Alban Maria Johannes Berg was born in 1885 in Vienna, where he died on 24th December 1935. He was the son of an immigrant salesman from Nürnburg. In 1900 Berg – self-taught – began composing. He wrote three songs, which in the next years were followed by a further 87 songs and duets.
In October 1904 he met Schönberg, who accepted him as a pupil, being impressed by to his self-taught compositions. His first public performances were in 1907 and 1908 at concerts organised by Schönberg. He completed his apprenticeship under Schönberg in 1910, with whom he retained a close friendship until his death. In 1911 he married Helene Nahowski and from then on he lived, apart from travelling to see performances of his works, during the winter in Vienna and during the summer in the Austrian Alps, where he supported himself by teaching composition.
In May 1914 Berg saw Büchner’s short theatre piece “Wozzeck” in Vienna and decided to rework it as an opera. However he could only begin rearranging the piece after the First World War, in which he fought. The work was completed in autumn 1921. In 1923 Scherchen suggested the inclusion of a section of the opera (three parts from the 1st and 3rd acts) in a concert program. On 11th June 1924 Scherchen conducted these sections at a large music festival in Frankfurt am Main with this sensational success, making Berg famous overnight.
From 1925 Berg applied himself to twelve tone music. Berg, whose “Wozzeck” was a milestone in the history of opera in the 20th century as the first successful, atonal opera, also devoted time in his atonal and dodecaphonic studies to new composition techniques breaking from traditional thought. The distinctive, sensuous sound of his music, which pushes the strict framework into the background, has contributed to his popularity.