Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Phantom Concert Hall: Viennese Shivers

Tonight we're back in our bohemian finery; James in his grandfather's dinner jacket, Viola in one of her many vintage gowns, Ramsey is in tweed, May's in a tuxedo herself. We meet in the lobby, smiling and joking, and head in for the performance.

One of tonight's specials is Anton Webern's Six Pieces for Orchestra, published in 1909.

Anton Webern (1883-1945) was a Viennese composer of the so-called "Second Viennese School." He was a student and follower of Schoenberg, that master of atonality, and himself was a master of twelve-tone technique. Webern's music was declared "degenerate" by the Third Reich (or what was called Entartete Musik at the time), and he had a hard time finding work or recognition during his lifetime. He moved to Salzburg after the war, but was shot and killed by an American soldier when, despite a curfew, he stepped outside to smoke a cigar as to not disturb his children. The soldier who shot him was overwhelmed by remorse and drank himself to death a decade later.

Webern didn't publish much during his lifetime, and rarely got to hear his own work played. He's thought of by many as the most minimalist of the Second Viennese School, and many of his pieces are very brief. Some are just a couple of minutes long, some less than a minute. His works can be very spectral and macabre; some of his works for smaller ensembles are very ghostly and disembodied-sounding. His work was an influence on post-war avant-garde composers, and thus on modern music in general.

Feeling unsettled after the concert, we take our coats and head back into the night, not paying attention to the footsteps following us....

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