Tone Poem Tuesday

I heard this work on the radio just the other day and I found it captivating. It is Im Sommerwind — “In the Summer Wind” — by Anton Webern.

I am honestly not sure if I have ever heard anything by Webern before. Primarily an early-20th century composer, Webern is known for being one of the chief students and followers of Anton Schoenberg’s twelve-tone technique, in which the traditional systems of tonality in Western music were finally broken down completely. I’ve always found twelve-tone music difficult, and in truth I have honestly never much explored it (and yes, perhaps I should). This piece is an early work of Webern’s, written before he really took Schoenberg’s twelve-tone lessons to heart, but it is still easy to hear the way it straddles the line between Romanticism and Modernism. This work is deeply steeped in the late Wagnerian sound, the post-Tristan period when a lot of music felt like it was simultaneously grounded and at sea.

Webern apparently felt that Im Sommerwind was not representative of where, as a young man, he wanted to go as a composer, and he shelved the piece. It went unperformed until 1962, fifteen years after the composer’s death.

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