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Joseph Magil
American Record Guide, March 2009

What makes this release special is the documentary, The Secret Life of Alban Berg. It has become increasingly clear since the death of Berg’s widow Helen Berg in 1976 that Berg had left secret information about his personal life in his music. The first revelation was the love Berg had for Hanna Fuch-Robettin, which was the inspiration for his Lyric Suite. This film has an interview with Hanna’s daughter Dorothea, who appears along with her mother and brother in musical code in the Suite. Dorothea shows the annotated score of the Suite that Berg gave to her mother, with all the secrets marked in color-coded ink: red for Hanna, green for Dorothea, and blue for her brother. She also reads an excerpt from a love letter that Berg wrote to her mother. Dorothea’s sister-in-law, Lesley Fuchs-Robettin, is also interviewed. A relative of Berg, Marie Berg, tells how her husband remarked to her one day that he wished to find his cousin, Berg’s illegitimate daughter Albine. A photo of the young Albine is shown.

When he was 17, Berg had a daughter with his family’s Carinthian servant girl, Marie Scheuchl, and we are shown a picture of her with the Berg family. It is pointed out that the Carinthian ländler quoted in the Violin Concerto is a real folk tune, not one Berg made up, and the rather risque lyrics that go with it refer to a girl named Mizzi, which was the common Viennese nickname for Marie. Finally, we are shown some love letters that I hadn’t even heard about written by Berg to a woman he only identifies as “Annie A”. So the plot thickens. If you are interested in how Berg’s private life is reflected in his music, this documentary is worthwhile.

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