Anton Webern

This piece was composed in 1908.

When I started to listen to the music of Anton Webern 35 years ago the most modern music I could stand was Tippett’s piano concerto, a very tonal work.

I resolved to unplug my conditioned expectations about cadences and resolution of discords, and simply listen as carefully as I could to one sound after another. And click! It suddenly fell into focus. This was the Fünf Sätze für Streichquartett, Op. 5. I never had any trouble listening to Webern after that.

Webern believed that his music was as natural as the flowers in the field and that is, I am sure, how he would have liked people to listen …

10 things to know about Webern

In the 12 years between 1908 and 1920, he moved house 27 times.

He wrote nearly thirty pieces before the Passacaglia, his official Op. 1.

He wrote the shortest piece in the world, ever: Op. 11 No. 2, for cello and piano, which lasts less than 30 seconds.

His great passion in life other than music was mountain climbing.

He loved nature and was a keen gardener.

Though his music sounds very modern, he regarded it as a continuation of the Viennese romantic tradition from Schubert to Mahler.

He was a fine conductor, and worked with the BBC Symphony Orchestra on many occasions in the 1930s.

He taught music at the Jewish Cultural Institute for the Blind in Vienna.

He was shot dead in mysterious circumstances in 1945 by a chef in the American army, after he had stepped outside to smoke half a cigar obtained on the black market.

Posthumously, he was possibly the most influential composer of his generation, heralded as the new Messiah by composers such as Boulez and Stockhausen.

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