WEBERN: Appreciating Anton Webern

A disciple of Schoenberg, Webern’s music has exercised a tremendous influence on contemporary composers, especially Boulez and Stockhausen.

The son of an aristocratic mining engineer (Webern dropped the nobiliary ‘von’ when Austria became a republic after the First World War), it was while he was a student at the University of Vienna that he was introduced to Arnold Schoenberg. The relationship between the two was more friend and disciple than master and pupil and, having produced his official Op 1 (Passacaglia for Orchestra written in the conventional German idiom), he turned to atonalism. His Six Orchestral Pieces, Op 6 (1909, premiered 1913) created a scandal when they were first heard in Vienna. Concision and logic are emphasised – his Five Pieces for orchestra (1913, first performed in 1969) takes only 10 minutes to perform, while the fourth ...

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