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Webern Five Orchestral Pieces

Uploaded by baadasskid69 on Oct 27, 2011

This essay examines the fourth piece in Webern’s Opus 10.

I Introduction

Anton von Webern (1883-1945), according to liner notes, was “a composer continually in the process of remaking himself while remaining true to his deepest spiritual promptings.” (MacDonald, p. 4). A pupil of Schoenberg, he is often associated with that composer because of his work in what is usually called “atonal” music, but he wrote some very melodic pieces as well.
This paper looks at one of his very short compositions, no. IV, “Fleißend, äußerst zart” from “Five Orchestral Pieces,” op. 10.

II Discussion

I found this composition on a CD by the Cleveland Orchestra, Christoph von Dohnányi conducting. The same piece played by different orchestras under different conductors will vary in length, depending on the tempo the conductor prefers. On this recording, it is exactly 30 seconds long. For something that short, it’s an amazingly complex piece of music.
I’ve listened to it repeatedly, and the word I can best use to describe it is “mysterious” or perhaps “otherworldly.” It is ephemeral, like something you see from the corner of your eye. It’s hard to truly understand the piece, because it’s over so quickly, and yet the sense lingers of their being something going on just out of hearing; something we could hear if we could strain just a bit harder or if it were only a second or two longer.
The piece starts with two very faint notes being plucked by a stringed instrument in the first two seconds. Three more notes sound on seconds 3, 4 and 5; they are also plucked, and the note that is played at second three drops over an octave, and is actually two notes played very quickly, though not a chord. The note on second 4 is in the upper register, even higher than the note that began the piece, and the note at second 5 comes down slightly in pitch. Second 6 is silent.
Just before second 7 (on the upbeat), a horn sounds a single note and holds it for eight seconds (8-16). It doesn’t change pitch, but the timbre is very clear, and it grows louder, then softer, then louder and softer, louder and softer three times in succession. These crescendos occur at one-second intervals, on 10, 11, and 12.
At the same time, a second horn joins in. It provides dissonance:...

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Uploaded by:   baadasskid69

Date:   10/27/2011

Category:   Music

Length:   4 pages (921 words)

Views:   2343

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