Anton von Webern loved the Austro-German tradition a considered
himself a part of it. His heroes were Richard
Wagner and Gustav Mahler. His mentor
was the great Arnold Schoenberg.
Webern produced thirty-one mature pieces. Not many surpassed ten
minutes. His entire body of work totals a meager four hours. In his
own time, he was far less known than his contemporaries such as
Alban Berg. Yet, his impact on serial
composers after World War II was so great that the entire era bears
Anton von Webern was born in Vienna on December 3rd, 1883. He was the son of an engineer and in his childhood, he studied the piano with his mother. He later studied music under Schoenberg, who gave him great technical support. Webern decided to remain more classical than Schoenberg. He remained of atonalism from 1908 to 1927. His pieces were extremely short. He often thought his pieces were twice as long as they actually were.
His first masterpiece was Five Movements for String Quartet, op.5. In 1910, he composed Six Pieces for Orchestra. Both these pieces put Webern on the international map in the musical world. His brevity reached its epitome with Six Bagatelles for String Quartet, op.9, in which certain movements last eight minuscule measures.
Finally, in the 1920's, when the twelve-tone technique was
developed by Schoenberg, Webern used it as well. In Three Sacred
Folk Songs, he developed the twelve-tone technique to a scientific
exactness that Schoenberg would be proud of. In addition, he
continued this into the form of composition known as serialism, where math is used to
determine the timbre, pitch and rhythm of each given note. With the
onset of the Nazi's, Webern decided to stay in Germany. On
September 15th, 1945, after German forces collapsed, an American
soldier accidentally shot him outside his house. He died just as he
lived, in near obscurity.
His Famous Compositions
Webern has many notable pieces. His early music is quite
beautiful, while his later music speaks to one's soul. Passacaglia,
op. 1, is one of his most heard pieces. It had certain phrases that
sounded like Wagner's Verklarte Night. Many of his string quartets are very good
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