Anton Webern, classical music composer

Anton Webern image

Anton Webern


Despite his small output as a composer, Anton Webern was nevertheless an influential figure in the development of music after World War II. A prominent member of the Second Viennese School, he was born in Vienna on December 3, 1883, the only surviving son of a civil servant. His mother, however, was a competent pianist and accomplished singer. Much of his childhood was spent in Graz and Klagenfurt, but he returned to Vienna to attend the University beginning in 1902. His studies focused on musicology, writing his thesis on the 16th century collection of motets, Choralis Constantinus, by Heinrich Issac. This interest in early music had a significant impact on his own compositional output. 

Webern's earliest efforts in composition were example of the late Romantic style. However, these works were never performed or published in his lifetime, though they occasionally receive attention today. He studied composition with Arnold Schoenberg along with Alban Berg. His graduation piece, Passacaglia, Op. 1 written in 1908, combined Webern's interest in older music forms with the development of an advanced harmonic language and orchestration techniques somewhat indicative of his later, more mature works.

Following his graduation, Webern took up a number of conducting posts in Ischl, Teplitz, Danzig, Stettin and Prague. He eventually, once again, returned to Vienna and helped his former teacher run his Society for Private Musical Performances from 1918 to 1922. Starting in 1922, he conducted the Vienna Workers Symphony Orchestra. His first works during this period were in the freely atonal style of Schoenberg, but with Drei Volkstexte, op. 17, composed in 1925, he adopted the stricter twelve-tone system of his teacher. Furthermore, he expanded Schoenberg's serial techniques to include rhythm and dynamics and his innovations led to the technique known as total serialism.

Webern's career was halted by the rise of the Nazi Party. He spoke out harshly against the growing Nazi Party in private lectures in 1933. The Nazi Party denounced his music as "cultural Bolshevism" and "degenerate art." This official disapproval placed serious consequences on Webern's career. Though he never found it impossible to make a living, it was considerably more difficult for him and was forced to work as an editor and proofreader for his publishers. With the help of Werner Reinhart, a Swiss philanthropist, Webern was able to leave Germany in 1943 and attend the premiere of his Variations for Orchestra, op. 30 in Winterthur, Switzerland.

In the aftermath of World War II, Webern left Vienna and took up residence in Mittersill in Salzbug. However, he was killed on September 15, 1945 during the Allied occupation of Austria. Stepping out of his house to smoke a cigar, despite the curfew in effect, he was shot by an American Army soldier.

Composer Title Date Action
Anton Webern Langsamer Satz 05/02/2009 Play Add to playlist
Anton Webern Five Pieces for Orchestra Op. 10 01/23/2010 Play Add to playlist
Anton Webern Langsamer Satz 11/10/2010 Play Add to playlist
Anton Webern Six Bagatelles for String Quartet Op.9 12/19/2011 Play Add to playlist
Anton Webern Passacaglia for Orchestra,Op.1 02/04/2012 Play Add to playlist
Anton Webern Five Movements for String Quartet, Op. 5 10/13/2011 Play Add to playlist
Anton Webern Langsamer Satz 05/04/2017 Play Add to playlist