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 Anton Webern

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Anton Webern

  • Birth 3 Dec 1883
  • Death 15 Sep 1945
  • Burial Mittersill, Zell am See Bezirk, Salzburg, Austria
  • Memorial ID 9362572

Composer. The most radical member of the Second Viennese School, he was a disciple of Arnold Schoenberg and adopted his methods of atonal and later 12-tone (or serial) composition. A supreme miniaturist, his style is aphoristic and intensely concentrated. In a Webern score every note counts, as do the silences between them, and his innovative use of rhythm, pitch, dynamics, and instrumental color creates subtle yet dramatic sonic changes. Most of his compositions last less than 10 minutes, including his Symphony (1928). "Think of the concision which expression in such brief form demands", Schoenberg once said of his protege's technique. "Every glance is a poem, every sigh a novel". Anton Friedrich Wilhelm von Webern (he dropped the "von" after World War I) was born in Vienna into an old Austrian aristocratic family. He had piano and cello lessons as a child and later studied music at Vienna University, earning a doctorate in musicology in 1906. More importantly he studied with Schoenberg from 1904 to 1908, and along with his friend and fellow pupil Alban Berg they would form the Second Viennese School. His first published work, the "Passacaglia" (1908), was still fairly traditional, but the "Six Pieces for Large Orchestra" (1910) and "Five Pieces for Orchestra" (1913) saw him fully engaged in the atonal method. At the same time he was gradually stripping all elements of his music down to their barest essentials. The Vienna premiere of the "Five Pieces" was hissed by the audience and the evening ended in a riot. When he embraced Schoenberg's "method of composition in 12 tones" with "Three Traditional Rhymes" (1924), Webern had already been working along similar lines by applying Renaissance-era counterpoint to atonality, and the shift had no substantial affect on his style. An uncompromising idealist, Webern spent most of his career in obscurity. No conservatory or major university would hire him to teach and he supported himself through conducting and giving private lessons. From the early 1920s he lead the Vienna Workers Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, both sponsored by the Austrian government, and in 1927 he became a conductor and advisor on modern music for Austrian Radio. The only success he enjoyed in his lifetime was the premiere of his choral work "Das Augenlicht" at the 1938 International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) Festival in London. By then the Nazis had branded Webern a "degenerate artist" and he had been removed from his conducting posts. What income he received came from doing hackwork for his publisher, Universal Edition. In the waning months of World War II Webern learned that his only son had died in action on the Eastern Front, and with the Allies advancing on Austria the composer sought safety with his remaining family in the resort town of Mittersill, near Salzburg. He would survive the war but not the Occupation. On the night of September 15, 1945, Webern was accidentally shot and killed by an American soldier who had come to arrest his son-in-law on black marketeering charges. He was buried at Mittersill. His death was doubly tragic because it came just as he was about to win long overdue recognition as an artist. In fact it was Webern rather than Schoenberg who proved more influential in the two decades following WWII, not only on a new generation of postwar composers but on such established figures as Igor Stravinsky and Aaron Copland, both of whom turned to serialism in the 1950s. Composer-conductor Pierre Boulez hailed him as "The Last Threshold" in serious music. Like Schoenberg, however, Webern continues to defy mainstream acceptance. His 31 published opuses also include Six Bagatelles for String Quartet (1913), a String Trio (1927), Concerto for Nine Instruments (1934), Variations for Piano (1936), Variations for Orchestra (1940), two cantatas (1939, 1943) set to poems by his friend Hildegard Jone, and several song cycles. Webern's entire output can be listened to in about four hours.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 24 Aug 2004
  • Find A Grave Memorial 9362572
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Anton Webern (3 Dec 1883–15 Sep 1945), Find A Grave Memorial no. 9362572, citing Mittsersill Kirchhof, Mittersill, Zell am See Bezirk, Salzburg, Austria ; Maintained by Find A Grave .