma Mahler's flawed character, he adored her company. Their friendship had a central significance for Berg's creative life, which Leon Botstein explores in his provocative discussion of <i>Lulu</i>. <p> Like so many of his Viennese contemporaries, Berg was obsessed with the issue of social morality. He had absorbed the sexual theories of Kraus, Freud, and Otto Weininger, and had read the works of Altenberg and Arthur Schnitzler in which sexual hypocrisy and complex gender relationships are constant preoccupations. It is a world that Berg knew well, having fathered an illegitimate child with a servant girl at the age of eighteen. Moreover, his sister was an outspoken lesbian and his mother-in-law was once the emperor's mistress. Berg loved the role of confidant at the center of these <i>liaisons dangereuses</i>. <p> Berg's capacity for excusing human foibles, his own and those of others, reflects the moral largesse of an avowed sensualist. This is readily apparent in his attention to his appearance and dress, as well as his tastes in food and drink, art and literature. In his youth his favorite painting was Correggio's highly charged <i>Jupiter and Juno</i> and throughout his life he retained an aesthete's tactile delight in handicrafts and graphic design, for which he himself showed a decided flair. This is not to say he did not love technology and modern gadgets. He went regularly to the cinema, was inordinately pleased with his first typewriter, listened with delight to the radio and the phonograph, and took childlike glee in owning his own automobile. But he was devoted to the refined sensibilities of another age, to the aesthetic pleasure and meticulous pride one takes in slow, careful craftsmanship. <p> Tucked away in the folds of the rational, technological world that Berg craved were currents of mysticism and the occult, matters of earnest inquiry in Berg's Vienna and reliable topics of titillation around <i>Kaffee und Kuchen</i>. Berg also studied the psycho-biological works of Wilhelm Fliess, consumed the nature writings of Strindberg and Maeterlinck, finding all about him, in the world he observed, confirmation for their theories. He himself was a firm believer in numerology and astrology, and, like Schoenberg and Webern, was stirred by the mystical reveries of Honor de Balzac's <i>Sraphita</i>. He was therefore not at all surprised when, in September 1929, he received a letter from one Gnter Marstrand informing him of his suspicion that "the composer of <i>Wozzeck</i> and none other" was the reincarnation of the Habsburg emperor Charles the Fifth. From the correspondence that followed over the next two months it would appear that Berg took a supportive interest in the project, in the course of which it emerged he was indeed the reincarnation of Charles V, that members of the emperor's court had been reborn into the Schoenberg circle, and that Schoenberg himself was the latest iteration of the emperor's mother, the mad Queen Juana. Berg declined Marstrand's subsequent offer to collaborate on a reincarnation opera, whose libretto involved Brutus, Charles the Bold, Robert Schumann, and the Arctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott, but one could argue that both <i>Wozzeck</i> and <i>Lulu</i> imply a kind of eternal cycle of return. What intrigued Berg was the interrelationship between human destiny and a higher natural order as revealed in astrological movements, numerological relationships, and cyclic patterns that fed his own obsessions for order and meaning, obsessions buried deep in the technical procedures and structure of his works, as Douglas Jarman shows in this volume in his discussion of Berg's fascination with retrograde forms. <p> <i>(Continues...)</i> <p> <p> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>ALBAN BERG AND HIS WORLD </b> Copyright © 2010 by Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission.<br> All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.