In 2017, Professor Martyn Harry, Tutorial Fellow in Music, was commissioned by the Alban Berg Ensemble to do a compositional reworking of Alban Berg's Bruchstücke aus "Wozzeck" for only seven players - flute, clarinet, piano and string quartet - with support from the Alban Berg Foundation.
Berg's original piece is scored for soprano and very large orchestra, lasting twenty minutes. Rather in the manner of Britten's "Sea Interludes" its three movements are excerpts of characteristic arias and scenes directly taken from "Wozzeck": comprising respectively Act 1 Scenes 2 and 3, Act 3 Scene 1, as well as Act 3 Scenes 4 and 5.
Professor Harry says:
'My main challenge was how to create idiomatic chamber music out of material that was originally conceived for orchestra, and for the character of Wozzeck's wife, Marie. My solution was to create a solo stand at the front where instruments can come forward to perform the singer's arias. This quasi-singing role is taken on by the flute in the first movement and the viola in the second. The third movement consists of my transcription of the famous finale D minor interlude, followed by the concluding scene where children tease Marie's now orphaned child. The children's taunts are voiced in this instance by the clarinet. The result is an incredibly virtuosic score, which I hope will bring out the best from the remarkable players of the Alban Berg Ensemble, a successor group to the world-famous Alban Berg Quartet that was also originally founded by the Alban Berg Foundation.'
The piece is being premiered in places associated closely with Alban Berg. On Thursday 10th May its world premiere took place at the opening concert of the first-ever annual "Bergfrühling" (Berg Spring) chamber music festival in the composer's home town of Kärnten in the south of Austria. The piece received its Viennese premiere at Musikverein on Saturday 19th May.