Anton Webern
Webern in Stettin, October 1912
Webern in Stettin, October 1912
Born3 December 1883
Died15 September 1945(1945-09-15) (aged 61)
  • Composer
  • conductor
WorksList of compositions

Anton Webern[a] (German: [ˈantoːn ˈveːbɐn] ; 3 December 1883 – 15 September 1945) was an Austrian composer, conductor, and musicologist. His music was among the most radical of its milieu in its concision and use of then novel atonal and twelve-tone techniques in an increasingly rigorous manner, somewhat after the Franco-Flemish School of his studies under Guido Adler. With his mentor Arnold Schoenberg and his colleague Alban Berg, Webern was at the core of those within the broader circle of the Second Viennese School. Their atonal music brought them fame and stirred debate. Webern was arguably the first and certainly the last of the three to write music in an aphoristic, expressionist style, reflecting his instincts and the idiosyncrasy of his compositional process.

During and after World War I, he set folk, lyric, and religious texts in texturally dense Lieder. Peripatetic and unhappy in his early conducting career, he came to some prominence and increasingly high regard as a vocal coach, choirmaster, conductor, and teacher[b] in Red Vienna. With a publication contract through Emil Hertzka's Universal Edition and Schoenberg away at the Prussian Academy of Arts, Webern wrote music of increasing confidence, independence, and scale using twelve-tone technique. He maintained his "path to the new music" while marginalized as a "cultural Bolshevist" effectively until his death.

A variety of post-World War II musicians celebrated his music, much of which was first published only then or later still. Among these were many composers influenced especially by his twelve-tone music in a phenomenon known as post-Webernism, linking but not restricting Webern's legacy to serialism. Understanding of his musical semantics or semiotics, performance pratice, and sociocultural contexts was widely fledgling after years of severe disruption. This was gradually improved by musicians and scholars who helped publish and record his works as well as establish his music as modernist repertoire. A Gesamtausgabe (complete edition) is pending.


1883–1908: Upbringing between late Imperial Vienna and countryside

  • (left) Schloss Preglhof, Webern's childhood home, in Oberdorf
  • (middle) A brick barn in a field of wildflowers on the Preglhof estate[5]
  • (right) Pfarrkirche Schwabegg [de] against southern foothills from a snowy field

Bucolic Heimat

Webern was born in Vienna, Austria-Hungary. He was the only surviving son of Carl von Webern, a descendent of minor nobility [de], high-ranking civil servant, mining engineer,[6] and owner of the Lamprechtsberg copper mine in the Koralpe. Much of Webern's early youth was in Graz (1890–1894) and Klagenfurt (1894–1902), though his father's work briefly took the family to Olmütz and back to Vienna.[7]

His mother Amalie (née Geer) was a pianist and accomplished singer. She taught Webern piano and sang opera with him. He received first drums, then a trumpet, and later a violin as Christmas gifts. With his sisters Rosa and Maria, Webern danced to music and ice-skated the Lendkanal [de] to the Wörthersee. Edwin Komauer taught him cello, and the family played chamber music, including that of Mozart, Schubert, and Beethoven.[8]

The extended Webern family spent summers, holidays, and vacations at their country estate, the Preglhof. The children played outside in the forest and on a high meadow with pasture grazed by herded cattle and with a church-and-mountain view; they bathed in a pond (where Webern once saved Rosa from drowning). He drove horses to Bleiburg and fought a wildfire encroaching on the estate.[9] These experiences and reading Peter Rosegger's Heimatkunst [de] shaped Webern's distinct and lasting sense of Heimat.[10]


After a trip to Bayreuth,[11] Webern studied musicology at the University of Vienna (1902–1906) with Guido Adler, a friend of Mahler, composition student of Bruckner,[c] and devoted Wagnerian who had been in contact with both Wagner and Liszt.[12][d] Egon Wellesz recalled he and Webern analyzed Beethoven's late quartets at the piano in Adler's seminars.[e] Webern learned the historical development of musical styles and techniques, editing the second volume of Heinrich Isaac's Choralis Constantinus as his doctoral thesis.[f] Hans and Rosaleen Moldenhauer noted Webern's scholarly engagement with Isaac's music as a formative experience for Webern the composer. Webern especially praised Isaac's voice leading or "subtle organization in the interplay of parts":

The voices proceed ... in ... equality .... Each ... has its own development and is a ... self-contained ... structural unit .... ... Isaac uses ... canonic devices in ... profusion .... ... Added ... is the keenest observation of tone colourings in ... registers of the human voice. This is partly the cause of ... interlacing of voices and ... their movement by leaps.[15]

Webern also studied art history and philosophy under professors Max Dvořák, Laurenz Müllner [de], and Franz Wickhoff,[16] joining the Albrecht Dürer Gesellschaft[g] in 1903.[11] His cousin Ernst Dietz, an art historian studying in Graz, may have led him to the work of Böcklin and Giovanni Segantini, which he admired along with that of Ferdinand Hodler and Moritz von Schwind.[17] Webern idolized Segantini's landscapes on a par with Beethoven's music, diarying in 1904:

I long for an artist in music such as Segantini was in painting. ... [F]ar away from all turmoil of the world, in contemplation of the glaciers, of eternal ice and snow, of ... mountain giants. ... [A]n alpine storm, ... the radiance of the summer sun on flower-covered meadows—all these ... in the music, ... of alpine solitude. That man would ... be the Beethoven of our day.[18]

Schoenberg and his circle

In 1904, Webern approached Hans Pfitzner for composition lessons but left angrily when Pfitzner criticized Mahler and Richard Strauss.[19] Adler admired Schoenberg's work and may have[h] sent Webern to him for composition lessons.[21] Thus Webern met Berg, another Schoenberg pupil, and Schoenberg's brother-in-law Alexander Zemlinsky, through whom Webern may have worked as an assistant coach at the Volksoper (1906–1908).[22] Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern became devoted, lifelong friends with similar musical trajectories.[23] Adler, Heinrich Jalowetz, and Webern played Schoenberg's quartets under the composer, accompanying Marie Gutheil-Schoder in rehearsals for Op. 10.[24]

Also through Schoenberg, who painted and had a 1910 solo exhibition at Hugo Heller [de]'s bookstore, Webern met Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Max Oppenheimer (with whom he corresponded on ich–Du terms), Egon Schiele, and Emil Stumpp.[25] In 1920, Webern wrote Berg about the "indescribable impression" Klimt's work made on him, "that of a luminous, tender, heavenly realm".[26][i] He also met Karl Kraus, whose lyrics he later set, but only to completion in Op. 13/i.[28]

1908–1918: Early adulthood in Austria-Hungary and German Empire

Early conducting career

Photograph of Webern (1912)

Webern conducted and coached singers and choirs in opera, operetta, musical theater, and light music in his early career. Operetta was in its Viennese Silver Age. It was regarded as low-[29] or middlebrow; Kraus, Theodor Adorno, and Ernst Krenek found it "uppity" in its pretensions.[30][j] "What benefit ... if all operettas ... were destroyed", Webern told Dietz in 1908.[22] But in 1912, he told Berg that Carl Zeller's Vogelhändler was "quite nice" and Schoenberg that Johann Strauss II's Nacht in Venedig was "such fine, delicate music. I now believe ... Strauss is a master."[33]

A summer 1908 engagement with Bad Ischl's Kurorchester [de] was "hell".[22] Webern walked out on engagements in Innsbruck (1909) and at Bad Teplitz's Civic Theater (1910).[34] He worked with Jalowetz in Danzig (1910–1911) and Stettin (1912–1913), briefly following Schoenberg to Berlin (1911–1912) in-between.[35] He repeatedly quit and was taken back by Zemlinsky at the Deutsches Landestheater Prague (1911–1918).[36]

His repertoire included Leo Fall's Dollarprinzessin, Friedrich von Flotow's Wintermärchen, Sidney Jones' Geisha, Franz Lehár's Graf von Luxemburg and Lustige Witwe, Albert Lortzing's Waffenschmied, Jacques Offenbach's Belle Hélène, Oscar Straus's Walzertraum, and Johann Strauss II's Fledermaus and Zigeunerbaron in addition to Gounod, Mozart, Schumann, and Wagner, among others. News reports praised Webern's "sensitive, devoted guidance" as conductor of Fall's Geschiedene Frau in 1910. He particularly enjoyed Offenbach's Contes d'Hoffmann and Rossini's Barbiere di Siviglia.[37]


Webern married Wilhelmine "Minna" Mörtl in a 1911 civil ceremony in Danzig. She had become pregnant in 1910 and feared disapproval, as they were cousins. Thus the Catholic Church only solemnized their lasting union in 1915, after three children.[38]

They met in 1902,[39] later hiking along the Kamp from Rosenburg-Mold to Allentsteig in 1905. He wooed her with John Ruskin essays (in German translation), dedicating his Langsamer Satz to her. Webern diaried about their time together "with obvious literary aspirations":

We wandered .... [A] fairyland! ... The forest symphony resounded. ... A walk in the moonlight on flowery meadows—Then the night—"what the night gave to me, will long make me tremble."—Two souls had wed.[k]


Webern had little time (mostly summers) to compose. There were conflicts at work (e.g., he emphasized a director called him a "little man"). His ambivalence toward sales-oriented popular music theater contributed ("I ... stir the sauce", he wrote).[41] "It appears ... improbable that I should remain with the theatre. It is ... terrible. ... I can hardly ... adjust to being away from home", he wrote Schoenberg in 1910.[42] Miserably ill, he sought medical advice and took rest at a sanatorium in Semmering [de].[43] In 1912–1913 he had a breakdown and saw Alfred Adler, who noted his idealism and perfectionism. Adler evaluated his symptoms as psychogenic responses to unmet expectations. Webern wrote Schoenberg that Adler's psychoanalysis was helpful and insightful.[44]

"Old song" of "lost paradise"

Webern's father sold the Preglhof in 1912, and Webern mourned it as a "lost paradise".[l] He revisited it and the family grave in nearby Schwabegg his entire life, associating these places with the memory of his mother, whose 1906 loss profoundly affected him.[46] In 1912, he confided in Berg and Schoenberg respectively: "my compositions ... relate to the death of my mother";[m] and

Webern family grave at the cemetery in Schwabegg, on a meander spur of the Drava

I am overwhelmed with emotion when I imagine everything .... My daily way to the grave of my mother. The infinite mildness of the entire countryside, all the thousand things there. Now everything is over. ... If only you could ... have seen .... The seclusion, the quiet, the house, the forests, the garden, and the cemetery. About this time, I had always composed diligently.[48]

For Christmas in 1912, he gave Schoenberg Rosegger's Waldheimat [de],[n] from which Julian Johnson highlighted:

Childhood days and childhood home!
It is that old song of Paradise. There are people for whom ... Paradise is never lost ... in them God's kingdom ... rises ... more ... in ... memory than ... ever ... in reality; ... children are poets and retrace their steps.[50]

Webern frequented the surrounding Carinthian-Styrian Alps, treasuring it as time "up there, in the heights", where "one should stay". He backpacked or summited the Gaisstein, Grossglockner, Hochschober, Hochschwab, and Schneealpe (among others) throughout his life, fascinated by the alpine climate, föhn, glaciers, pines, and springs "crystal clear down to the bottom". He collected and organized "mysterious" herbs and flowers in pressed albums, later keeping cherished gardens where he made his home in the Mödling District (first in Mödling, then in Maria Enzersdorf). Webern associated nature with his personal (youthful and spiritual) experiences, forming a topical nexus that recurred in his diaries, letters, and music (explicitly in sketches and set texts).[51]

Such habits endured in Webern's life and œuvre. In 1933, Joseph Hueber recalled Webern stopped in a fragrant meadow, dug his hands into the soil, and breathed in the flowers and grass before rising to ask: "Do you sense 'Him' ... as strongly as I, 'Him, Pan'?"[52] In 1934, Webern's lyricist and collaborator Hildegard Jone [de] described his work as "filled ... with the endless love and delicacy of the memory of ... childhood". Webern told her, "through my work, all that is past becomes like a childhood".[47]

World War I

Webern served intermittently and patriotically in World War I, moving frequently and tiring. Eventually he hoped for its end. Despite Schoenberg's and his father's advice that he not quit conducting, in 1918 Webern returned to Schoenberg in Mödling, hoping to compose more.[53] His finances were so poor that he soon explored a return to Prague,[54] but other opportunities arose.

1918–1933: Rise in Rotes Wien (Interwar Vienna)

Society for Private Musical Performances

Webern worked with friends[o] at the Society for Private Musical Performances (1918–1921), promoting new music through performances and contests. Music included that of Bartók, Berg, Busoni, Debussy,[p] Korngold, Mahler, Novák, Ravel, Reger, Satie, Strauss, Stravinsky, and Webern himself. Webern wrote Berg about Stravinsky's "indescribably touching" Berceuses du chat and "glorious" Pribaoutki, which Schoenberg conducted at a sold-out 1919 Society concert.[56] There was perhaps some shared influence among Schoenberg, Stravinsky, and Webern at this time.[57] The Society dissolved amid catastrophic hyperinflation in 1921.

Mature conducting career

Webern, 1927, portrait by Georg Fayer

Webern worked as director of the Wiener Schubertbund and in 1922 of the mixed-voice amateur Singverein der Sozialdemokratischen Kunstelle[q] and the Arbeiter-Sinfonie-Konzerte[r] through David Josef Bach, Director of the Sozialdemokratische Kunststelle.[58][s] In 1926, Webern resigned as chorusmaster of the Mödling Männergesangverein[t] for hiring Jewish soprano Greta Wilheim as a stand-in soloist for Schubert's cantata Mirjams Siegesgesang.[59] Webern hired Erich Leinsdorf as Singverein pianist in 1933;[u] they performed Stravinsky's ballet-cantata Les Noces.[61][v]

"Webern is the greatest conductor since Mahler himself", wrote Berg to Erwin Stein after Webern led Mahler's Third in 1922.[68] RAVAG aired his performances at least twenty times starting in 1927. He was applauded as much as Willem Mengelberg in Holland.[69] In Le Ménestrel (1930), Armand Machabey noted Webern's regional reputation as a conductor of "haute valeur"[w] for his meticulous approach to then contemporary music.[69]

Perhaps on religious grounds, Krenek speculated, Webern seemed uneasy in his dependence on the Social Democrats for conducting work.[70] Citing Roberto Gerhard and Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt, Walter Kolneder judged, "Artistic work for and with workers was [from] a ... Christian standpoint which Webern took very seriously".[71] Some on the left, notably Oscar Pollak [de] in Der Kampf (1929), criticized Webern's programming as more ambitious and bourgeois than popular and proletarian.[72]

Relative success in a destabilizing society

Webern's finances were often precarious, even in his years of relative success. Relief came from family, friends, patrons, and prizes.[73] He twice received the Preis der Stadt Wien für Musik [de].[x] To compose more, he sought income while trying not to overcommit himself as a conductor.[77] He contracted with Universal Edition only after 1919, reaching better terms in 1927,[78] but he was not very ambitious or astute in business.[79] Even with a doctorate and Guido Adler's respect, he never secured a remunerative university position, whereas in 1925 Schoenberg was invited to the Prussian Academy of Arts, ending their seven years together in Mödling.[14]

Social DemocratChristian Social relations polarized and radicalized amid the Schattendorfer Urteil [de].[80] Webern and others[y] signed an "Announcement of Intellectual Vienna"[z] published on the front page of the Social Democrats' daily Arbeiter-Zeitung[aa] days before the 1927 Austrian legislative election.[81] On Election Day in Die Reichspost [de], Ignaz Seipel of the Einheitsliste [de] officially applied the term "Red Vienna" pejoratively, attacking Vienna's educational and cultural institutions.[82] Social unrest escalated to the July Revolt of 1927 and beyond.[82] Webern's nostalgia for social order intensified with increasing civil disorder.[83] In 1928 friends fundraised for him, partly for another stay at the Kurhaus Semmering.[ab]

In 1928, Berg celebrated the "lasting works" and successes of composers "whose point of departure was ... late Mahler, Reger, and Debussy and whose temporary end point is in ... Schoenberg" in their rise from "pitiful 'cliques'" to a large, diverse, international, and "irresistible movement".[85] But they were soon marginalized and ostracized in Central Europe with few exceptions.[86][ac]

Webern's music was performed more widely starting in the latter half of 1920s.[88] Yet he found no great success as Berg enjoyed with Wozzeck[89] nor as Schoenberg did, to a lesser extent, with Pierrot lunaire or in time with Verklärte Nacht. His Symphony, Op. 21, was performed in New York by the League of Composers (1929) and in London at the 1931 International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) Festival. Louis Krasner sensed some resentment, noting that Webern had "very little".[90] Krenek's impression was that Webern resented his financial hardships and lack of wider recognition.[70]

1933–1938: Perseverance in Schwarzes Wien (Austrofascist Vienna)

Marginalization at home

Financial crises, complex social and political movements, pervasive antisemitism,[ad] culture wars, and renewed military conflicts[ae] continued to shape Webern's world, profoundly circumscribing his life.[94] In the Austrian Civil War, Austrofascists[af] executed, exiled, and imprisoned Social Democrats, outlawed their party,[96] and abolished cultural institutions. Stigmatized by his decade-long association with Social Democrats, Webern lost a promising domestic conducting career, which might have been better recorded.[97] He worked as a UE editor and IGNM-Sektion Österreich [de] board member and president (1933–1938, 1945).[98]

Webern delivered an eight-lecture series Der Weg zur Neuen Musik[ag] at Rita Kurzmann-Leuchter [de]'s and her physician husband Rudolf Kurzman's home (Feb.–Apr. 1933).[100] He attacked fascist cultural policy, asking "What will come of our struggle?" He observed that "'cultural Bolshevism' is the name given to everything that is going on around Schoenberg, Berg, and myself (Krenek too)"[ah] and warned, "Imagine what will be destroyed, wiped out, by this hate of culture!"[102] He lectured more at the Kurzmann-Leuchter home, privately in 1934–1935 on Beethoven's piano sonatas to about 40 attendees and later in 1937–1938.[103]

His music and that of Berg, Krenek, Schoenberg, et al. was declared "Jewish" in Austria[ai] and "Entartete Musik" by Nazis.[109][aj] Persevering, Webern wrote Krenek that "art has its own laws ... if one wants to achieve something in it, only these laws and nothing else can have validity";[ak] upon completing Op. 26 (1935), he wrote DJ Bach, "I hope it is so good that (if people ever get to know it) they will declare me ready for a concentration camp or an insane asylum!"[112] The Vienna Philharmonic nearly refused to play Berg's Violin Concerto (1936).[al] Peter Stadlen's 1937 Op. 27 premières were the last Viennese Webern performances until after World War II.[114] The critical success of Hermann Scherchen's 1938 ISCM London Op. 26 première encouraged Webern to write more cantatas and reassured him after a cellist quit Op. 20 mid-performance, declaring it unplayable.[115]

Besieged milieu and political confusion

Webern's milieu comprised increasingly vast differences.[116] Like most Austrians, he and his family were Catholic, though not church regulars; Webern was perhaps devout if unorthodox.[117] They became politically divided.[am] His friends (e.g., then Zionist Schoenberg,[an] left-leaning Berg[ao]) were of a mostly Jewish milieu in late Imperial and then "red" (Social Democratic) Vienna.[129] Alma Mahler, Krenek, Willi Reich [de], and Erwin Stein preferred or supported the "lesser evil"[ap] of the Austrofascists (or aligned Italian fascists) vis-à-vis the Nazis.[131] Presuming power would moderate Hitler, Webern mediated among friends with an optimistic, perhaps self-soothing, complacency, exasperating those who were at risk.[132] He found himself surrounded mostly by one side as Schoenberg emigrated to the US (1933), Rudolf Ploderer died by suicide (1933),[aq] Berg died (1935), and DJ Bach, among others, fled or worse.[134]

Webern's views of National Socialism were variously described.[ar] His published items[as] reflected his audience or context.[136] Secondary literature reflected limited evidence or ideological orientations[at] and admitted uncertainty.[138] Julie Brown noted hesitancy to approach the topic and echoed the Moldenhauers, considering the issue "vexed" and Webern a "political enigma".[139] Bailey Puffett considered his politics "somewhat vague" and his situation "complex", noting that he practically avoided definitive political association.[140] Johnson described him as "personally shy, a man of private feeling and essentially apolitical",[141] "prone to identify with Nazi politics as ... other ... Austrians".[142] Kranser surmised Webern's cognitive dissonance,[au] finding him "idealistic and rather naive".[av] In 1943 Kurt List described Webern as "utterly ignorant" and "perpetual[ly] confus[ed]" about politics, "a ready prey to the personal influence of family and friends".[aw]

Visiting conducting career

Webern conducted nine concerts as a BBC Symphony visiting conductor (1929–1936). He selected then little-known Mahler (including the Seventh's nocturnes in 1934), insisted on rehearsing at the piano with vocalists, and was criticized for coaching musical phrasing. Grief-stricken after Berg's death and overwhelmed by difficulties, he withdrew from the 1936 world première of Berg's Violin Concerto in Barcelona. There Krasner recalled,

[Webern] pleaded and exhorted the players to feel the inner expressive content of one, two, or three notes at a time—rehearsing repeatedly a single motif, one bar of music and only finally, a two- or four-bar phrase.

The two then played the concerto in London with BBC musicians, who rehearsed before Webern conducted. There Kenneth Anthony Wright observed Webern's "funny little explanations of the varying dynamics and flexibility of tempo"; "every syllable and every gesture of Webern was understood and lovingly heeded", said Krasner. The musicians "all admired and respected Webern", according to Sidonie Goossens. But Felix Aprahamian, Benjamin Britten, and Berthold Goldschmidt criticized Webern's conducting, and BBC management did not invite him back after 1936.[148][ax]

1938–1939: Inner emigration in Nazi Germany


Krasner's last Webern visit was interrupted by the Anschluss. Webern turned on the radio to hear the news, urging Krasner to flee.[150] Webern's family included Nazis; did Webern know the Anschluss was planned that day, Krasner wondered. Was this for his safety or to save Webern the embarrassment of Krasner's presence (during a time of possible celebration in Webern's home), he also wondered.[151] Much of Austria did celebrate.[152] Bailey Puffett noted Webern wrote Jone and her husband Josef Humplik that day, "I am totally immersed in my work [composing] and cannot, cannot be disturbed", which she suggested Krasner's visit simply may have done.[153] Krasner played some of Schoenberg's Violin Concerto privately for Webern, which they discussed. He tried to convince Webern to write a sonata for solo violin.[154]

Bailey Puffett wrote that Webern likely hoped to conduct again, securing a firmer future for his family under a new regime proclaiming itself "socialist" no less than nationalist.[155] As an expression of pan-Germanism and populism, many German-speaking Volk,[ay] especially Austrian Deutschnationalisten, hoped for stability and prosperity within a new nation-state (the Reich).[118] In opposition to the Austrofascists[az] and after years of Nazi soft power proceeding to occupation,[ba] some on the Austrian left[bb] promoted unification and now supported the post hoc 1938 Austrian Anschluss referendum[156] on premises of Realpolitik and self-determination in line with the Grossdeutsche Lösung (1848), the Provisional National Assembly's unanimous support (1918),[bc] and the Linz Program [de] (1926-1933).[bd] According to Josef Polnauer, a fellow early Schoenberg pupil, historian, and librarian, Webern's optimism was not dispelled until 1941.[157]

Kristallnacht and recoil

Kristallnacht shocked Webern. He visited and aided Jewish colleagues DJ Bach, Otto Jokl [de], Polnauer, and Hugo Winter.[158] For Jokl, a former Berg pupil, Webern wrote a recommendation letter to facilitate emigration. When that failed, Webern served as his godfather in a 1939 baptism.[159] Polnauer, whose emigration Schoenberg and Webern were unable to secure,[160] managed to survive the Holocaust as an albino; he later edited a 1959 UE publication of Webern's correspondence from this time with Humplik and Jone.[161] Webern moved Humplik's 1929 gift of a Mahler bust to his bedroom.[162]

Webern found himself increasingly alone,[163] with "almost all his friends and old pupils ... gone",[164] and his financial situation was poor. He had considered joining Schoenberg in the US since 1933 but was reluctant to leave home and family.[165] He entered a period of "inward emigration",[166] writing to artist Franz Rederer in 1939, "We live completely withdrawn. I work a lot."[159] He corresponded extensively to maintain relationships, imploring his student George Robert to play Schoenberg in New York[167] and expressing his loneliness and isolation to Schoenberg.[168] Then war limited postal service,[169] disrupting their direct correspondence completely by 1941.

1939–1945: Hope and disillusionment during World War II

Swiss and Reich prospects

Webern's music was performed mostly outside the Reich, where only his tonal music and arrangements were allowed as works not in the style of a "Judenknecht".[be] Supported by IGNM-Sektion Basel, the Orchester Musikkollegium Winterthur, and Werner Reinhart, he attended three Swiss concerts, his last trips outside the Reich.[171] In 1940, Erich Schmid conducted Op. 1 in Winterthur; soprano Marguerite Gradmann-Lüscher sang Op. 4 and most of Op. 12 (not No. 3) at the Musik-Akademie der Stadt Basel, Schmid accompanying. In Feb. 1943, Scherchen gave the world premiere of Op. 30 at the Winterthur Stadthaus [de].

Webern intimated to Willi Reich that he might emigrate there, joking (Oct. 1939) "Anything of the sort did seem quite out of the question for me!"[172] But Webern failed to find employment, even as a formality, likely due to anti-German sentiment in the context of Swiss neutrality and refugee laws.[173]

In the Reich, he met with former Society violist Othmar Steinbauer about a formal teaching role in Vienna in early 1940, but nothing materialized.[174] He lectured at the homes of Erwin Ratz and Carl Prohaska [de]'s widow Margaret (1940–1942).[175] Many private pupils came to him between 1940 and 1943, even from afar, among them briefly Karl Amadeus Hartmann.[176]

Wartime hopes and reality

Sharing in wartime public sentiment at the height of Hitler's popularity (spring 1940), Webern expressed high hopes, crediting him as "unique" and "singular"[bf] for "the new state for which the seed was laid twenty years ago". These were patriotic letters to Joseph Hueber, an active soldier, baritone, close friend, and mountaineering companion who often sent Webern gifts.[177] Indeed, Hueber had just sent Webern Mein Kampf.[bg] Unaware of Stefan George's aversion to the Nazis, Webern reread Das neue Reich [de] and marveled suggestively at the wartime leader envisioned therein, but "I am not taking a position!" he wrote active soldier, singer, and onetime Social Democrat, Hans Humpelstetter.[179] For Johnson, "Webern's own image of a neue Reich was never of this world; if his politics were ultimately complicitous it was largely because his utopian apoliticism played so easily into ... the status quo."[180]

By Aug. 1940, Webern depended financially on his children.[181] He sought wartime emergency relief funds from Künstlerhilfe Wien and the Reichsmusikkammer Künstlerdank [de] (1940–1944), which he received despite indicating non-membership in the Nazi Party on an application.[182] Whether Webern ever joined the party was unknown.[183][bh] This represented his only income after mid-1942. He nearly exhausted his savings by 1944.[186]

His 1943–1945 letters were strewn with references to bombings, death, destruction, privation, and the disintegration of local order, but several grandchildren were born.[187] In Dec. 1943, aged 60, he wrote from a barrack that he was working 6 am–5 pm as an air-raid protection police officer, conscripted into the war effort.[187] He corresponded with Willi Reich about IGNM-Sektion Basel's concert marking his sixtieth, in which Paul Baumgartner played Op. 27, Walter Kägi Op. 7, and August Wenzinger Op. 11. Gradmann-Lüscher sang both Opp. 3 and 23 (world premiere).[188] For Schoenberg's 70th birthday (1944), Webern asked Reich to convey "my most heartfelt remembrances, ... longing! ... hopes for a happy future!"[189] Webern's only son Peter, intermittently conscripted since 1940,[190] was killed (14 Feb. 1945) in an air attack. Airstrike sirens interrupted the family's mourning.[191]

Refuge and death in Mittersill

Grave of Webern and his wife Minna at the cemetery in Mittersill

The Weberns assisted Schoenberg's first son Görgi during the war; with the Red Army's April 1945 arrival imminent, they gave him their Mödling apartment, the property and childhood home of Webern's son-in-law Benno Mattl.[bi] Görgi later told Krasner that Webern "felt he'd betrayed his best friends." The Weberns fled west, resorting to traveling partly on foot to Mittersill to rejoin their family of "17 persons pressed together in the smallest possible space".[187]

On the night of 15 Sept. 1945, Webern was outside smoking when he was shot and killed by a US soldier in an apparent accident.[193] His wife Minna's last years were marred by grief, poverty, and loneliness as friends and family continued emigrating. She wished Webern lived to see more success. With the abolition of Entartete Kunst policies, Alfred Schlee [de] solicited her for hidden manuscripts; thus Opp. 17, 24–25, and 29–31 were published. She worked to get Webern's 1907 Piano Quintet published via Kurt List.

In 1947 she wrote Dietz, now in the US, that by 1945 Webern was "firmly resolved to go to England". Likewise, in 1946 she wrote DJ Bach in London: "How difficult the last eight years had been for him. ... [H]e had only the one wish: to flee from this country. But one was caught, without a will of one's own. ... It was close to the limit of endurance what we had to suffer."[194] Minna died in 1949.


Further information: List of compositions by Anton Webern

Tell me, can one at all denote thinking and feeling as things entirely separable? I cannot imagine a sublime intellect without the ardor of emotion.

Webern wrote to Schoenberg (June 1910).[195] Theodor Adorno described Webern as "propound[ing] musical expressionism in its strictest sense, ... to such a point that it reverts of its own weight to a new objectivity".[196]

Webern's music was generally concise, organic, and parsimonious,[bj] with very small motifs, palindromes, and parameterization on both the micro- and macro-scale.[199] His idiosyncratic approach reflected affinities with Schoenberg, Mahler,[bk] Guido Adler and early music; interest in esotericism and Naturphilosophie; and thorough perfectionism.[bl] He engaged with the work of Goethe, Bach,[bm] and the Franco-Flemish School in addition to that of Wolf, Brahms,[bn] Wagner, Liszt, Schumann, Beethoven, Schubert ("so genuinely Viennese"), and Mozart.[205][bo] Stylistic shifts were not neatly coterminous with gradually developed technical devices, particularly in the case of his mid-period Lieder.[bp]

His music was also characteristically linear and song-like.[213] Much of it (and Berg's[214] and Schoenberg's)[215] was for singing.[23][bq] Johnson described the song-like gestures of Op. 11/i.[218] In Webern's mid-period Lieder, some heard instrumentalizing of the voice[219] (often in relation to the clarinet)[220] representing yet some continuity with bel canto.[221][br] Lukas Näf described one of Webern's signature hairpins (on the Op. 21/i mm. 8–9 bass clarinet tenuto note) as a messa di voce requiring some rubato to execute faithfully.[223][bs] Adventurous textures and timbres, and melodies of wide leaps and sometimes extreme ranges and registers were typical.[225]

For Johnson, Webern's rubato compressed Mahler's "'surging and ebbing'" tempi; this and Webern's dynamics indicated a "vestigial lyrical subjectivity."[226] Webern often set carefully chosen lyric poetry.[227] He related his music not only to nostalgia for the lost family and home of his youth, but also to his Alpinism and fascination with botanical aromatics and morphology.[228] He was compared to Mahler in his orchestration and semantic preoccupations (e.g., memory, landscapes, nature, loss, often Catholic mysticism).[229] In Jone, who he met with her husband Humplik via the Hagenbund, Webern found a lyricist who shared his esoteric, natural, and spiritual interests. She provided texts for his late vocal works.[230]

Webern's and Schoenberg's music distinctively prioritized minor seconds, major sevenths, and minor ninths[bt] as noted in 1934 by microtonalist Alois Hába.[231] The Kholopov siblings noted the semitone's unifying role by axial inversional symmetry and octave equivalence as interval class 1 (ic1), approaching Allen Forte's generalized pitch-class set analysis.[232] Webern's consistent use of ic1 in cells and sets, often expressed as a wide interval musically,[233] was well noted.[bu] Symmetric pitch-interval practices varied in rigor and use by others (e.g., Berg, Schoenberg, Bartók, Debussy, Stravinsky; more nascently Mahler, Brahms, Bruckner,[bv] Liszt, Wagner). Berg and Webern took symmetric approaches to elements of music beyond pitch. Webern later linked pitches and other parameters in schemes (e.g., fixed or "frozen" register).[237]

Relatively few of Webern's works were published in his lifetime. Amid fascism and Emil Hertzka's passing, this included late as well as early works (in addition to others without opus numbers). His rediscovery prompted many publications, but some early works were unknown until after the work of the Moldenhauers well into the 1980s,[238] obscuring formative facets of his musical identity.[239] Thus when Boulez first oversaw a project to record Webern's music, the results fit on three CDs and the second time, six.[240][bw] A Gesamtausgabe has remained in progress.

1899–1908: Formative juvenilia and emergence from study

Webern published little juvenilia; like Brahms, he was meticulous and self-conscious, revising extensively.[241] His earliest works were mostly Lieder on works of Richard Dehmel, Gustav Falke, and Theodor Storm.[242] He set seven Ferdinand Avenarius poems on the "changing moods" of life and nature (1899–1904).[243] Schubert, Schumann, and Wolf were important models. With its brief, potent expressivity and utopianization of the natural world, the (German) Romantic Lied had a lasting influence on Webern's musical aesthetic.[244] He never abandoned its lyricism, intimacy, and wistful or nostalgic topics, though his music became more abstract, idealized, and introverted.[242]

Webern memorialized the Preglhof in a diary poem "An der Preglhof" and in the tone poem Im Sommerwind (1904), both after Bruno Wille's idyll. In Webern's Sommerwind, Derrick Puffett found affinities with Strauss's Alpensinfonie, Charpentier's Louise, and Delius's Paris.

At the Pregholf in summer 1905, Webern wrote his tripartite, single-movement string quartet in a highly modified sonata form, likely responding to Schoenberg's Op. 7.[245] He quoted Jakob Böhme in the preface[246] and mentioned the panels[bx] of Segantini's Trittico della natura[by] as "Werden–Sein–Vergehen" in sketches.[247][bz] Sebastian Wedler argued that it bore the influence of Richard Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra in its germinal three-note motive, opening fugato of its third (development) section, and Nietzschean reading (via Thus Spoke Zarathustra's eternal recurrence) of Segantini's triptych.[248] In its opening harmonies, Allen Forte and Heinz-Klaus Metzger noted Webern's anticipation of Schoenberg's atonality in Op. 10.[249]

Danzig's Friedrich-Wilhelm-Schützenhaus [de] in a 1906 postcard photograph

The Passacaglia, Op. 1 (1908) was Webern's graduation piece after study with Schoenberg. Its chromatic harmonic language and less conventional orchestration distinguished it from prior works; its form foreshadowed those of his later works.[250] Conducting the 1911 Danzig premiere of Op. 1 at the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Schützenhaus [de], he paired it with Debussy's 1894 Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, Ludwig Thuille's 1896 Romantische Ouvertüre, and Mahler's 1901–1904 Kindertotenlieder in a poorly attended Moderner Abend[ca] concert. The Danziger Zeitung [de] critic derided Op. 1 as an "insane experiment".[251]

In 1908 Webern also began an opera on Maeterlinck's Alladine et Palomides [fr], of which only unfinished sketches remained.[252] He knew the repertoire "perfectly ... every cut, ... unmarked cadenza, and in the comic operas every theatrical joke".[253] He "adored" Mozart's Il Seraglio and revered Strauss, predicting Salome would last. Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande enraptured him twice in Dec. 1908 Berlin and again in 1911 Vienna.[254] When in high spirits, Webern would sing bits of Lortzing's Zar und Zimmermann, a personal favorite. To Max Deutsch he later expressed interest in writing an opera pending a good text and adequate time. In 1930, he asked Jone for "opera texts, or rather dramatic texts", planning cantatas instead.[255]

1908–1914: Atonality and aphorisms

Webern's music, like Schoenberg's, was freely atonal after Op. 2. Some of their and Berg's music from this time was published in Der Blaue Reiter.[257]

Schoenberg and Webern were so mutually influential, the former later joked, "I haven't the slightest idea who I am".[258] In Op. 5/iii, Webern borrowed from Schoenberg's Op. 10/ii. In Op. 5/iv, he borrowed from Schoenberg's Op. 10/iv setting of "Ich fühle luft von anderen planeten".[259][cb]

The first of his innovative and increasingly extremely aphoristic Opp. 5–11 (1909–1914) radically influenced Schoenberg's Opp. 11/iii[cc] and 1617 (and Berg's Opp. 45).[261] Already in Op. 9, Webern "had the feeling that when the twelve notes had all been played the piece was over."[262] "[H]aving freed music from the shackles of tonality," Schoenberg wrote, he and his pupils believed "music could renounce motivic features".[263] This "intuitive aesthetic" arguably proved to be aspirational insofar as motives persisted in their music.[264]

Two enduring topics emerged in Webern's work: familial (especially maternal) loss and memory, often involving some religious experience, and abstracted landscapes idealized as spiritual, even pantheistic Heimat (e.g., the Preglhof, the Eastern Alps).[265] Webern explored these ideas via Swedenborg's correspondences in Tot (Oct. 1913), a stage play in six reflective, self-consoling Alpine tableaux vivants.

Webern's music took on the character of such static dramaticovisual scenes, with pieces frequently culminating in the accumulation and amalgamation (often the developing variation) of compositional material. Fragmented melodies frequently began and ended on weak beats, settled into or emerged from ostinati, and were dynamically and texturally faded, mixed, or contrasted.[266] Tonality became less directional, functional, or narrative than tenuous, spatial, or symbolic as fit Webern's topics and literary settings. Erwin Stein thought that "his compositions should be understood as musical visions".[cd] Oliver Korte traced Webern's Klangfelder[ce] to Mahler's "suspensions".[cf]

Expanding on Mahler's orchestration, Webern linked colorful, novel, fragile, and intimate sounds, often nearly silent at ppp, to lyrical topics: solo violin to female voice; closed or open voicings, sometimes sul ponticello, to dark or light; compressed range to absence, emptiness, or loneliness and registral expansion to fulfillment, (spiritual) presence, or transcendence;[cg] celesta, harp, and glockenspiel to the celestial or ethereal; and trumpet, harp, and string harmonics to angels or heaven.[268][ch]

With elements of Kabarett,[ci] neoclassicism,[cj] and ironic Romanticism[ck] in Pierrot lunaire, Op. 21 (1912), Schoenberg began[cl] to distance himself from Webern's and latterly Berg's aphoristic expressionism, which provoked the 1913 Skandalkonzert.

1914–1924: Mid-period Lieder

During and after World War I (1914–1926) Webern worked on some fifty-six songs, following Schoenberg's advice to set texts as a means of composing something more substantial than aphorisms. He finished thirty-two, ordered into sets as Opp. 12–19.[271] The first of these mid-period Lieder was an unfinished setting of a passage ("In einer lichten Rose ...") from Dante's Paradiso, Canto XXXI.[272]

Walter Kolneder noted "regression" to relatively "long arcs of melody" in Op. 12 by comparison to "'atomization' of the melodic line" in Op. 11. Adorno wrote that in Op. 12 "Webern's music secretly expands: he is mastering the solution which Schoenberg first displayed in Pierrot ... and ... Op. 22: that one cannot persist with the method of absolute purity".[273] The contrapuntal procedures and nonstandard ensemble of Pierrot influenced Webern's Opp. 14–16:[274] "How much I owe to your Pierrot", he told Schoenberg after setting Trakl's "Abendland III" (Op. 14/iv),[275] in which, distinctly, there was no silence until a pause at the concluding gesture. Webern mingled his usual topics with recurrent wartime themes of wandering in search of home or solace.

Schoenberg "yearn[ed] for a style for large forms ... to give personal things an objective, general form."[cm] Since 1906 Berg, Schoenberg, and Webern indulged shared interest in Swedenborgian mysticism and Theosophy, reading Balzac's Louis Lambert and Séraphîta and Strindberg's Till Damaskus and Jacob lutte. Gabriel, protagonist of Schoenberg's semi-autobiographical Die Jakobsleiter (1914–1922, rev. 1944)[cn] described a journey: "whether right, whether left, forwards or backwards, uphill or down – one must keep on going without asking what lies ahead or behind",[co] which Webern interpreted as a pitch-space metaphor. Schoenberg later reflected on "how enthusiastic [Webern and I] were about this."[cp] On the journey to composition with twelve tones, Webern revised many of his mid-period Lieder in the years after their apparent composition but before publication, increasingly prioritizing clarity of pitch relations, even against timbral effects, as Anne Shreffler[281] and Felix Meyer described.

After Op. 16, Webern used twelve-tone technique for the first time, though he[cq] and Schoenberg had long experimented with the idea. Twelve-tone sets appear at the start of Op. 12/i (with repeated notes) and in some bars of Op. 12/iv, with many further examples of ten- and eleven-tone sets.[283] Like Brahms's, Webern's (and Schoenberg's) music was marked by contrapuntal rigor, formal schemes, and systematic pitch organization long before this technique.[284]

1924–1945: Formal coherence and expansion

The symmetry of Webern's tone row from Variations, Op. 30, was apparent from the equivalent, P1=IR1 and R12=I12, and thus reduced number of row forms, two, P and R, plus transpositions. Consisting of three related tetrachords: a and c consisting of two minor seconds and one minor third and b consisting of two minor thirds and one minor second. Notes 4–7 and 6–9 also consist of two minor seconds and one minor third. "The entire series thus consists of two intervals and has the greatest possible unity of series form, interval, motif, and chords.[64]

At the same time as they began using twelve-tone technique, Schoenberg left Vienna to teach in Berlin, and thus Webern obtained more artistic autonomy.[14] Whereas Schoenberg exploited combinatorial properties of particular tone rows,[285] Webern focused on prior aspects of a row's internal organization. He exploited small, invariant pitch subsets (or partitions) symmetrically derived via inversion, retrograde, or both (retrograde inversion). Webern varied his music's structural unity and motivic saturation superficially as before (for example, through fragmentation, Klangfarbenmelodie, or octave displacement).[286] He likened his approach to Goethe's Urpflanze [de] and elevated its underlying technical and theoretical basis by analogy to natural law in principle.[cr]

Webern's 1926–1927 String Trio, Op. 20, was his first large-scale non-vocal work since the 1914 Cello Sonata. He produced many sketches and drafts toward this goal, including an abandoned 1917 string quartet; other efforts toward a string trio; a seventeen-measure 1920 movement scored for clarinet, trumpet, and violin; and piano works including Kinderstück (1924, intended as one of a set) and Klavierstück (1925).[288] While writing the Concerto for Nine Instruments, Op. 24, he found inspiration in the Sator square, which is like a twelve-tone matrix;[289] with this square, he concluded his Weg zur Neuen Musik.

Webern made further strides in his cantatas (as he ecstatically wrote the Humpliks),[290] synthesizing the rigorous style of his mature instrumental works with the word painting of his Lieder on a orchestral scale.[291] His textures were somewhat denser yet more homophonic at the surface through nonetheless contrapuntal polyphonic means.[290] In Op. 31/i he alternated lines and points, culminating twice[cs] in twelve-note simultaneities.[292] For George Rochberg, "the principles of 'the structural spatial dimension' ... join[ed] forces with lyrico-dramatic demands" in Webern's late cantatas and songs (Opp. 23, 25–26, 29, and 31).[293]

At his death he left sketches for the movement of an apparent third cantata (1944–1945), first planned as a concerto, setting "Das Sonnenlicht spricht" from Jone's Lumen cycle.[294]

Arrangements and orchestrations

In his youth (1903), Webern orchestrated five or more Schubert Lieder for an appropriately Schubertian orchestra (strings and pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, and horns). Among these were "Der Vollmond Strahlt auf Bergeshöhn" (the Romanze from Rosamunde), "Tränenregen" (from Die schöne Müllerin), "Der Wegweiser" (from Winterreise), "Du bist die Ruh", and "Ihr Bild".[295]

After attending Hugo Wolf's funeral and memorial concert (1903), he arranged three Lieder for a larger orchestra, adding brass, harp, and percussion to the Schubertian orchestra. He chose "Lebe wohl", "Der Knabe und das Immlein", and "Denk es, o Seele", of which only the latter was finished or wholly survived.[296]

For Schoenberg's Society for Private Musical Performances in 1921, Webern arranged, among other music,[297] the 1888 Schatz-Walzer (Treasure Waltz) of Johann Strauss II's Der Zigeunerbaron (The Gypsy Baron) for string quartet, harmonium, and piano.

In 1924 Webern arranged Liszt's Arbeiterchor (Workers' Chorus, c. 1847–1848)[298] for bass solo, mixed chorus, and large orchestra; thus Liszt's work was finally premièred[ct] when Webern conducted the first full-length concert of the Austrian Association of Workers Choir (13 and 14 March 1925). A review in the Wiener Zeitung (28 March 1925) read "neu in jedem Sinne, frisch, unverbraucht, durch ihn zieht die Jugend, die Freude" ("new in every respect, fresh, vital, pervaded by youth and joy").[300] The text (in English translation) read in part: "Let us have the adorned spades and scoops,/Come along all, who wield a sword or pen,/Come here ye, industrious, brave and strong/All who create things great or small."

In orchestrating the six-voice ricercar from Bach's Musikalisches Opfer, Webern timbrally defined the internal organization (or latent subsets) of the Bach's subject.[301] Joseph N. Straus argued that Webern (and other modernists) effectively recomposed earlier music, "projecting motivic density" onto tradition.[302] After more conservatively orchestrating two of Schubert's 1824 Six German Dances on UE commission in 1931, he wrote Schoenberg:

I took pains to remain on the solid ground of classical ideas of instrumentation, yet to place them into the service of our idea, i.e., as a means toward the greatest possible clarification of thought and context.[cu]

Reception, influence, and legacy

Webern's music was generally considered difficult by performers and inaccessible by listeners alike.[304] "To the limited extent that it was regarded", Milton Babbitt observed, it represented "the ultimate in hermetic, specialized, and idiosyncratic composition".[305]

Composers and performers first tended to take Webern's work, with its residual post-Romanticism and initial expressionism, in mostly formalist directions with a certain literalism, departing from Webern's own practices and preferences in extrapolating from elements of his late style. This became known as post-Webernism.[306] A richer, more historically informed understanding of Webern's music and its performance practice began to emerge in the latter half of the 20th century. The Moldenhauers sought and archived sketches, letters, lectures, recordings, and other articles of Webern's (and others') estates.[cv]

In the immediate aftermath of World War II, Webern's marginalization under Gleichschaltung was appreciated, but his pan-Germanism, politics, and social attitudes (especially regarding antisemitism) were not as known or often mooted.[307] For many, like Stravinsky, Webern never compromised his artistic identity and values, but for others the matter was less simple.[cw]

Performance practice

Eric Simon ... related ... : 'Webern was obviously upset by Klemperer's sober time-beating. ... [T]o the concert master [he] said: "... the phrase there ... must be played Tiiiiiiiiiii-aaaaaaaaa." Klemperer, overhearing ... said sarcastically: "... [N]ow you probably know exactly how you have to play the passage!"' Peter Stadlen ... [described Webern]'s reaction after the performance: ... '"A high note, a low note, a note in the middle—like the music of a madman!"'

The Moldenhauers detailed Webern's reaction to Otto Klemperer's 1936 Vienna performance of his Symphony (1928), Op. 21, which Webern played on piano for Klemperer "with ... intensity and fanaticism ... passionately".[308]

Webern notated articulations, dynamics, tempo rubato, and other musical expressions, coaching performers to adhere to these instructions but urging them to maximize expressivity through musical phrasing.[308][cx] This was supported by personal accounts, correspondence, and extant recordings of Schubert's Deutsche Tänze (arr. Webern) and Berg's Violin Concerto under Webern's direction. Ian Pace considered Peter Stadlen's account of Webern's coaching for Op. 27 as indicating Webern's "desire for an extremely flexible, highly diaphanous, and almost expressively overloaded approach".[310][cy]

This aspect of Webern's work was often overlooked in his immediate post-war reception,[312] which was roughly coterminous with the early music revival. Stravinsky engaged with Webern and Renaissance music in his later music; his amanuensis Robert Craft performed Webern as well as Monteverdi, Schütz, Gabrieli, and Tallis.[313] Many musicians performed "music that is at the same time old and new", as Nicholas Cook and Anthony Pople glossed it and as Richard Taruskin addressed. J. Peter Burkholder noted early and new music audience overlap.[314]

Felix Galimir of the Galimir Quartet told The New York Times (1981): "Berg asked for enormous correctness in the performance of his music. But the moment this was achieved, he asked for a very Romanticized treatment. Webern, you know, was also terribly Romantic—as a person, and when he conducted. Everything was almost over-sentimentalized. It was entirely different from what we have been led to believe today. His music should be played very freely, very emotionally."[315]



Many artists portrayed Webern (often from life) in their work. Kokoschka (1912), Schiele (1917 and 1918), B. F. Dolbin [de] (1920 and 1924), and Rederer (1934) made drawings of him. Oppenheimer (1908), Kokoschka (1914), and Tom von Dreger [de] (1934) painted him. Stumpp made two lithographs of him (1927). Humplik twice sculpted him (1927 and 1928). Jone variously portrayed him (1943 lithograph, several posthumous drawings, 1945 oil painting). Rederer made a large woodcut of him (1964).[316]


Schoenberg admired Webern's concision, writing in the foreword to Op. 9 upon its 1924 publication: "to express a novel in a single gesture, joy in a single breath—such concentration can only be present in proportion to the absence of self-indulgence".[317] But Berg joked about Webern's brevity. Hendrik Andriessen found Webern's music "pitiful" in this regard.[318] In their second (1925) Abbruch[cz] self-parody, Anbruch [de][da] editors jested that "Webern's" (Mahler's) "extensive" Symphony of a Thousand had to be abbreviated.[db]

Felix Khuner remembered Webern was "just as revolutionary" as Schoenberg.[319] In 1927, Hans Mersmann wrote that "Webern's music shows the frontiers and ... limits of a development which tried to outgrow Schoenberg's work."[320]

Identifying with Webern as a "solitary soul" amid 1940s wartime fascism,[321] Luigi Dallapiccola independently and somewhat singularly[dc] found inspiration especially in Webern's lesser-known mid-period Lieder, blending its ethereal qualities and Viennese expressionism with bel canto.[322] Stunned by Webern's Op. 24 at its 1935 ISCM festival world première under Jalowetz in Prague, Dallapiccola's impression was of unsurpassable "aesthetic and stylistic unity".[323] He dedicated Sex carmina alcaei[dd] "with humility and devotion" to Webern, who he met in 1942 through Schlee, coming away surprised at Webern's emphasis on "our great Central European tradition."[324] Dallapiccola's 1953 Goethe-lieder especially recall Webern's Op. 16 in style.[325]

In 1947, Schoenberg remembered and stood firm with Berg and Webern despite rumors of the latter's having "fallen into the Nazi trap":[de] "... [F]orget all that might have ... divided us. For there remains for our future what could only have begun to be realized posthumously: One will have to consider us three—Berg, Schoenberg, and Webern—as a unity, a oneness, because we believed in ideals ... with intensity and selfless devotion; nor would we ever have been deterred from them, even if those who tried might have succeeded in confounding us."[df] For Krasner this put "'Vienna's Three Modern Classicists' into historical perspective". He summarized it as "what bound us together was our idealism."[326]

1947–1950s: (Re)discovery and post-Webernism

Webern's death should be a day of mourning for any receptive musician. We must hail ... this great ... a real hero. Doomed to ... failure in a deaf world of ignorance and indifference he ... kept on cutting ... dazzling diamonds, the mines of which he had ... perfect knowledge.

Stravinsky lauded Webern in die Reihe[330][dg]

After World War II, there was unprecedented engagement with Webern's music. It came to represent a universally or generally valid, systematic, and compellingly logical model of new composition, especially at the Darmstädter Ferienkurse.[331] René Leibowitz performed, promulgated, and published Schoenberg et son école;[332] Adorno,[333] Herbert Eimert, Scherchen,[334] and others contributed. Composers and students[dh] listened in a quasi-religious trance to Peter Stadlen's 1948 Op. 27 performance.[335]

Webern's gradual innovations in schematic organization of pitch, rhythm, register, timbre, dynamics, articulation, and melodic contour; his generalization of imitative techniques such as canon and fugue; and his inclination toward athematicism, abstraction, and lyricism variously informed and oriented European and Canadian, typically serial or avant-garde composers (e.g., Messiaen, Boulez, Stockhausen, Luigi Nono, Pousseur, Ligeti, Sylvano Bussotti, Bruno Maderna, Bernd Alois Zimmermann, Barbara Pentland).[336] Eimert and Stockhausen devoted a special issue of die Reihe to Webern's œuvre in 1955. UE published his lectures in 1960.[337]

In the US, Babbitt[338] and initially Rochberg[339] found more in Schoenberg's twelve-tone practice. Elliott Carter's and Aaron Copland's critical ambivalence was marked by a certain enthusiasm and fascination nonetheless.[340] Robert Craft fruitfully reintroduced Stravinsky to Webern's music, without which Stravinsky's late works would have taken different shape. Stravinsky staked his contract with Columbia Records to see Webern's then known music first both recorded and widely distributed.[341] Stravinsky lauded Webern's "not yet canonized art" in 1959.[342]

Among the New York School, John Cage and Morton Feldman first met in Carnegie Hall's lobby, ecstatic after a performance of Op. 21 by Dimitri Mitropoulos and the New York Philharmonic. They cited the effect of its sound on their music.[343] They later sung the praises of Christian Wolff as "our Webern".

Gottfried Michael Koenig suggested some early interest in Webern's music may have been that its concision and apparent simplicity facilitated didactic musical analysis. Robert Beyer [de] criticized serial approaches to Webern's music as reductive, narrowly focused more on Webern's procedures than his music while neglecting timbre in their typical selection of Opp. 27–28.[344] Webern's music sounded like "a Mondrian canvas", "crude and unfinished", to Karel Goeyvaerts.[345] Wolf-Eberhard von Lewinski criticized some Darmstadt music as "acoustically absurd [if] visually amusing" (Darmstädter Tagblatt [de], 1959); a Der Kurier article of his was headlined "Meager modern music—only interesting to look at".[346]

1950s onward: Beyond (late) Webern

[H]ermetic constructivism seems infused with intense emotion, ... diffused across the ... surface of the music. Gone is the mono-directional thrust of Classical and Romantic music; in its place a world of rotations and reflections, opening myriad paths for the listener to trace through textures of luminous clarity yet beguiling ambiguity.

George Benjamin described Webern's Op. 21.[347] Many[dj] noted floating, spatial, static, or suspended qualities in some of Webern's music. Johnson noted spatial metaphors.[350]

Through late 1950s onward, Webern's work reached musicians as far removed as Frank Zappa,[351] yet many post-war European musicians and scholars had already begun to look beyond[352] as much as back at Webern in his context. Nono advocated for a more cultural and historical understanding of Webern's music.[353]

Adorno lectured that in the prevailing climate "artists like Berg or Webern would hardly be able to make it" ("The Aging of the New Music", 1954). Against the "static idea of music" and "total rationalization" of the "pointillist constructivists," he advocated for more subjectivity, citing Über das Geistige in der Kunst (1911), in which Wassily Kandinsky wrote: "Schoenberg's [expressionist] music leads us to where musical experience is a matter not of the ear, but of the soul—and from this point begins the music of the future."

In the 1960s, many began to describe Webern and his like as a "dead end".[354][dk] Rochberg felt "Webern's music leaves his followers no new, unexplored territory."[357] Stravinsky judged Webern "too original ... too purely himself. ... [T]he entire world had to imitate him [and] fail; of course it will blame Webern"; he blamed post-Webernism: "[T]he music now being charged to his name can neither diminish his strength nor stale his perfection."[358]

In Votre Faust (1960–1968), Pousseur quoted and his protagonist Henri analyzed Webern's Op. 31. Yet there were already several elements of late or postmodernism (e.g., eclecticism of historical styles, mobile form, polyvalent roles).[359] This coincided with a wider rapprochement with Berg,[360] whose example Pousseur cited,[361] from whose music he also quoted, and whose writings he translated into French in the 1950s.[362] Boulez was "thrilled" by Berg's "universe ... never completed, always in expansion—a world so ... inexhaustible," referring to the rigorously organized, only partly twelve-tone Chamber Concerto.[dl]

Engaging with Webern's atonal works by some contrast to earlier post-Webernism, both Ferneyhough and Lachenmann expanded upon and went further than Webern in attention to the smallest of details and the use of ever more radically extended techniques. Ferneyhough's 1967 Sonatas for string quartet included atonal sections much in the style of Webern's Op. 9, yet more intensely sustained. In a comparison to his own 1969 Air, Lachenmann wrote of "a melody made of a single note [...] in the viola part" of Webern's Op. 10/iv (mm. 2–4) amid "the mere ruins of the traditional linguistic context," observing that "the pure tone, now living in tonal exile, has in this new context no aesthetic advantage over pure noise" ("Hearing [Hören] is Defenseless—without Listening [Hören]", 1985).

Eastern Europe

In Eastern Europe, the Second Viennese School's music represented a professionally dangerous but sometimes exciting or inspiring alternative to socialist realism. Their influence on composers behind the Iron Curtain was mediated by anti-fascist and -German sentiment[363] as well as anti-formalist cultural policies[364] and Cold War separation.[dm] Ligeti lamented the separation and left in 1956, noting that "after Bartók hardly any grass could grow".[367]

Eastern Bloc

Webern's influence predominated after the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, bearing on Pál Kadosa, Endre Szervánszky, and György Kurtág.[368] Among Czechs, Pavel Blatný attended the Darmstädter Ferienkurse and wrote music with serial techniques in the late 1960s. He returned to tonality in Brno and was rewarded.[369] Marek Kopelent discovered the Second Viennese as an editor and was particularly taken by Webern.[370] Kopelent was blacklisted for his music and despaired, unable to attend international performances of his work.[371]

Soviet Russia

Official Soviet Russian condemnation eased in the post-Stalinist Khrushchev Thaw with the rehabilitation of some affected by the Zhdanov Doctrine. Sheet music and recordings entered via journalists, friends, family (e.g., from Nicolas to Sergei Slonimsky), and especially composers and musicians (e.g., Igor Blazhkov [ru], Gérard Frémy, Alexei Lubimov, Maria Yudina), who traveled more.[372] Stationed in Zossen as a military band arranger (1955–1958), Yuri Kholopov risked arrest for obtaining scores in West Berlin and from the Leipzig office of Schott Music.[373]

Philip Herschkowitz, poverty-stricken, taught privately in Moscow with cautious emphasis on Beethoven and the tradition from which Webern emerged.[374] His pupil Nikolai Karetnikov taped Glenn Gould's 1957 Moscow Conservatory performance of Webern's Op. 27.[375] In practice like that of Webern, Karetnikov derived the tone row of his Symphony No. 4 from motives as small as two notes related by semitone.[200]

In Soviet Music, Marcel Rubin criticized "Webern and His Followers" (1959), by contrast to Berg and Schoenberg, for going too far.[376] Alfred Schnittke complained in an open letter (1961) of composers' restricted education.[377] Through Grigory Shneyerson's anti-formalist On Music Living and Dead (1960) and Johannes Paul Thilman's anti-modernist "On the Dodecaphonic Method of Composition" (1958), many (e.g., Eduard Artemyev, Victor Ekimovsky, Vladimir Martynov, Boris Tischenko[dn]) ironically learned more about what had been and even was still forbidden.[379] Kruschchev warned, "dodecaphonic music, music of noises ... this cacophonic music we totally reject. Our people cannot include such trash".[380]

Through Andrei Volkonsky, Lydia Davydova recalled, Schoenberg's and Webern's music came to Russia alongside Renaissance and early Baroque music.[381] Tischenko remembered that in the 1960s, Volkonsky "was the first swallow of the avant-garde. [T]hose who came after him ... already followed in his tracks. I consider [him] the discoverer."[381] Edison Denisov described the 1960s as his "second conservatory", crediting Volkonsky not only for introducing Webern, but also Gesualdo.[382]

This tolerance did not survive the Brezhnev Stagnation.[383] Volkonsky emigrated in 1973, Herschkowitz in 1987, and of Khrennikov's Seven (1979), Denisov, Elena Firsova, Sofia Gubaidulina, Dmitri Smirnov, and Viktor Suslin eventually emigrated.[384]


Many choreographers set Webern's music to dance. Martha Graham and George Balanchine choreographed several works in Episodes I and II respectively (1959) as a New York City Ballet "novelty".[385] John Cranko set Opus 1 (1965) to Webern's Passacaglia, Op. 1. Rudi van Dantzig choreographed Webern's music in Ogenblikken[do] (1968) and Antwoord gevend[dp] (1980); Glen Tetley in Praeludium (1978) and Contredanses (1979);[386] Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker alongside that of Beethoven and Schnittke in Erts (1992);[387] and Trisha Brown in Twelve Ton Rose (1996).[388] Jiří Kylián set only Webern's music in No More Play (1988) and Sweet Dreams (1990), more often pairing it with that of other composers in several ballets (1984–1995).[389]

Since the 1980s: Reappraisals and historiography

Webern's legacy, bitterly contested in the "serial wars",[dq] remained subject to polemic vicissitudes. Musicologists quarreled[391][dr] amid the "Restoration of the 1980s", as Martin Kaltenecker termed a paradigm shift from structure to perception within musicological discourse.[ds] Charles Rosen scorned "historical criticism ... avoiding any serious engagement with a work or style ... one happens not to like".[392] Andreas Holzer warned of "post-factual tendencies".[393][dt] Pamela M. Potter advised considering "the complexity of ... day-to-day existence" under Nazism, partly in considering the relevance of composers' politics to their canonic status.[395] Meanwhile Allen Forte and Bailey Puffett formally analyzed Webern's atonal and twelve-tone œuvres respectively.

Taruskin prioritized audience reception, not "musical utopianism".[396][du] He excoriated the Second Viennese School's "idiosyncratic view of the past", linking Webern and Adler to Eduard Hanslick and "neo-Hegelian" Franz Brendel;[398] he criticized historical determinism, "the natural ally of totalitarian politics."[399][dv] Martin Scherzinger noted that Taruskin's criticisms sought "active complicity with undesirable politics".[401][dw] Noted for his polemicism and revisionism,[406][dx] Taruskin described his "dubious reputation" on Webern and New Music[408] and was praised and criticized[dy] by many. For Franklin Cox, Taruskin was an unreliable historian who opposed the Second Viennese School's "progressivist historicist" emancipation of the dissonance with a "reactionary historicist" "ideolog[y] of tonal restoration".[416]

Tim Page noted less formalist readings of Webern's work at his 1983 birth centenary.[417] The occasion "went almost unmarked", Glenn Watkins observed, "a fate hardly imaginable for Berg [on his] 1985 [centenary]". After Webern's mid-century "meteoric ascension and ultimate canonization",[418] Watkins described "quick shifts of interest" tapering to neglect.[419] Webern's music was established but infrequent in standard (repeating) orchestral repertoire.[420][dz] His œuvre was played at the Venice Festival of Contemporary Music (1983),[424] Juilliard (1995), and the Vienna Festival (2004), echoing six international festivals in his name (1962–1978).[ea] In some obscurity (1941 or 1942), Webern had been quietly sure that "in the future even the postman will whistle my melodies!"[426] But many did not acquire such a taste.[427][eb] He remained polarizing and provocative.[430]

Noting this aspect of his reception, Johnson described Webern's "almost unique position in the canon of Western composers".[431] Christian Thorau argued Webern's innovations impeded his "exoterischen Kanonisierung".[432][ec] By contrast to the "concert canon", Anne C. Shreffler considered Webern's better standing in a "separate canon" of technical and formal innovation.[433][ed] Burkholder argued that music of the "historicist tradition", including Webern's, was secure in "a musical museum", "for that is what the concert hall has become".[438][ee] Mark Berry described Webern, already among Boulez's "big five", as one of five "canonical pillars of classic historical early twentieth-century modernism".[ef] David H. Miller suggested Webern "achieved a certain kind of acceptance and canonization".[444]

Pascal Decroupet observed an unquestioned "canon of polarizations" in prior histories.[445][eg] Johnson noted the "co-existence and interaction of diverse stylistic practices" with "remarkable similarities", challenging "conservative and progressive" campism[448] and decentering musicology's technical periodizations[449] via the longue durée of global modernity.[450][eh] Thus he ventured continuity[452] between the "broken homeland" of Webern's Opp. 12–18 and the "broken pastoral" of Monteverdi's L'Orfeo and Vaughan Williams' Pastoral Symphony;[453][ei] between Webern's "evanescent images of musical fullness"[454] and the brief, fragmentary nature of Chopin's Op. 28, which Schumann likened to "ruins".[456] Building on Shreffler's and Felix Meyer's sketch studies as institutions[ej] acquired and made the Moldenhauers' estate accessible,[ek] Johnson worked toward a hermeneutics of Webern's (and Mahler's) music.[458]

Recordings by Webern


  1. ^ Anton Friedrich Wilhelm von Webern never used his middle names and was Anton von Webern until the 1919 Adelsaufhebungsgesetz [de], one social-democratic reform of many in the aftermath of World War I abolishing Austrian nobility in the newly declared Republic of German-Austria. He retook his nobiliary particle in the 1930s.[1]
  2. ^ As teacher, Webern guided and variously influenced Max Deutsch (or Frederick or Friedrich Dorian),[2] Hanns Eisler, Arnold Elston, Fré Focke [de], Karl Amadeus Hartmann, Philip Herschkowitz, Roland Leich, Kurt List, Gerd Muehsam [de], Matty Niël [nl], Karl Rankl, George Robert (briefly of the First Piano Quartet),[3] Louis Rognoni [it], Humphrey Searle, Leopold Spinner, Eduard Steuermann, Stefan Wolpe, Ludwig Zenk [cs],[4] and possibly René Leibowitz.
  3. ^ Bruckner told students he was no longer guided by the rules he taught, broadening Adler's normative ideas about music.
  4. ^ Bruckner, Liszt, and Wagner all wrote of "music of the future".
  5. ^ They also attended the opera and Mahler's symphonies together.[13]
  6. ^ In 1925, Guido Adler asked Webern to edit the third edition. Webern declined due to financial and time constraints, instead proposing lectures on instrumentation and "modern music (Strauss, Mahler, Reger, Schoenberg) in the manner of ... Formenlehre, [or] formal principles (musical logic) and their connection with ... older masters".[14]
  7. ^ Albrecht Dürer Society. He later served on its board.
  8. ^ Webern may have seen newspaper ads for Schoenberg's Schwarzwald School courses in 1904. Karl Weigl, another Adler student, impressed Webern with the score of Schoenberg's Op. 5 in 1902. In 1903–1904, Webern attended performances of Schoenberg's Lieder and Op. 4.[20]
  9. ^ Webern and others gave Schoenberg Klimt prints for his 1921 birthday.[27]
  10. ^ In 1924 Ernst Décsey recalled he once found operetta, with its "old laziness and unbearable musical blandness", beneath him.[31] For Carl Dahlhaus, it was "trivial".[32]
  11. ^ Here Webern quoted Detlev von Liliencron's "Heimgang in der Frühe", which he set to music in 1903.[40]
  12. ^ So Webern wrote to Schoenberg in 1912.[45]
  13. ^ Webern specified which ones to Berg: "Passacaglia, [String] Quartet, most [early] songs, ... second Quartet [Op. 5], ... first orchestral pieces [Op. 6], ... second [orchestral pieces, Op. 10] (with some exceptions)". Julian Johnson argued this held for most of Webern's œuvre as part of "larger and more complex bundle of ideas whose genealogy and weight are cultural ..."[47]
  14. ^ Forest Homeland[49]
  15. ^ They included Berg, Schoenberg, and Erwin Stein.
  16. ^ Debussy, who died in 1918, once wished for a "'Society of Musical Esotericism'".[55]
  17. ^ Singing Society of the Social Democratic Arts Council
  18. ^ Workers' Symphony Concerts
  19. ^ Social Democratic Arts Council
  20. ^ Men's Singing Society
  21. ^ Leinsdorf considered the experience of "utmost value to my musical and critical development".[60]
  22. ^ Its popevki-like 3-7A cell and its 4–10 variant[62] were not altogether unlike the rhythmized trichords of Webern's later Op. 24[63] or the tetrachords of Op. 30[64] (which Stravinsky later admired),[65] apart from Stravinsky's tendency to anhemitony[66] in marked contrast to Webern's hemitonicism.[67]
  23. ^ "high value"
  24. ^ The first 1924 prize, juried by Julius Bittner, Joseph Marx, and Richard Strauss, was shared by several, including Berg, Carl Prohaska [de], Franz Schmidt, Max Springer, and Karl Weigl; the note was signed by Karl Seitz, who asked Webern at a concert two weeks prior, "Are you a professional musician?"[74] Berg and Webern later served as jurists.[75] Only Webern received the prize in 1931.[76]
  25. ^ Among these were Alfred Adler, Karl Bühler, Leo Delitz [de], Josef Dobrowsky, Sigmund Freud, Ernst Lichtblau, Fanina Halle [lt], Hans Kelsen, Alma Mahler, suffragist Daisy Minor, Robert Musil, Egon Wellesz, and Franz Werfel.[81]
  26. ^ "Die Kundgebung des geistigen Wien," April 20, 1927; it read in part, with emphasis in original: "The essence of Spirit [Geist] is above all Freedom, which is now endangered and we feel obligated to protect it. The struggle for a higher humanity and the battle against indolence [Trägheit] and sclerosis [Verödung] will always find us ready. Today, it also finds us prepared for battle."[81]
  27. ^ Workers' Times
  28. ^ Supporters included DJ Bach, Ruzena Herlinger, Werner Reinhart, Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, Paul Stefan, and the IGNM-Sektion Österreich [de].[84]
  29. ^ Before his suicide in 1942, Stefan Zweig wrote, "the short decade between 1924 and 1933, from the end of German inflation to Hitler's seizure of power, represents—in spite of all—an intermission in the catastrophic sequence of events whose witnesses and victims our generation has been since 1914."[87]
  30. ^ Webern was antisemitic from his youth into his adulthood.[91] This surfaced in a months-long 1919 break he made with Schoenberg, Berg reported to his wife. Felix Greissle [de] contextualized this as part of Webern's vacillating resentment and respect toward Schoenberg.[92] According to Greissle, Schoenberg was self-conscious of his Jewish and class background, having internalized some antisemitism. Greissle's son Georg recalled that "mildly" antisemitic jokes were common in Schoenberg's home, which Julie Brown contextualized as "unexceptional". Schoenberg was confronted with antisemitism in reading Otto Weininger and Wagner, with whose "possible Jewish lineage" he repeatedly engaged. He experienced it on family holiday at Mattsee in summer 1921, sparking his return to Judaism. He expected it at the Bauhaus: in 1923 Wassily Kandinsky wrote him, "I reject you as a Jew. ... Better to be a human being"; Schoenberg famously asked Kandinsky, "what is anti-Semitism to lead to if not to acts of violence?"[93]
  31. ^ These conflicts arose within the ideological and political context of Germany–Soviet Union relations, 1918–1941.
  32. ^ The clericofascist Vaterländische Front appealed to Austria's Catholic identity and imperial history, maintaining independence of Nazi Germany in alliance with Fascist Italy and Hungary.[95] The Nazis appealed to this imperial history at Nuremberg.
  33. ^ The transcript of The Path to the New Music went unpublished until 1960 to avoid "expos[ing] Webern to serious consequences".[99]
  34. ^ From 1928 onward, Webern grew closer to Krenek, alongside whom he lectured, whose music (taking a twelve-tone turn) he conducted, and with whom he, Berg, and Adorno shared concerns about the future.[101]
  35. ^ An Austrian Gauleiter on Bayerischer Rundfunk named Berg and Webern as Jewish composers in 1933.[104] Berg wrote Adorno of prior instances,[105] and the Reichskulturkammer referred to Berg as an "émigré musical Jew" in Die Musik following Erich Kleiber's 1935 Berlin première of Berg's Lulu Suite.[106] Conversely, when Berg wrote in 1933 seeking an academic position for Adorno to emigrate to England, Edward Dent declined on the basis of protectionism and underfunding,[107] dubbing Berg "Hitlerian": "You [note in Berg's hand: '(The Jews?)'] are indeed Hitlerians, as you consider Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Holland, Scandinavia, Czechoslovakia and perhaps even England as belonging to 'Germany'!!!"[108]
  36. ^ As part of the Reichsmusiktage, Webern's photograph was exhibited with the note, "this 'master student' of Arnold Schoenberg outdoes his training even in the length of his nose."[110]
  37. ^ He was responding to Krenek's essay "Freiheit und Verantwortung" ("Freedom and Responsibility") in Willi Reich [de]'s 23 – Eine Wiener Musikzeitschrift (1934). Elsewhere Krenek advocated for "a Catholic Austrian avante garde", opposing "the Austrian provincialism that National Socialism wants to force on us."[111]  German Wikisource has original text related to this article: 23 – Eine Wiener Musikzeitschrift.
  38. ^ Only guest conductor Otto Klemperer's status sufficed to overcome their refusal, and even then, the entire orchestra abruptly walked off stage afterward, leaving Krasner, Klemperer, and Arnold Rosé to stand alone. Rosé, retired, had returned to pay his respects to the late Berg as honorary concertmaster.[113]
  39. ^ Webern's only son Peter was an avid Austrian National Socialist. His eldest daughter Amalie married businessman Gunter Waller, who joined the Nazi Party as a business formality. His youngest daughter Christine married Kreisleiter and Schutzstaffel member Benno Mattl, "little liked by the family", in Jun. 1938.[118] His middle daughter Maria Halbich almost emigrated with a man "of Jewish origin". She and Webern's wife Wilhelmine "Minna" Mörtl were wary of Hitler and the Nazis. Webern avoided politics at home.[119]
  40. ^ Webern told Krasner, "Schoenberg, had he not been a Jew, would have been quite different!"[116] For Bailey Puffett, this likely referred to Schoenberg's politics,[120] which were vaguely conservative and German nationalist, then Zionist.
  41. ^ Adorno wrote that "Berg was little concerned with politics, although he saw himself implicitly a socialist."[121] Following the 1918 Jännerstreik and 1919 Spartacist uprising, Berg wrote to Erwin Schulhoff, who was sympathetic, "What names does the Entente have (outside of Russia) that ring of idealism as [Rosa] Luxemburg and [Karl] Liebknecht do?"[122] In weary opposition to World War I, Berg had been adapting Junges Deutschland playwright Georg Büchner's proto-Naturalist Woyzeck, with its Vormärz theme of alienation,[123] in his opera Wozzeck. Büchner's revolutionary 1834 call in The Hessian Courier for "Peace to the huts! War on the palaces!" (Friede den Hütten! Krieg den Palästen!)[122] had endured, paraphrased by August Bebel (1871 Paris Commune)[124] and Vladimir Lenin (1916, "Peace Without Annexations and the Independence of Poland as Slogans of the Day in Russia"; 1917, "Appeal to the Soldiers of All the Belligerent Countries") amid the revolutions of 1917–1923 ending World War I, the February Revolution first among them. Premièred by Erich Kleiber at the Berlin State Opera (1925), Wozzeck was then taken to Prague by Otakar Ostrčil at the National Theatre (1926), provoking a "scandal," as Berg wrote Adorno, staged by "Czech Nationalists (virtually Nazis)" and "clerical lobbies [that] was purely political! (To them I am the Berlin Jew Alban (Aaron?) Berg. Ostrčil bribed by the Russian Bolsheviks, the whole thing arranged by the 'Elders of Zion' etc)."[125] In Rudé právo, Zdeněk Nejedlý praised Berg's music, ridiculing the idea that Wozzeck was staged as a Bolshevik conspiracy, which Antonín Šilhan insinuated in Národní listy. Emanuel Žák, writing for Čech, ascribed its "degenerate" nature to Jewish influence.[126] The Bohemian State Committee forbade further performances.[125] In its third première (1927), Nikolai Roslavets' Association for Contemporary Music staged Wozzeck at the Mariinsky Theatre in Leningrad with Berg and Shostakovich attending.[127] Berg wired his wife Helene [de] "huge, tumultuous success," though critical reception was mixed.[128] Amid Stalinism and deteriorating Germany–Soviet Union relations, Wozzeck was not restaged in Russia for 82 years.
  42. ^ This was Erwin Stein's phrase about "what we have [in Vienna]" in a 1934 letter to Schoenberg.[130]
  43. ^ The Moldenhauers described Ploderer as "a victim of ... despair ... because of ... political developments."[133]
  44. ^ Nazism itself was variously outlined, often emphasizing mutually reinforcing anticommunism, expansionist nationalism (Lebensraum), and racialized antisemitism (Judeo-Bolshevism); but historians also noted multipartisan syncretic appeals of a nostalgic, populist nature, with some anti-modernism and irrationalism, socially exclusive communitarianism (Volksgemeinschaft), and criticism of capitalism.[135]
  45. ^ Composers' correspondence was conducted with some regard to the possibility of later publication, especially after the nineteenth century. Accounts were often self-admittedly perspectival.
  46. ^ Tito M. Tonietti similarly observed of Schoenberg's reception history: "The many aspects of his complex life and artistic personality have ... been drastically simplified and isolated from their context. There has been a tendency to prefer only one, the most in line with the thesis that the writer wished to demonstrate. ... Schönberg has unfortunately not been understood ... [but] used ... for ... controversy ..., for ... purpose ... ."[137]
  47. ^ So did the Moldenhauers.[143]
  48. ^ Webern insisted they stop at a Munich train station café in 1936 to show Krasner that antisemitism posed no real danger.[83] Krasner reflected in 1987 that "Jews ... were at the center of the difficulty" but that he himself had been "foolhardy" as to the full potential of antisemitism: revisiting Vienna in 1941 to help friends (e.g., Schoenberg's daughter Gertrude, her husband Felix Greissle) emigrate, only his US passport saved him from locals and police.[144] Likewise, Franz Neumann reassessed the Nazis' antisemitism as late as 1944, revising his 1942 Behemoth accordingly.[145]
  49. ^ List ventured that "[n]ationalist ideas may have saved [Webern] from the concentration camp".[146] Dissent was punishable under the Heimtückegesetz.[147]
  50. ^ Goldschmidt reported that Webern was called "Kapellmeister Zig-Zag", perhaps at the Berlin Philharmonic.[149]
  51. ^ The Nazis' term was Volksdeutsche.
  52. ^ Most prominent among Austrofascists were Engelbert Dollfuss and Kurt Schuschnigg.[131]
  53. ^ Deteriorating German-Austrian relations and Austrian weakening were marked by the July Putsch, terror, economic warfare (e.g., the thousand-mark ban), and infrastructure destruction.
  54. ^ Among these were prominent Austromarxists Otto Bauer (from exile) and Karl Renner.
  55. ^ This was negated by the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (1919), which imposed a post-Habsburg rump state ("ce qui reste, c'est l'Autriche").
  56. ^ This echoed the Linz Program of 1882.
  57. ^ His arrangement of two of Schubert's German Dances was performed in Leipzig and broadcast in the Reich and Fascist Italy (1941).[170]
  58. ^ Webern emphasized.
  59. ^ Webern's immediate reply (March 1940) was: "I ... with reference ... to my ... experiences ... wondered how such opposites could have become possible next to each other."[178]
  60. ^ In the tradition of parties seeking a dues-paying mass membership, formal NSDAP affiliation could oblige one to pay registration fees or dues, or even to labor.[184] Nazis dissuaded some prospective members from formal affiliation as a strategic matter.[185]
  61. ^ Schoenberg was unable to secure Görgi's emigration despite many attempts. Between the Russian–German language barrier and Nazi munitions and propaganda in the apartment's storeroom, Görgi was held and nearly executed as a Nazi spy but was able to convince a German-speaking Jewish officer otherwise. Görgi and his family remained there until 1969.[192]
  62. ^ Webern repeatedly emphasized Zusammenhang, translated as unity, coherence, or connection. Sibelius was also noted for his organicism and natural topics. British concert programs posed him as an alternative to the Second Viennese School.[197] Adorno and Leibowitz criticized him.[198]
  63. ^ Taruskin noted Webern's "descent from Mahler".[200] Keith Fitch glossed Webern as "crystallized Mahler". The opening of Webern's Op. 21 echoed that of Mahler's Ninth.[201]
  64. ^ This was noted in his performances.[202]
  65. ^ Webern compared Op. 27/ii to the Badinerie from Bach's BWV 1067.
  66. ^ Webern's Op. 1 was openly modeled on that of Brahms's Fourth.[203] Webern's Op. 27/i was perhaps modeled on Brahms's Op. 116/v.[204]
  67. ^ Webern often referred to the Franco-Flemish School as "the Netherlanders." In Feb. 1905 Webern recorded in his diary, "Mahler pointed out ... Rameau ... Bach, Brahms, and Wagner as ... contrapuntalists ... . '... Just as in nature the entire universe has developed from the primeval cell ... beyond to God ... so also in music should a large structure develop [entirely] from a single motive ... .' Variation is ... most important ... . A theme [must] be ... beautiful ... to make its unaltered return ... . ... [M]usicians [should] combine ... contrapuntal skill ... with ... melodiousness".[206] In Jan. 1931, Schoenberg responded to Webern's plan for lectures: "... show the logical development towards twelve-tone composition. ... [T]he Netherlands School, Bach for counterpoint, Mozart for phrase formation [and] motivic treatment, Beethoven [and] Bach for development, Brahms, and ... Mahler for varied and highly complex treatment. ... [T]itle ... : 'The path to twelve-tone composition.'"[207] J. Peter Burkholder generalized his claim that "the use of existing music as a basis for new music is pervasive in all periods";[208] he had focused on "the historicist mainstream" within the proximal eighteenth and especially nineteenth and twentieth centuries.[209] Adriaan Peperzak, writing about the taste of "most intellectuals" at the end of the 20th century as "a plurality of cultural homes" (or about "the 'modern museum of cultures'"),[210] stressed a general connection between new and old represented also in music (i.e., both "after" and before tonality or common practice), observing that "whereas certain works of Bartók and Stravinsky already are experienced as difficult," "Josquin des Prez, Gesualdo, Webern and Boulez seem to be reserved to a small elite, and we continue to refer to traditional art in learning how to compose new works and how to listen to the extraordinary works made according to non-traditional codes."[211]
  68. ^ For example, his first use of twelve-tone technique in Op. 17, Nos. 2 and 3, was more technical than stylistic, and Adorno felt that Op. 14 sounded twelve-tone.[212]
  69. ^ Their instrumental music has been related to vocal idioms: the "concealed vocality" and "latent opera" of Berg's Lyric Suite[216] and the Bach chorale and folk melody of his Violin Concerto; the "recitative" of Schoenberg's Op. 16/v and the accented musical prose of his twelve-tone music. Unlike Berg and Schoenberg, Webern did not use Hauptstimmen and Nebenstimmen, but he endorsed textures of accompanied melody in his music's polyphony. He could not stop writing songs, he told Berg (1921) and Hertzka (1927), noting his work's "almost exclusively lyrical nature" and apologizing to Hertzka for the consequently inauspicious commercial implications.[217]
  70. ^ Berg endorsed an innovative, pluralist approach emphasizing some bel canto and like Webern, expressed faith in singers to execute challenging lines.[222]
  71. ^ Hairpins were arguably read as tenuto-like agogic accents.[224]
  72. ^ Some exceptions included Webern's Op. 23.
  73. ^ Philip Ewell cited Erhard Karkoschka, Kolneder, Heinz-Klaus Metzger, Henri Pousseur, and Karlheinz Stockhausen on this point.[234]
  74. ^ Eliahu Inbal, whose work with the hr-Sinfonieorchester in the 1980s was part of a Bruckner reappraisal,[235] found additional connections between Bruckner and Webern and Romantics and modernists more generally,[236] echoing Dika Newlin and Mahler himself.
  75. ^ Performers also relaxed their tempi.
  76. ^ La vita, La natura, and La morte; or Life, Nature, and Death
  77. ^ Alpine Triptych (1898–1899)
  78. ^ "Becoming–Being–Bygone"
  79. ^ Modern Evening
  80. ^ "I feel the air of other planets"
  81. ^ Op. 11/iii (mid-1909) so differed from Op. 11/i–ii (Feb. 1909) that when Bartók performed Op. 11 (23 Apr. 1921 Budapest, 4 Apr. 1922 Paris), he omitted it.[260]
  82. ^ "Ecstasy was [Webern's] natural state of mind", Stein recalled.[267]
  83. ^ "fields of sound", sound-fields
  84. ^ For Adorno, these were an "essential" Mahlerian formal "genre", often episodic as in a section of music marked senza tempo. Korte compared Webern's Op. 10/iii to the passage before Mahler's "Chorus mysticus".
  85. ^ Beethoven's similar use of registral expansion was noted (e.g., Op. 111, No. 2, Var. 5 when the theme re-emerges in a strange harmonic context after a long section of trills).
  86. ^ Examples included the circling ostinati of Op. 6/v and the end of Op. 15/v.
  87. ^ See Sprechgesang. Schoenberg briefly directed and wrote for the Überbrettl, for example, in the 1901 Brettl-Lieder.
  88. ^ Examples included passacaglia in "Nacht", fugue in "Der Mondfleck", and canon in both.
  89. ^ Examples included the virtuoso solo and waltz in "Serenade" and triadic harmony in "O alter Duft".
  90. ^ "Galgenlied" was still quite short.
  91. ^ In Apr. 1914, after Op. 22/i, "Seraphita," so wrote Schoenberg to Alma Mahler.[276]
  92. ^ Scholarship varied as to the genesis of Jakobsleiter. Joseph Auner noted a scherzo fragment dated May 1914.[277] Schoenberg told Berg about setting Strindberg's Jacob lutte in spring 1911. Webern introduced Schoenberg to Balzac's Louis Lambert and Séraphîta in Mar. 1911.[278]
  93. ^ "Ob rechts, ob links, vorwärts oder rückwärts, bergauf oder bergab – man hat weiterzugehen, ohne zu fragen, was vor oder hinter einem liegt."[279]
  94. ^ In 1941 Schoenberg lectured: "the ... law of the unity of musical space demands an absolute and unitary perception. In this space, as in Swedenborg's heaven (described in Balzac's Séraphîta) there is no absolute down, no right or left, forward or backward." Schoenberg then considered Jakobsleiter a "real twelve-tone composition" for its opening hexachordal ostinato and "Scherzo ... of all the twelve tones".[280]
  95. ^ Examples include Op. 9, Op. 15/iv, and Op. 16.[282]
  96. ^ "What you see here (retrograde, canon, etc.—it is always the same) is not to be thought of as "Kunststückerln" [artistic tricks]—that would be ridiculous!", Webern wrote.[287]
  97. ^ First by hexachordal aggregation in its center; second in a registrally expansive, open voicing at the end.
  98. ^ Initially inspired by his revolutionary countrymen, Liszt left it in manuscript at Carl Haslinger [de]'s discretion.[299]
  99. ^ Webern emphasized our.[303]
  100. ^ In 2013, the Moldenhauers' dogged investigation into Webern's death and the experiences and testimony of those involved were portrayed in a one-act opera, The Death of Webern, which, though written in the eclectic style of its composer Michael Dellaira, paraphrases and quotes from Webern's music (e.g., the Passacaglia, Op. 1 in the third and final scenes, Klangfarbenmelodie in the sixth scene).
  101. ^ For example, Op. 28's BACH motif (1938) and Op. 29/i, "Zündender Lichtblitz", (1938–1939, orch. 1944) troubled some commentators.
  102. ^ See Werktreue [de].[309]
  103. ^ Stadlen published a specially marked score.[311]
  104. ^ Cancellation
  105. ^ Dawn
  106. ^  German Wikisource has original text related to this article: Musikblätter des Anbruch.
  107. ^ Goffredo Petrassi and his student Aldo Clementi were later influenced by Webern, as was Schoenberg pupil Alfredo Sangiorgi [it]. Riccardo Malipiero organized composers, including Camillo Togni, around twelve-tone music in 1949 Milan.
  108. ^ Dallapiccola's 1943 Sex carmina alcaei, on some of the Lirici greci [it] of Salvatore Quasimodo after Alcaeus of Mytilene, were one of three groups of Lieder from his Liriche greche set (1942–1945).[322]
  109. ^ This is Krasner's phrase, by which he interpreted Schoenberg's "those who tried might have succeeded in confounding us" as referring to Webern.[326] But Douglas Jarman noted Schoenberg's discomfort with and Erwin Stein's (and later Cerha's and Perle's) defense of Berg after the Jewish banker scene in Act III of Lulu.[327] When Schoenberg asked Webern about his feelings toward the Nazis, Webern replied, "Who dares to come between you and me?" When Eduard Steuermann asked Krasner on behalf of Schoenberg, Krasner soothed Schoenberg with a self-described lie. Schoenberg's 1934 (or 1935)–1936 Violin Concerto kept its dedication to Webern, though worded very simply ("to Anton von Webern"), whether due to Schoenberg's suspicions or to protect Webern from danger or Nazi suspicion. Schoenberg and Webern continued to correspond at least through 1939.[328]
  110. ^ Schoenberg prepared his statement for publication as a handwritten inscription by facsimile reproduction in Leibowitz's 1948 didactic score of Webern's then unpublished Op. 24,[329] which Webern dedicated to Schoenberg in 1934 for his sixtieth birthday.
  111. ^ Or possibly Craft, who often ghostwrote for Stravinsky.
  112. ^ See Darmstadt School.
  113. ^ See Scambi, 1957.
  114. ^ Among these were Feldman, Pousseur,[di] Rochberg,[348] Stravinsky,[349] and La Monte Young.
  115. ^ Olin Downes described Op. 28 as "Dead End music" in 1941.[355] Another critic wrote in 1929: "If modernism depended for progress upon the Weberns, it would get nowhere."[356]
  116. ^ Adorno advocated for the completion of Lulu, writing that it "reveals the extent of its quality the longer and more deeply one immerses oneself in it". Boulez conducted the 1979 première after Cerha's orchestration.
  117. ^ By contrast, the Kolisch Quartet's 1927 performance of Berg's Lyric Suite at the Baden-Baden ISCM festival (where Bartók performed his own Piano Sonata) inspired Bartók in his subsequent third and fourth string quartets[365] and Concerto for Orchestra.[366]
  118. ^ Tischenko's anti-Stalinist Requiem is a noted example of Soviet post-Webernism.[378]
  119. ^ Moments
  120. ^ Giving Answer
  121. ^ This was Michael Broyles' term.[390]
  122. ^ Robert Fink described a "general disciplinary crisis". In new musicology and postmodernism, canons were questioned, and pluralism was promoted. Lawrence Kramer and Susan McClary emphasized musical meaning. Taruskin criticized the canon's Eurocentrism, Germanism (especially in Schoenberg's, Webern's, and Dahlhaus's work), and colonialism.
  123. ^ Johnson also described several shifts.
  124. ^ In relation to post-Webernism more generally, Holzer slammed attempts "to place Darmstadt in a fascistoid corner or even identifying it as a US propaganda institution amid the Cold War" ("Darmstadt in ein 'faschistoides' Eck zu stellen oder es gar als Propagandainstitution der USA im Kalten Krieg auszuweisen") via "unbelievable distortions, exaggerations, reductions and propagation of clichés" ("unglaublichen Verdrehungen, Übertreibungen, Verkürzungen und Propagierungen von Klischeebildern").[394]
  125. ^ For Taruskin, pitch sets did not "conform to the physics of sound", and "optimism about human adaptability ... is the same ... that drives all utopian thinking."[397]
  126. ^ For J. Peter Burkholder, musical historicism as a mainstream intellectual tradition proper began in Brahms's generation's l'art pour l'art and more introverted musical experience. It intensified in Schoenberg's generation with increasing engagement with stylistic history as impetus to compositional innovation. Distantly and obliquely echoing Charles Burney's work, it flowered amid Hegelianism and theories of biological and social evolution or progress. Burkholder distinguished between more progressive historicism (Schoenberg's Erwartung), more emulative cases (Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos), and mixed examples (Berg's Wozzeck). He noted the assimilation of peripheral national music traditions for novelty but emphasized that innovation occurred even within those contexts.[400]
  127. ^ For Taruskin, "the legacy of fascism is an inseparable ... facet of the lofty legacy of modernism".[402] Krasner told Fanfare Webern "packed me off quickly" upon the Anschluss "for my safety but perhaps ... to avoid ... embarrassment ... had his family arrived, or friends celebrating ... Nazi entry".[151] Taruskin cited Krasner to claim Webern joyfully welcomed the Nazis upon the Anschluss.[403] In his "How Talented Composers Become Useless" postscript, Taruskin wrote, "The Nazis had every right to criticize Schoenberg ... . It is not for their criticism that we all revile them."[404] He compared Leibowitz to Goebbels, found "Nazi resonances" in Eimert's "only composers who follow Webern are worthy of the name," and likened Boulez's "[s]ince the Viennese discoveries, any musician who has not experienced ... the necessity of dodecaphonic language is USELESS" to the Zhdanov Doctrine.[405]
  128. ^ "Of all in the volumes in this series," Taruskin referred to his Oxford History, "this one, covering the first half of the twentieth century, surely differs the most radically from previous accounts".[407]
  129. ^ Rosen charged Taruskin's "hostile presentation ... does not result in historical objectivity".[392] Max Erwin considered Taruskin's work on the Darmstädter Ferienkurse "passionately negative"[409] and "thoroughly discredited",[410] particularly that "Adorno or Leibowitz officiated with near-dictatorial power".[411] Rodney Lister wrote, "Taruskin's purpose ... is to bury Webern, not to praise him", noting "the increasing importance of 'motivization' over the course of the 19th century and of the 'collapse' of (traditional) tonality [is] something which Taruskin flatly states never took place."[412] Larson Powell found "Taruskin's ... references to Webern's politics ... to discredit the music."[413] Christian Utz [de] agreed with Martin Zenck [de] that Taruskin's claims were "simplifying and distorting", granting "authoritarian rhetoric ... in ... the 1950s and 60s" and the nonexistence of "'apolitical music'".[414] Holzer also sympathized with but found Taruskin inappropriate and simplistic.[415]
  130. ^ In a survey of five prestigious British and French orchestras, his music was played 121 times[421] and Beethoven’s 1,198 times between 1967 and 2017.[422] In a US orchestra survey of the "top 100 composers in terms of works performed", his music was played 175 times and Mozart's 7,103 times between 2000 and 2009.[423]
  131. ^ Surveying institutions and performers, Ian Pace described New Music and its performance institutions as subcultural within classical music.[425]
  132. ^ "[A]tonal music is [like] random notes" in its macroharmony, Dmitri Tymoczko suggested as one reason.[428] Building on Tymoczko's work, Joshua Ballance described Webern's Opp. 1–31 partly in its macroharmonies, emphasizing the already totally chromatic macroharmonies of the pre-dodecaphonic mid-period Lieder.[429]
  133. ^ "exoteric canonization"
  134. ^ "Don't write music entirely by ear", Webern told Searle: "Your ears will always guide you ... but you must know why" (emphasis in original).[434] Webern's music was associated with "intellectual order".[431] He innovated musically and conceptually, challenging audiences.[435] Julian Johnson argued that criticisms of composers' innovations were a "constant of musical modernity for four hundred years", from il nuove musiche to die neue Musik. He quoted Girolamo Mei writing to Vincenzo Galilei in 1572: "[N]ot to appear ... inferior ... these musicians precipitated themselves at breakneck speed ... to discover always new styles and new forms of song [which] were not understood [or] felt".[436] Mei wrote Galilei that in these innovations composers followed their ears, not their intellects.[437]
  135. ^ Burkholder and Lydia Goehr, among others, traced the history of orchestras' (and other institutions') museum-like function in producing and presenting "civilized", "elite", or "important" (if sometimes "difficult", "serious", or "unpopular") music as artwork, not without regard to audiences.[439]
  136. ^ The others, in both cases, were Bartók, Berg, Schoenberg, and Stravinsky.[440] In Joseph N. Straus's account of how modernists recast tradition,[441] they were "the exemplars" on whom he focused.[442] Ensemble intercontemporain played them often at Boulez's IRCAM as "classics" in the 1980s, which Georgina Born argued contributed to their canonization.[443]
  137. ^ In a case study, Martin Kaltenecker noted Taruskin's taking aim at avant-garde prestige in opposition to Célestin Deliège [fr]'s Cinquante ans de modernité musicale: De Darmstadt à l'IRCAM.[446] He contrasted their polarized nomothetic "plots" with more idiographic approaches' "juxtapositions" and thick description. He considered how to move beyond this nomothetic–idiographic historiographical dichotomy.[447]
  138. ^ Johnson described music in modernity as "broken off from the past", "broken in itself", and "of individual subjectivity". It no longer "elaborate[s] ... divine unity", by contrast to medieval music, but "rema[d]e it", he argued, "as Wagner's Siegfried ... from ... his father's sword, or as Webern piece[d] together ... atomized ... interval[s]."[451]
  139. ^ For Johnson, modernism foregrounded the "brokenness that always lay at the heart of the pastoral".[454] Thomas Peattie wrote about brokenness in Mahler's pastoral music.[455]
  140. ^ Among these was the Paul-Sacher-Stiftung [de].
  141. ^ Julie Brown described a "greening" of Webern literature.[457]


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Further reading