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Biographical Information:


Born:  Vienna, December 3, 1883

Died:  September 15, 1945.


Composer and conductor who was supported by his parents in his dreams of music.


Studied cello and piano.  In 1906 he received a doctorate of music from the University of Vienna.


He had no formal conducting training but was still a celebrated conductor.


From 1904 until 1908 he studied composition with Schoenberg.  Before then, his compositions were seen as juvenile at best.


As the outbreak of World War II, Webern’s music was banned and he was required to support himself by private teaching.


On September 1, 1945, he was accidentally shot and killed by an American soldier.




Compositional Techniques:


Considered to have made the biggest break from tradition that is known in music history, even succeeding Schoenberg, his teacher.


His young compositions began as tonal pieces, but as he moved about in his career he embraced atonality and finally serialism.  He even abandoned thematic works altogether.  Rarely did the same theme repeat itself in a piece.


Schoenberg created the twelve-tone system to determine pitch, whereas Webern expanded the system to determine tone color, dynamics, and rhythm.


Instead of using notes to create a melody, he used them to create a color.  Sometimes, each tone was played by a different instrument, in a different range, with a different effect.


Treated percussion as a true part of the ensemble.  The “theme,” so to speak, would be passed around between all instruments, including percussion.  Percussion became an integral part of the ensemble, not just for effect or emphasis.


Believed that the color was the most important part of the music.  He didn’t care about the notes so much as how the color, and the variety of it fit together.  His goal was defined as the need to “reduce music to [the] barest essentials—to remove all the flesh and leave just the skeleton.”


Influenced Stravinsky, after he had abandoned his neo-classical ideals.  He was also the biggest influence for John Cage.







Ewen, David.  The World of Twentieth-Century Music.  Prentice-Hall, Inc.  London.  1968.  Pgs.  893-899.


Grout, Donald Jay and Palisca, Claude V.  A History of Western Music.  5th Ed.  W. W. Norton and Company.  New York.  1996.  Pgs. 741-744, 787.


Sadie, Stanley.  The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.  Vol. 20.  Macmillan Publisher Limited.  London.  1980.  Pgs. 270-282.






6 Stuke fur Orchester, Op. 6






Berg-Webern-Schoenberg Orchestral Pieces.  Berliner Philharmonic.  James Levine.  Deutshe Grammophon.  1987.