I'm unskilled at German; perhaps translation is the snag. Anyhow, at 6:07, the violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann refers to the tone row in Berg's Violin Concerto as a 'scale'. Is this correct?

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The subtitles are simply wrong. Zimmermann is saying Tonreihe which is a tone row, while an ordinary scale is Tonleiter.


A tone row has serial order, a scale not. They are not interchangeable.


It's wrong to call it a scale. The reason is that a scale has a tonic center, whereas a 12 tone row does not. The former has certain notes that are more "important" than others; for instance the tonic would be the most important note in the scale and the other notes would revolve around it. In a 12 tone row, every note is equal. They are set in a row and they have to be played that way, but in no way does this suggest something like a tonic.

Having said all this, in this specific violin concerto you mentioned, Alban Berg tried to combine the 12 tone technique with the scale and so he used the really strict rules of 12 tone technique in a more free way. This is the row he used:

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You can see that the first 3 notes create the G minor chord. Notes 3 to 5 the D major chord. Notes 5 to 7 the A minor chord. Notes 7 to 9 the E major chord.

Wikipedia explains some ways he used to combine the two techniques if you are interested in reading about it.

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