(b Leipzig, 3 Feb 1927). German wind instrument maker and restorer. He is noted for his restorations and fine reproductions of early wind instruments including crumhorns, shawms, dulcians, rauschpfeifen, cornetts, recorders, rackets, gemshorns, sorduns, oboes, bassoons and portatives. He took up the organ as a schoolboy and visited many old organs in north Germany. He became first a mechanic and later a painter and commercial artist. In Berlin he was trained by Gerhard Muchow to restore pictures and wood carvings and also learnt to play the recorder, oboe and bassoon. His taste for music of the 15th to the 17th centuries led to an unsuccessful search for instruments with sounds that matched the old organs he loved. He learnt wood-turning at Hamburg and made his first instruments there in 1947, simply to produce the sounds he wanted for amateur music-making. He was encouraged to start his own workshop in 1950 and in 1960 moved to Bayerbach in Bavaria, by which time he was making historical copies that were ever more faithful to their originals. In recent years his main career has been spent as a restorer of historic woodwinds, of which he is the acknowledged leading exponent, having had through his hands many of the most precious of surviving instruments. In addition to private collectors, he has worked for the museums of Augsburg, Bologna, Bonn, Brussels, Copenhagen, Darmstadt, Frankfurt, Ingolstadt, Modena, Munich, Rothenburg, Stuttgart and Verona. His restoration reports, a volume of which he has published, are models of their kind: revealing the use of the most modern techniques, they are nevertheless informed by a deep knowledge of and respect for the techniques employed in former times. His most outstanding achievement has probably been to save some particularly notable instruments from threatened destruction, including the crumhorns in the Verona collection. Weber has published an important corpus of articles concerned with both woodwind history and restoration topics (for a complete bibliography see Fontana).
with J.H.van der Meer: ‘Some Facts and Guesses concerning Doppioni’, GSJ, xxv (1972), 22–9
(b Vienna, 3 Dec 1883; d Mittersill,15 Sept 1945). Austrian composer and conductor. Webern, who was probably Schoenberg's first private pupil, and Alban Berg, who came to him a few weeks later, were the most famous of Schoenberg's students and became, with him, the major exponents of 12-note technique in the second quarter of the 20th century. Webern applied the new technique more rigorously than either Schoenberg, who took many liberties, or Berg, who never used it exclusively; Webern's strictness, and his innovative organization of rhythm and dynamics, were seized upon eagerly by Boulez and Stockhausen and other integral serialists of the Darmstadt School in the 1950s and were a significant influence on music in the second half of the century.
2. Juvenilia and student works, 1899–1908.
3. Early aphoristic style, 1908–14.
4. A new lyricism, 1915–26.
5. 12-note instrumental works, 1927–40.
6. 12-note works with voice, 1933–43.
Webern was born in Vienna, the son of a mining engineer who later rose to be chief of the Ministry of Agriculture's Department of Mining. The family were minor nobility; Webern dropped the ‘von’ from his name in 1918 in compliance with an edict from the new Austrian government prohibiting the use of such titles. As a child he attended school in Vienna (1889–90), Graz (1890–94) and Klagenfurt (1894–1902), where he studied the piano and the cello with Edwin Komauer. Holidays and vacations were spent at his family's country estate, Preglhof; here he composed many of his earliest pieces, the majority of which were settings of poetry by Ferdinand Avenarius (a lyric poet and the nephew of Richard Wagner) and the poets in Avenarius's two anthologies of German poetry, Hausbuch deutscher Lyrik and Balladenbuch. Ernst Diez, who in later life became an art historian of some distinction specializing in art of the Orient and the Middle East, was Webern's cousin and closest childhood friend, five years his senior. Diez was a frequent visitor at Preglhof, and his influence upon the thinking and artistic interests of the young Webern was considerable. The two boys favoured the work of the German ‘moderns’: besides the poetry of Stefan George, Richard Dehmel and others, they read Nietzsche, and they shared an enthusiasm for the work of contemporary German painters and the music of Wagner. In 1901 they saw a production of Tristan in Graz, and on Webern's maturation from the Klagenfurt Bundesgymnasium in 1902 his father rewarded him with a trip to Bayreuth on which he was accompanied by Diez. They saw Parsifal and Der fliegende Holländer, and on the trip home visited several art galleries in Munich, where Webern was particularly impressed with paintings by Arnold Böcklin, Giovanni Segantini and Moritz von Schwind, though he expressed the greatest disdain for the fashion-conscious Bayreuth audiences as well as for most of the modern art that he saw in the galleries.
In 1902 he matriculated at the University in Vienna, where he studied musicology with Guido Adler, harmony with Hermann Graedener and counterpoint with Karl Navrátil. During these years he continued to study the piano and cello privately and to compose, writing numerous short piano pieces and movements for string quartet as well as some pieces for small orchestra and at least one, the idyll Im Sommerwind after a poem by Bruno Wille, for large orchestra. He left university in 1906, having successfully completed work for a doctorate in musicology, which included as his dissertation an edition of the second volume of the Choralis constantinus by Heinrich Isaac.
The most influential relationship of Webern's life began in autumn 1904, when, after travelling to Berlin to inquire about the possibility of studying composition with Hans Pfitzner and having become enraged at Pfitzner's attitude towards Mahler and Strauss, he returned to Vienna to become a student instead of Schoenberg. Not only was this the beginning of his lifelong devotion to Schoenberg – an esteem the fervour of which at times resembled that of a love affair – it was also to determine the company in which he would move for the rest of his life. The members of Schoenberg's class – Karl Horwitz and Heinrich Jalowetz, who were already Webern's university friends, as well as Erwin Stein, Egon Wellesz and particularly Alban Berg – became a close circle and were to remain so, often seeing themselves as an island surrounded by mediocrity and hostility. Their experience encouraged such a feeling. For example, at what became known as the ‘Skandalkonzert’ of 31 March 1913, which included the first performance of Webern's op.6 pieces for orchestra along with works by Schoenberg, Zemlinsky, Mahler and Berg, performance of the Berg caused a riot of such proportions that the concert could not be finished.
Webern's formal study with Schoenberg was over by the end of 1908. Only the first two of Webern's works with opus numbers were composed during the time he was Schoenberg's pupil: the Passacaglia and the chorus Entflieht auf leichten Kähnen (both written in 1908). In the years directly following their apprenticeship both Berg and Webern were kept very busy copying parts and making piano reductions for Schoenberg, as well as making numerous arrangements for both his private and his professional life, which included raising money to try to keep him solvent. Their loyalty was immense. In autumn 1911 Schoenberg moved to Berlin. Webern followed him there within the week and, except for occasional trips to Vienna, remained there until he took up a post at Stettin (now Szczecin) in June 1912.
Webern married his cousin Wilhelmine Mörtl in 1911. They had four children: Amalie in 1911, Maria in 1913, Peter in 1915 and Christine in 1919. By the year of his marriage Webern had composed a large number of pieces, including all those up to op.10. He would not produce another work until the op.11 pieces for cello and piano in mid-1914. In 1908–9 he moved from the extended tonality of the Passacaglia to the aphoristic atonality of opp.3–11, perhaps the style for which he is best remembered. The next eight works with opus numbers, written between 1914 and 1925, were to represent another change of direction: all are songs, in which text is used as a way of expanding a style that had reached its maximum brevity with op.11.
‘When men begin earning a living and become involved in external matters, they all get a hole inside.’ So Webern wrote to Schoenberg in 1910. In the years immediately following university and his apprenticeship with Schoenberg, his instability and indecisiveness began to be apparent. In the years 1908–13 he took up and quit five theatre conducting jobs – in Bad Ischl in 1908, Innsbruck in 1909, Bad Teplitz in 1910, Danzig in 1910 and Stettin in 1912 – in most cases bolting after only a few weeks. During the same period he made unsuccessful applications for some 11 other positions, refused to consider five available posts in Riga, and turned down a position offered to him at Graz. The pattern of his life during this period was determined almost entirely by his devotion to Schoenberg and his fanatical desire to be near him. ‘You are set up in my heart as my highest ideal whom I love more and more, to whom I am more and more devoted’, he wrote to Schoenberg on 10 June 1914.
Summer 1911 was spent securing the help of Zemlinsky in an application to the Deutsches Landestheater in Prague. The application was successful, but when Webern travelled to Prague to take up the position in September he changed his mind and returned to Vienna. Another change of mind resulted in a second application for the same job six months later. This was the beginning of a lengthy series of tergiversations in connection with Prague. Altogether he applied for the position there seven times and was given it five. He held it for about six months in total, on separate occasions in 1916, 1917 and 1920.
In January 1913 he requested and was given sick leave from the job he had held in Stettin since the previous June. During a two-month stay in a sanatorium in Semmering he decided not to return to Stettin and again entered into negotiations with the theatre in Prague, agreeing to go there for the beginning of the following season. At the end of July, after completing arrangements for moving his household to Prague, he once again travelled there and changed his mind, this time asking for, and being granted, a leave of absence for health reasons. He subsequently converted this into a formal resignation.
Webern now agreed to a course of psychoanalysis under the Viennese psychologist Albert Adler. After two months (Adler had suggested three) he declared himself cured. In April 1914 he signed a contract with Stettin which was to take effect on 20 August. On 28 July Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, and by 20 August the theatre in Stettin was closed.
Although Webern was himself seized by an immediate desire to join up and fight, he petitioned vociferously for Schoenberg's exemption from military service from the start. He entered military service in February 1915. Five months and five transfers later he had had enough and succeeded in getting the theatre in Prague to intercede on his behalf; he was released in December so that he could take up the position there (for the first time) in January 1916. In the meantime, however, Schoenberg was called up, and Webern's guilt at his own reprieve was so great that he left Prague before the end of the month, without telling anyone of his plans, and returned to active service. He set out with renewed energy to secure Schoenberg's release, and, when this campaign was successful, again lost interest in the cause himself. In October 1916 he approached the long-suffering Zemlinsky about securing yet another discharge so that he could return to the position at Prague, which he did in August 1917. In December Schoenberg moved to Mödling. Webern immediately left Prague, to move to Mödling as well. Probably as a result of Schoenberg's encouragement, Webern was to return to the Prague theatre for a third time in 1920, when the economic climate in Austria was extremely bleak, but once again he left after a few weeks. This was his last attempt to hold a conducting position in the theatre.
In November 1918 a short-lived but historically important society was born: the Verein für Musikalische Privataufführungen, of which Schoenberg was president and Webern one of three original musical directors. The society's aim was to provide performances of contemporary music for an audience of subscribing members, performances which were closed to the general public and thus to the usual popular critical network. The society's manifesto was published in February 1919, and in the three years 1919–21 some 117 concerts were given, including performances of many of Webern’s works. The society disbanded in 1922.
Three things of great importance occurred in Webern's life in the early 1920s. He began to write music using the 12-note technique; he began a conducting career that was to become, if not very lucrative, certainly more than moderately successful; and he met Hildegard Jone.
Schoenberg formally introduced his new technique of composition to a close circle of students and friends in the early 1920s. Webern had already been experimenting along these lines, and in a letter to Berg dated 8 October 1925 he wrote that ‘12-tone composition is for me now a completely clear procedure’. He composed the eight songs of opp.17–19 in the years 1924–6; his first fully developed 12-note piece was the String Trio op.20, finished in 1928.
Although as a conductor he was never anything like as famous as contemporaries such as Bruno Walter or Hermann Scherchen, he did receive a certain acclaim, and Berg wrote to his wife after seeing him conduct Mahler's Third Symphony: ‘Without exaggeration: Webern is the greatest conductor since Mahler – in every respect’. He was appointed chorus master of the Schubertbund in 1921, of the Mödlinger Männergesangverein in the same year, and of David Josef Bach's Singverein in 1923; although he resigned from the Schubertbund in 1922, he remained with the other two organizations for the length of their existence. In 1927 and 1928 he became conductor of the Arbeiter-Symphonie-Konzerts (a series of concerts given by the Tonkünstlerorchester for a working-class audience) and the Chor Freie Typographia as well. He first conducted on RAVAG (Austrian state radio) in 1927 and was regularly employed there from 1929 until his dismissal for political reasons in 1935. In the years 1920–36 he pursued an international career, with engagements in Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, London and Barcelona. He conducted almost exclusively the traditional Austro-German repertory – Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Bruckner and Mahler – and his own works and those of Schoenberg and Berg. It is significant that his tastes did not extend far beyond that music which is central to the German tradition, of which he firmly believed his own work to be a continuation.
Throughout the 1920s he had shown an ambivalence towards teaching that was not unlike his earlier indecisiveness concerning theatre conducting. In 1920 he refused a teaching position offered to him by the Academy in Prague and instead took over some of Schoenberg's teaching in Vienna while the latter made a prolonged visit to the Netherlands. During succeeding years he repeatedly tried to secure teaching with the Musikwissenschaftliches Institut and the Akademie für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Vienna and the University in Berlin, but all his attempts were in vain. In 1925 he was hired to teach at the Israelisches Blindeninstitut in Vienna, the only teaching position he would ever hold, and one that he retained for six years.
As the result of Schoenberg's intercessions Webern was asked in 1929 to teach at the Austro-American Conservatory, a summer academy at Mondsee, and he suggested courses in formal analysis and 12-note composition; these were set for summer 1931, but in the end the invitation came to nothing. A private venue for the lectures, which he had already prepared, was organized by his friends and students, and in January 1932 he began a course in the home of Dr Rudolph Kurzmann, the first of a series of lectures which was to continue until the last months of World War II. The first two courses, given in 1932 and 1933, were transcribed by Webern's student Willi Reich from his notes and later published in a single volume, Der Weg zur neuen Musik (1960). Except for these two courses, these series dealt with the works of Beethoven and other German masters.
The years leading up to the Anschluss were distressing generally for Webern. Emil Hertzka, who had not only viewed his music sympathetically, but was responsible for publishing many of his works and had granted him a small regular income as well, died in 1932, leaving Webern's future and that of his music uncertain. Schoenberg emigrated to Paris and then to America in 1933. Austria's Social Democratic Party was outlawed in 1934, and with it all its cultural organizations, including the Singverein and the Arbeiter-Symphonie-Konzerts. In 1935 Berg died unexpectedly of septicaemia. These years saw the end of Webern's conducting career. He conducted for the last time in Vienna, for RAVAG, in July 1935. Two BBC concerts in May 1936 were his last conducting appearances anywhere.
With the Anschluss came a list of ‘degenerate art’ which included Webern's name; from 1938 the publication or performance of his music was banned in Germany and Austria, though performances continued in America, Britain and Switzerland. Of his last four works only the Quartet op.28 was published during his lifetime, by Boosey & Hawkes in London. His attempts to interest publishers in the outside world in the two cantatas and the orchestral Variations op.30 were to no avail, though op.30 was performed in Winterthur in 1943, the last time Webern was to hear any of his own music performed.
His son Peter was killed on military service in February 1945. Webern himself, now aged 60, was drafted into the air-raid police and embarracked. At the end of March 1945 he and his wife fled their home in Mödling on foot to join their three daughters and their children in Mittersill, in the mountains near Salzburg, to get away from the constant bombings in Vienna; Mödling fell to the Russians six days later. The final irony came when, four months after the war had ended, Webern was shot dead while smoking an after-dinner cigar on the veranda of his daughter Christine's house, the victim indirectly of his son-in-law's black-market activities.