Anton Webern

Webern, Anton von

Anton von Webern (än´tōn fən vā´bərn), 1883–1945, Austrian composer and conductor; pupil of Arnold Schoenberg. He conducted theater orchestras in Prague and in various German cities until 1918, devoting himself thereafter to composition and teaching. His first composition, a passacaglia for orchestra (1908), which showed the postromantic influence of Mahler, gave no hint of the exclusive use of the twelve-tone technique (see atonality) of Schoenberg that was to characterize the rest of his output. In his relatively few works, mostly for small chamber combinations or for voice, he reduced music to its barest essentials, depriving it of traditional harmonic concepts. He concentrated many fragmented musical events, ordered by intricate contrapuntal, rhythmic, and dynamic patterns, into extremely contracted time spans. For example, the whole of Five Pieces for Orchestra (1911–13) contains only 76 measures. In later works, such as Variations (1940) for orchestra, he strove for total variation, the opposite of traditional developmental technique. His individual style was both poetic and intensely expressive, and his music has become increasingly influential, although it remains outside the popular taste. Webern was accidentally killed by a sentry during the American occupation of Germany.

See his letters, ed. by J. Polnauer (tr. 1967); his The Path to the New Music, ed. by W. Reich (tr. 1963); biography by F. Wildgans (tr. 1966); study by R. Leibowitz (tr. 1949, repr. 1970).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Webern and the Lyric Impulse: Songs and Fragments on Poems of Georg Trakl
Anne C. Shreffler.
Oxford University, 1994
European Music in the Twentieth Century
Howard Hartog.
Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1957
Librarian’s tip: "Alban Berg and Anton Webern" begins on p. 94
An Introduction to Twentieth Century Music
Peter S. Hansen.
Allyn and Bacon, 1961
Librarian’s tip: Chap. XI "Berg and Webern"
Musical Trends in the 20th Century
Norman Demuth.
Rockliff Publishing, 1975
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Nineteen "Anton Von Webern (1884-1945)"
A History of Modern Music
Paul Collaer; Sally Abeles.
World, 1961
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Webern, Alban Berg"
The Modern Age, 1890-1960
Martin Cooper.
Oxford University Press, 1974
Librarian’s tip: "Alban Berg and Anton Webern" begins on p. 362
Composers on Composers
John L. Holmes.
Greenwood Press, 1990
Librarian’s tip: "Anton Von Webern (1883-1945)" begins on p. 160
Composers of Today: A Comprehensive Biographical and Critical Guide to Modern Composers of All Nations
David Ewen; David Ewen.
H. W. Wilson, 1934
Librarian’s tip: "Anton Webern 1883-" begins on p. 292
Twentieth-Century Music: A History of Musical Style in Modern Europe and America
Robert P. Morgan.
W. W. Norton, 1991
Librarian’s tip: Chap. IX "The Twelve-Tone System"
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator