Composers Datebook®

with host John Zech

Wednesday, April 19

Webern conducts Berg

Synopsis

Alban Berg's Violin Concerto had its first performance in Barcelona, Spain, on today's date in 1936, at the opening concert of that year's International Society for Contemporary Music Festival. Berg had died the previous winter, and the premiere was supposed to be conducted by his close friend and fellow composer, Anton Webern, but Webern withdrew at the last minute, reportedly upset with the quality of the Spanish orchestra. And so Hermann Scherchen conducted the first performance, with the violinist who had commissioned the work, Louis Krasner, as the soloist.

Krasner was born in the Ukraine, but raised in America, and, in addition to commissioning Violin Concertos and premiering them, served for a time as the concertmaster of the Minneapolis Symphony under Dimitri Mitropoulos. He later taught at Syracuse University and the New England Conservatory of Music.

In the spring of 1976, Louis Krasner was cleaning out his attic, and discovered he still had some private acetate discs he had made of the SECOND performance of the Berg Violin Concerto. The old discs documented a May 1st, 1936 radio broadcast of the new work by the BBC Symphony, with Krasner once again the soloist. This time the conductor WAS Anton Webern. The 40-year old discs were transcribed to tape, and eventually were released on CD in 1991, allowing posterity a chance to listen in as music history was being made.

Music Played in Today's Program

Alban Berg (1885 – 1935) Violin Concerto Louis Krasner, violin; BBC Symphony; Anton Webern, cond. Testament/Continuum 1004

Additional Information

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