Webern and the Lyric Impulse: Songs and Fragments on Poems of Georg Trakl

Webern and the Lyric Impulse: Songs and Fragments on Poems of Georg Trakl

Webern and the Lyric Impulse: Songs and Fragments on Poems of Georg Trakl

Webern and the Lyric Impulse: Songs and Fragments on Poems of Georg Trakl

Synopsis

This study provides a new view of a composer long considered to be one of the century's most rigorously intellectual creators, Anton Webern. By examining a central pre-twelve-tone work, the Trakl cycle, Op 14, in the context of the Viennese intellectual and artistic climate, Shreffler shows how Webern's responses to Trakl's complex verse enabled him to expand his musical vocabulary. The author's emphasis on Webern's compositional process is of particular importance: whether because of the anxiety of creating a new musical language, or because of an innate hyper-perfectionism (or both), Webern rejected most of what he composed. A close examination of the manuscript sources--fragments, sketches, and fair copies--of Webern's comparatively neglected middle-period lieder enables her to shed light on Webern's musical language and his working methods.

Excerpt

This series provides a number of monographs, each dealing with a single work by an important composer. The main focus of each book is on the compositional process by which the work developed from antecedent stages, so far as these can be determined from the sources. In each case the genesis of the work is connected to an analytical overview of the final version. Each monograph is written by a specialist, and, apart from the general theme of the series, no artificial uniformity is imposed. The individual character of both work and evidence, as well as the author's special critical viewpoint, dictates differences in emphasis and treatment. Thus some studies may stress a combination of sketch evidence and analysis, while others may shift the emphasis to the position of the work within its genre and context. Although no such series could possibly aim at being comprehensive, it will deal with a representative body of important works by composers of stature across the centuries.

Among the established master composers of the twentieth century, none remains a greater mystery to the common listener and reader than Anton Webern. His reputation is still framed by what Anne Shreffler rightly calls the 'sparseness, severity, and control' of his music, as well as by the celebrated brevity and density of so many of his mature works. Of the three leading composers of the socalled 'Second Viennese School'--Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern-- Webern is still the most distant, most cerebral, and, for many listeners, the most difficult to comprehend.

In this monograph Anne Shreffler brings into view a new sense of Webern, through a close study of his settings of six poems by Georg Trakl (1887-1914), published as Opus 14. Written between 1915 and 1921, well before the twelve-tone system came into being, these songs show Webern primarily as a lyric composer, working intensively to use vocal composition as a way out of the impasse created by the radical brevity of his previous instrumental works. They show us a Webern imbued with concern for vocal qualities, declamation, and fine shadings of sonority in both voice and instruments--all this in music of great refinement and compression, but not the extreme concentration of material found in previous works. Shreffler has been able to locate further unpublished and fragmentary Trakl settings . . .

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