Webern, Anton (Friedrich Wilhelm von)

Webern, Anton (Friedrich Wilhelm von)

biographical name

(born Dec. 3, 1883, Vienna—died Sept. 15, 1945, Mittersill, near Salzburg, Austria) Austrian composer. He learned piano and cello as a child and earned a doctorate in musicology at the University of Vienna, specializing in the music of the 15th-century Flemish composer Heinrich Isaac. In 1904 he and his friend Alban Berg began composition lessons with Arnold Schoenberg, and Webern was soon combining atonality with complex counterpoint in the manner of Isaac, producing works distinctive for their extreme brevity and delicacy. While Schoenberg was developing the 12-tone method (see serialism) of composition into the 1920s, Webern was independently moving in a similar direction. After Schoenberg presented the system in 1924, Webern adopted it, composing relatively extended pieces such as the Symphony (1928), Concerto (1934), and Variations for Piano (1936). He earned a living most of his life as a conductor. During Austria's occupation at the end of World War II, he was accidentally shot and killed by an American soldier. Though he was little appreciated during his lifetime, his works became highly influential internationally in the postwar decades.

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