Anton Webern was an Austrian composer and conductor who was an influential exponent of atonality and the twelve-tone technique.
Anton Webern was an influential figure in a group of composers that included his mentor Arnold Schoenberg associated with the Second Viennese School. Just thirty-one of his compositions were published in his lifetime.
He attended the University of Vienna, studying musicology and composition. In 1904 he became a pupil of Arnold Schoenberg and, along with his friend Alban Berg, the three composers (known now as the Second Viennese School) developed the concept of atonality, thus rejecting the necessity of a tonal centre. Following this breakthrough he held various posts as a composition teacher and conductor. His concise compositions reveal a growing tendency towards intense expression.
Anton Webern wrote the shortest piece in the repertory of great music: Op 11 No 2, for cello and piano, which lasts less than 30 seconds.
In 1924, Schoenberg formulated the 12-tone method of composition (by which the 12 notes of the chromatic scale are treated equally and ordered in ‘note rows’, then manipulated in various ways to create compositions), which Webern adopted in his piece Kinderstück for piano, and for all further compositions (opuses 17-31).
Webern’s compositions are incisive, distilled, and select; they are typified by sparse textures in which all notes are clear and with innovations in the organisation of pitch, rhythm, register, dynamics, articulation and melodic colour.
His inclination toward athematicism, abstraction, lyricism and a drive to redefine imitative contrapuntal techniques greatly informed and oriented post-war European composers such as Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luigi Nono, Bruno Maderna, Henri Pousseur, and György Ligeti.
The Nazis branded the music of the Second Viennese School as “cultural Bolshevism” and “degenerate art” and banned performances of this type of music. Webern’s death nearly half a year after the end of the Second World War in Europe occurred in a freak incident, when an American soldier mistakenly shot him while he was on an extended excursion to visit his daughter.Anton Webern wrote the shortest piece in the repertory of great music: Op 11 No 2, for cello and piano, which lasts less than 30 seconds.
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