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"Mein Weg geht jetzt vorüber": The Vocal Origins of Webern's Twelve-Tone Composition

Author(s): Anne C. Shreffler


Source: Journal of the American Musicological Society, Vol. 47, No. 2 (Summer, 1994), pp.
275-339
Published by: University of California Press on behalf of the American Musicological
Society
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"Mein Weg geht jetzt vortiber":
The Vocal Origins of Webern's
Twelve-Tone Composition*
BY ANNE C. SHREFFLER

To the memory of Howard Mayer Brown

LTHOUGH WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE WORKS remain his best known,


how he found his own twelve-tone voice has been almost
completely unexamined.' While the uniqueness of that voice, with it
economy of means, symmetries, and severe clarity, has been justly
celebrated, its origins are usually described as a gradual acquisition
and assimilation of Schoenberg's techniques. But if measuring We-

* An early version of this essay was presented at the Fifty-sixth Annual Meeting
of the American Musicological Society, Oakland, November I990. I am grateful to
the Paul Sacher Stiftung and the American Philosophical Society for research suppor
during the summer of i99o. I would also like to thank Richard Cohn and Felix Meyer
for their helpful comments on drafts of this essay.
' There have been no single studies devoted to Webern's acquisition of twelve-
tone technique. General books on Webern by Rene Leibowitz, Wallace McKenzie,
Walter Kolneder, Luigi Rognoni, and Friedrich Wildgans assess Webern's evolution
(by necessity) only in terms of his published works; moreover all of these authors take
Webern's later twelve-tone technique as a model, viewing earlier works as experi-
mental and incomplete: Leibowitz, Introduction a la musique de douze sons (Paris:
L'Arche, 1949); McKenzie, "The Music of Anton Webern" (Ph.D. diss., North
Texas State College, i96o); Kolneder, Anton Webern: An Introduction to His Works,
trans. Humphrey Searle (London: Faber and Faber, 1968); Rognoni, The Second
Vienna School: Expressionism and Dodecaphony, trans. Robert W. Mann (London: John
Calder, i977); Wildgans, Anton Webern, trans. Edith Temple Roberts and Humphrey
Searle (London: Calder and Boyars, 1966). Hans Moldenhauer and Rosaleen Mold-
enhauer's ground-breaking (and still essential) biography is based on source material
not available to earlier authors, but does not attempt to alter the prevailing view of
Webern's twelve-tone development: Anton von Webern: A Chronicle of Hir Life and Work
(New York: Knopf, i979). Recent works by Kathryn Bailey and Donna Levern Lynn
discuss Webern's twelve-tone technique from 1924 and after. Bailey's book, The
Twelve-Note Music of Anton Webern: Old Forms in a New Language (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, I991), focuses primarily on works after op. 19. Lynn's
dissertation, based on a new assessment of the sources, emphasizes published works:
"Genesis, Process, and Reception of Anton Webern's Twelve-Tone Music: A Study
of the Sketches for Opp. I7-19, 21, and 22/2 (1924-1930)" (Ph.D. diss., Duke
University, 1992).

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276 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

bern's "progress" in Schoenbergian terms presents a distorted picture,


the postwar reception of Webern as "super-serialist" who naturally
and fluently absorbed twelve-tone technique is equally misleading.
In this essay, I shall focus on the very earliest stages of Webern's
twelve-tone development, before he began to make row charts or to
work out the kinds of systematic organization characteristic of his later
music. I attempt to show, first, that Webern's adoption of the
twelve-tone system is better seen not as a gradual development or
"path" (as he himself would later describe it), but instead as a period
of broad experimentation, during which he alternately rejected and
embraced the new method. This can be seen in sketches and drafts for
transitional works, some of which became available only recently and
have not been discussed before.2 Second, in adopting the method,
Webern drew from it radically different consequences than Schoen-
berg had drawn. While Schoenberg valued above all the unifying
force of serial operations, Webern's transitional and early twelve-tone
works, almost all for voice, seem deliberately designed to prevent the
perception of unity. With these pieces, which are among his most
nonsystematic, Webern created the most complex, even disordered,
musical surface of any of his works up to that time. Though his later
serial works show a more ordered face, some of the consequences of
this early struggle with twelve-tone technique remain. Third, I shall
suggest that an account of how Webern came to terms with Schoen-
berg's method should not be primarily about technical acquisition.
Rather, Webern's version of twelve-tone composition grew out of a
decade's preoccupation with vocal music, and more specifically out of
the religious and mystical aesthetic embodied in the song texts he
chose during these years. These texts have created problems---one
might say embarrassment-for post-Darmstadt-minded scholars. Of-
ten dismissed because they do not belong to the "high" poetic
tradition, the texts, drawn from everyday books like the prayer-book
and hymnal, provided Webern with a richly symbolic language that
closely corresponded to his ideas about twelve-tone technique.

2 Most of the earliest twelve-tone sketches (for opp. 15, 16, and 17, no. I) are in
the Paul Sacher Foundation, Basel (hereafter PSS; manuscript pages will be identified
by microfilm number). The Library of Congress holds significant manuscripts of
Webern's opp. 15, 16, and 18. The main source for Webern's sketches for op. 17, nos.
2 and 3, and opp. i8 and 19 is "Sketchbook I" in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New
York, whose contents have been described briefly by Bailey (Tbe Twelve-Note Music)
and more extensively by Lynn ("Genesis, Process, and Reception").

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WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE COMPOSITION 277

Even from the purely technical point of view of row concep


ization, Webern's story was not Schoenberg's story.3 Schoenb
formulation of his twelve-tone method was a conscious act in resp
to a musical and personal crisis; for this Carl Dahlhaus has called
a "musical decisionist."4 Accordingly, Schoenberg's first twelve
efforts represent a conscious rationalization of musical techn
(which Dahlhaus described so aptly as a "renewed state of lega
after the "state of emergency").s This is demonstrated not only in
dance forms that organize the individual movements of the Suite,
25, but also in the increasing control exerted by serial techni
throughout the composition of Five Piano Pieces, op. 23, Seren
op. 24, and Piano Suite, op. 25 between i920 and 1923, works w
have come to be seen as neoclassical in spirit and design.
When Webern first began using rows, by contrast, he produ
some of his most irrational and disorganized works. The first p
with opus numbers that rely on row technique to any extent ar

3 Schoenberg's twelve-tone development (unlike Webern's) has been the subje


prolonged study. Josef Rufer, in Die Komposition mit zwdilf Tnen (Berli
Wunsiedel: Max Hesses Verlag, 1952), attempted a comprehensive description
technique as Schoenberg understood it. In Das Werk Arnold Schinbergs (K
Barenreiter, 1959), Rufer undertook the monumental task of cataloging, orderin
evaluating Schoenberg's manuscripts, now collected in the Schoenberg Instit
Los Angeles. Jan Maegaard continued the project, refining the chronology and g
more precise descriptions of the manuscripts; he also developed an analyt
methodology to chart the evolution of Schoenberg's twelve-tone method sta
stage: "A Study in the Chronology of Op. 23-26 by Arnold Schoenberg," D
Arbog for Musikforskning 2 (1962): 93-115; and Studien zur Entwicklung des dodekap
Satzes bei Arnold Schonberg, 3 vols. (Copenhagen: Wilhelm Hansen, 1972). In a s
of analyses of Schoenberg's opp. 23, 24, and 25, George Perle described th
transitional serial and twelve-tone techniques: Serial Composition and Atonality
Introduction to the Music of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern (Berkeley: Universi
California Press, 1962). The sketches for opp. 23 and 25 were published in
Schoenberg Gesamtausgabe, with a detailed commentary by Reinhold Brinkm
Kritischer Bericht, Werke fir Klavier zu zwei Handen. Arnold Schoenberg, Sdmtliche We
Reihe B, Band 4 (Mainz: Schott; and Vienna: Universal Edition, i975)
Schoenberg Institute during the I980s fostered significant discoveries of fac
chronology: see Ethan Haimo, "Redating Schoenberg's Passacaglia for Orches
this JOURNAL 40 (1987): 471-94; idem, "Schoenberg's Unknown Twelve-To
Fragments," Journal of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute 11 (1988): 52-69; Martha
Schoenberg's Twelve-Tone Harmony: The Suite Op. 29 and the Compositional Sketches
Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1982); Harald Krebs, "Schoenberg's 'Liebeslied':
Early Example of Serial Writing," Journal of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute 11 (1
23-37; and Haimo, Schoenberg's Serial Odyssey: The Evolution of His Twelve-Tone Me
1914-1928 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, i99o).
4 Carl Dahlhaus, Schoenberg and the New Music, trans. Derrick Puffett and A
Clayton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 90.
s Ibid.

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278 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

Three Traditional Rhymes, op. 17 (1924-25), and Three Songs, op.


i8 (1925); both have resisted analysis and performance. They are
fiercely difficult to play, even by the virtuosic standard set by other
works of Webern, Schoenberg, and Berg. As short as Webern's
prewar instrumental miniatures but much denser in texture, these
pieces are hard to follow; surely Webern's early twelve-tone and
transitional songs are his least accessible works. Moreover, his deci-
sion to adopt the twelve-tone technique did not spring from an artistic
crisis, as Schoenberg's did. Webern's crisis had come earlier, before
the First World War, when his works had miniaturized practically to
the vanishing point. Webern then turned to composing songs in order
to be able to write longer pieces. He achieved this goal by producing
the song sets opp. 12, I 3, and 14 (composed between 1915 and 1921),
in which he cultivated an atonal technique based on longer lines and
contrapuntal textures, and drew upon an ever-increasing mastery of
motivic connections.6
Schoenberg's twelve-tone discoveries interrupted Webern's com-
positional fluency. Absorbing the new ideas, which Webern learned
about in the summer of 1922 or earlier, required a major rethinking of
his compositional habits and seriously disrupted what had been a
reasonably steady flow of work. Webern's first row sketches in the
summer of i922, a setting of the text "Mein Weg geht jetzt voriiber"
(later op. 15, no. 4), were not successful; he ultimately finished the
piece in a free atonal style. After this attempt his compositional output
ground practically to a halt. Over the next two years he produced only
the minute, non-dodecaphonic Five Canons, op. i6. In the fall of
1924, he finally resumed sketching with twelve-tone rows, completing
the Kinderstiick (posthumous) and the song op. 17, no. i, each of which
is based on a single twelve-tone row. Only after completing the
second of the Three Songs, op. i8, in October 1925, did Webern
admit feeling comfortable with the technique: "Twelve-tone compo-
sition is now completely clear to me," he wrote, yet the results were
quite unlike Schoenberg's.7

6 For an account of Webern's Trakl settings (op. 14 and others), see my


forthcoming book, Webern and the Lyric Impulse: Songs and Fragments on Poems of Georg
Trakl (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, i994).
7 "Die Zw61lftonkomposition ist mir jetzt eine bereits vollkommen klare Sache"
(letter to Berg, in Opus Anton Webern, ed. Dieter Rexroth [Berlin: Quadriga, 1983],
91). Evidence about the transition to the twelve-tone method is to be gleaned from
sketches and early drafts. A line between what might be called precompositional
working and the finished piece is sometimes difficult to draw during this period, since
Webern often considered pieces to be essentially finished well before the fair copy

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WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE COMPOSITION 279

Webern has been viewed as having had a particular affinity


twelve-tone composition; some have even granted him a fluency
understanding of the method greater than Schoenberg's. In an
essay, Gyorgy Ligeti sounded a theme that has not been substan
altered since 1961: "Webern's works composed before op. 17 alr
exhibit a construction that is closely related to row compositio
that the later use of twelve-tone rows appears not as a change of s
but rather as a completely logical and organic evolution of ea
compositional thinking."8 Ligeti and others assumed unquestion
that the twelve-tone method represented the goal and ulti
attainment of the Second Viennese School, which served in tur
stepping-stone to postwar serialism (this point of view couched in
correspondingly organicist language).9 Even a quite recent book ref
similarly to the linear nature of Webern's progress in his opp. 17,
and 19: Kathryn Bailey writes, "We see each step [of the twelve
method] ... addressed individually and then assimilated in the c
of these eight pieces."'1
The model I propose would significantly modify the preva
view that Webern absorbed twelve-tone technique gradually, se
lessly, and effortlessly. Rather than being a process of gentle assim
lation, Webern's discovery of his own idiolect of twelve-tone w
took a relatively long time and proceeded in fits and starts. The de
to turn the evidence into a goal-directed sequence of event
obscured the zigzag quality of the actual journey. A central paradox
Webern as twelve-tone composer is that the Schoenberg disciple

stage. For a summary of the problem, see Felix Meyer and Anne Shreffler, "We
Revisions: Some Analytical Implications," Music Analysis 12 (1993): 355-80.
8 "Bereits die Werke Weberns, die vor den genannten Liedern op. 17 enstand
weisen eine Konstruktion auf, die der Reihenkomposition sehr verwandt ist, so
die spitere Benutzung von Zw6lftonreihen dann nicht als Stilwandel ersch
vielmehr als eine ganz logische und organische Weiterentwicklung der friih
kompositorischen Denkweise" (Gy6rgi Ligeti, "Die Komposition mit Reihen und
Konsequenzen bei Anton Webern, Osterreihische Musikzeitschrift 16 [196 I]: 297-30
297. Wildgans, Webern's first biographer, echoed this: "The observer may r
assume that Webern's development as a composer was along an organic, logical, and
path. Intuitively, he seemed to have sensed the development, possibilities and l
composition with twelve notes. Thus no new components appeared [as a result o
twelve-tone method]" (Anton Webern, 91). See also William W. Austin, Music
Twentieth Century (New York: Norton, 1966), 351.
9 See Ligeti, "Die Komposition mit Reihen," 299: "Die serielle Musik ist
Konsequenz der Webernschen Kompositionsweise, wie die Zw6lftonmusik
solche der freien Atonalitat."
So Bailey, The Twelve-Note Music, 33.

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280 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

considered to be the most "advanced" practitioner of the method was


the one who initially resisted it the most.
Art historian James Ackerman points out the dangers of tracing a
path:

What is called evolution in the arts should not be described as a


succession of steps toward a solution to a given problem, but as
a succession of steps away from one or more original statements of a
problem. Each step, for the artist who takes it, is a probe that reaches to
the limits of his imagination; he cannot consciously make a transition to
a succeeding step, for if he visualizes something he regards as preferable
to what he is doing, he presumably will proceed to do it, unless he is
constrained in some way. So we cannot speak properly of a sequence of
solutions to a given problem, since with each solution the nature of the
problem changes."

In this spirit, rather than examining Webern's confrontation with the


twelve-tone method as "a succession of steps" toward a mature
technique, I shall view his work from the perspective of his earlier
practice: the vocal expression of poetic texts. His earliest rows grew
out of concrete melodic gestures, a conception that remained potent
for a long time. Later he approached the notion of an abstract row as
he sought to realize the essence of the religious and folk poems that
attracted him.
I shall suggest that instead of assimilating Schoenberg's method bit
by bit, Webern began with an idea that was quite radical: that the
mere presence of a twelve-tone row could provide a subconscious
unity for the whole piece. Musical gestures could then be freed from
their previous role of ensuring surface comprehensibility. In the songs
opp. 17 and 8 and the choruses op. 19, Webern attained extremes of
complexity that he would never again reach, yet paradoxically the
twelve-tone technique in these works is quite "rudimentary" in terms
of the number of row forms and transpositions used. After the String
Trio, op. 20, he began to retreat from this extremist position by
finding ways to organize the surface again; to this end, he employed
canon and traditional forms such as sonata and theme and variations.
Seen in this light, Webern's earliest twelve-tone works and sketches
do not seem to be inadequate foreshadowings of a later sophistication;
instead they are the radical culmination of a previous complex atonal
practice.

" James Ackerman, Distance Points: Essays in Theory and Renaissance Art and
Architecture (Cambridge, Mass., and London: MIT Press, 1991), Io.

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WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE COMPOSITION 2 8 I
I

Ich habe in meinem Skizzenbuch die chromatische Skala aufgeschrieben


und in ihr einzelne T6ne abgestrichen.
-Webern

Webern's assimilation of the twelve-tone technique was compli-


cated by the conflict between two desires: to win Schoenberg's
approval and yet to remain independent. That Schoenberg was the
most important person in Webern's life for over twenty-five years
there can be no doubt. Because of the strong emotional ties, at issue
for Webern was not whether, but how, to adopt the method. It is
therefore crucial to establish how much Schoenberg told Webern
about his ongoing discoveries, and what effect these revelations had on
Webern's compositions. The answers to these questions are by no
means always clear, in part because of Schoenberg's later sensitivity to
the issue of priority.
When Schoenberg was living in California, he collected his
personal notes into "a series of 'memorials' " about some of his
contemporaries." Many of Schoenberg's comments defend his status
as inventor of the twelve-tone method against Josef Matthias Hauer,
Fritz Klein, and Webern. Webern, due to his intimacy with Schoen-
berg, was seen to be especially threatening:

[Webern] always tries to surpass everything (exaggerates). 1914 (5) [sic] I


start a symphony, wrote about it to Webern-mention: singing without
words (Jacob's Ladder)-mention: Scherzo theme including all twelve
tones.

After 1915: Webern seems to have used twelve tones in some of


compositions-without telling me ...
Webern committed at this period (I9o8-1918) many acts of infide
with the intention of making himself the innovator.13

Schoenberg may have been annoyed by Webern's claims, in a le


of I932 (later published as The Path to the New Music), that he
employed a nascent twelve-tone procedure as early as 1911, du
composition of his Bagatelles for string quartet, op. 9:

" H. H. Stuckenschmidt, Schoenberg: His Life, World and Work, trans. Hump
Searle (New York: Schirmer, 1978), 442.
'3 Cited in Stuckenschmidt, Schoenberg, 442-43. Although not precisely dated
notes (written in English) must have been jotted down between 1933,
Schoenberg emigrated to the United States, and i94o, the date of a postscript

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2 8 2 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

Here I had the feeling, "When all twelve notes have gone by, the piece
is over." Much later I discovered that all this was a part of the necessary
development. In my sketch-book I wrote out the chromatic scale and
crossed off the individual notes.'4

Whereas this statement has been interpreted as suggesting that


Webern anticipated Schoenberg's discovery, it reads much more like
rationalization after the fact.'s In describing the chromatic circulation
that one finds in all of his atonal music, Webern emphasized the
notion of twelve that was now so important. He even admits that he
only later came to realize the significance of these passages. Further-
more, although this comment has been often quoted, no one has been
able to produce the relevant sketch from the Bagatelleks (for which
admittedly few sketches survive).
Given the prominence of chromatic fields in Webern's atonal
music, it is odd that sketches with notes crossed off as he described are
almost nonexistent. Yet there may be some basis for Webern's
recollection. I am aware of only one such sketch, not for the Bagatelles,
but for a fragmentary setting of "Kunfttag III" (Stefan George) made
in April 1914.' The last sketch page shows a list of twelve notes in the
margin; nine are crossed off and three remain. The list, arranged
chromatically from A to GO, seems to have assisted Webern in
constructing the twelve-note sonority that closes the piece. The instru-
ments play a nine-pitch chord, while the voice fills in the remaining
three-B (B6), Cis (C#), and D--which correspond to the three pitches
not crossed off (see Fig. i and Ex. i).
Webern's self-conscious effort to include all twelve tones in "Kunfttag
III" could well have been inspired by conversations with Schoenberg,
who, as Ethan Haimo has shown, did experiment with controlling the
total chromatic between 1914 and 1918, and he later claimed to have told

'4 "Ich habe dabei das Gefiihl gehabt: Wenn die zw6lf T6ne abgelaufen sind, ist
das Stiick zu Ende. Viel spAiter bin ich daraufgekommen, daB das alles im Zuge der
notwendigen Entwicklung war. Ich habe in meinem Skizzenbuch die chromatische
Skala aufgeschrieben und in ihr einzelne T6ne abgestrichen" (Webern, The Path to the
New Music, ed. Willi Reich, trans. Leo Black [London and Vienna: Universal Edition,
1975], 51; German original: Der Weg zur neuen Musik, ed. Willi Reich [Vienna:
Universal Edition, i96o], 55). Hereafter, page references to the German version will
be designated "Ger."
'5s The Moldenhauers write, "[Schoenberg's] music had foreshadowed the prin-
ciples of that system from 1914 on, but Webern's string quartet pieces were probing
in the same direction even earlier" (Anton von Webern, I94).
'6 The draft is dated 2 April 1914 (PSS, film ro3:oo49-005oo ). This song, on a
poem by Stefan George, was reconstructed by Peter Westergaard and published by
Carl Fischer in 1968.

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WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE COMPOSITION 2 83

I f

'RW- i A M 4
:wo"Nop"

Figure i. We
Foundation,

Example 1
"Kunfttag III," mm. 23-24. Paul Sacher Foundation, Basel.

hei lig Herz

Webern about it.'7 Twelve-note cho


an obsession of Schoenberg and B
Schoenberg had discussed one such s

7 Haimo, Schoenberg's Serial Odyssey, 42


twelve tones, dated 27 May 1914, postdate

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284 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

Berg responded with the third of his Altenberg Lieder, "Uber die Grenzen
des All," whose pitch organization is ruled by a single twelve-note chord.
Rather than an adumbration of twelve-tone technique, Webern's cross-
ing off the notes to construct a twelve-note sonority in "Kunfttag III"
represents yet another example of early experimentation with the total
chromatic. It is even possible that the entire source of Webern's anecdote
about the Bagatelles lies here, shifted in his memory from a never-
published vocal fragment onto one of his most successful and widely
known compositions.
Years later, Schoenberg reached a critical point in his development
of the method with the procedure he called "composing with tones."
(The chronology discussed below is summarized in Table i.) The
Priludium (op. 25, no. i), completed in July 1921, is usually
acknowledged as his first twelve-tone serial piece, although he only
later characterized the material of the piece as a "row."'8 Almost two
years later, in February 1923, he went public, holding a meeting at
which he explained his new method.'9 Though a few of Schoenberg's
remarks on this occasion have been recorded, later accounts dwell
mostly on emotional impressions of being present at what was clearly
perceived as an event of great historic importance.
Although Schoenberg later claimed to have been "silent for nearly
two years" (between the composition of the Praludium in 192 I and the
1923 meeting), he did apparently confide to one or more friends
during this time.20 Both Erwin Stein and Josef Rufer recalled being

sketched many themes, among them one for a scherzo which consisted of all the
twelve tones," Schoenberg recalled. "An historian will probably some day find in the
exchange of letters between Webern and me how enthusiastic we were about this"
("Composition with Twelve Tones [2]," in Style and Idea: Selected Writings of Arnold
Schoenberg, ed. Leonard Stein, trans. Leo Black [Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univer-
sity of California Press, 1984], 247)-
'8 The set is more accurately described as a composite of three tetrachords than
as a row; in fact it is never presented linearly. See Brinkmann, Kritiscber Bericht, 71,
76-77; and Haimo, Schoenberg's Serial Odyssey, 86.
'9 See Joan Smith's oral history Schoenberg and His Circle: A Viennese Portrait (New
York: Schirmer; and London: Collier Macmillan, 1986), 197. The basic technical
information presented at the meeting was evidently the source for Erwin Stein's
article "Neue Formprinzipien," which appeared in the Schoenberg fiftieth birthday
issue of Musikbliitter des Anbruch (September 1924)-
20 "At the very beginning, when I used for the first time rows of twelve tones in
the fall of 1921, I foresaw the confusion which would arise in case I were to make
publicly known this method. Consequently I was silent for nearly two years. And
when I gathered about twenty of my pupils together to explain to them the new
method in 1923, I did it because I was afraid to be taken as an imitator of Hauer, who,
at this time, published his Vom Melos zur Pauke" (Schoenberg, Style and Idea, 213).
Schoenberg must have meant either Hauer's Vom Wesen des Musikalischen (published in

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WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE COMPOSITION 285
TABLE I

Chronology

Webern Schoenberg
July 1920 Five Pieces, op. 23, nos. I, 2; no. 4 begun
Aug. 1920 Serenade, op. 24, nos. i, 3, 5 begun
July 1921 Suite, op. 25, (no. i); (no. 4) begun
Aug. 1921 Six Songs, op. 14, no. I
Five Sacred Songs, op. 15, no. I
Sept. 1921 Five Sacred Songs, op. 15, no. 3 Serenade, op. 24, no. I completed
Oct. 192i Serenade, op. 24, no. 2 begun
spring] i922 (Berg: Wozzeck completed)
Apr.-June 1922 Bach orchestrations
July 1922 Five Sacred Songs, op. 15, nos.
2, 4*
Oct. 1922 Serenade , op. 24, (no. 4) begun
Feb. I923 Five Pieces, op. 23, nos. 3, (5); no. 4
completed
Suite, op. 25, (no. 2); (no. 4) completed
Mar. 1923 Serenade, op. 24, no. 6; nos. 2, 3, (4)
completed
Suite, op. 25, (nos. 3, 5, 6)
Apr. 1923 Serenade, op. 24, no. 7; no. 5 completed
(Wind Quintet, op. 26, no. )qbegun
May 1923 (Wind Quintet, op. 26, no. i) completed
UUly] 1923 Canons, op. i6, no. 2 (Wind Quintet, op. 26, no. 2)
Aug. 1923 Canons, op. 16, nos. 3, 4
[spring] 1924 "Morgenglanz der Ewigkeit"
sketches
July 1924 (Wind Quintet, op. 26, no. 4)
Aug. i924 Canons, op. i6, no. 5* begun (Wind Quintet, op. 26, no. 3)
29 Oct. 1924 Canons, op. 16, no. 5* (Suite, op. 29) begun
completed
I2 Nov. 1924 Canons, op. i6, no. I
[autumn] 1924 [Kinderstiick] M. 266*
Autumn 1924 (Kinderstiick, M. 267)
io Dec. 1924 (Three Trad. Rhymes, op. 17,
no. i); "Mutig trigst du die
Last" sketches
(1923-25) (Berg: Chamber Concerto)
[spring] 1925 String Trio movt., M. 273,*
with orchestral sketch*
June 1925
draft*
Three Songs, op. i8, no. 2, first (Suite, o
July 1925 (Three Trad. Rhymes, op. 17,
nos. 3, 2)
[summer] 1925 Klavierstiick, M. 277*; "Dein
Leib geht jetzt der Erde zu,"
sketches*
Aug. 1925 (String Trio movt., M. 278); (Suite, op. 29, nos. 3, 4)
String Quartet movt., M. 279,
sketches*; Klavierstiick, M. 280
sketches
Sept. 1925 (Three Songs, op. I8, nos. I, 2) (Four Pieces, op. 27, no. i)
Oct. 1925 (Three Songs, op. i8, no. 3) (Four Pieces, op. 27, nos. 3, 2); (Berg:
(Schliesse mir die Augen beide))
Nov. 1925 (Four Pieces, op. 27, no. 4); (Three
Satires, op. 28, no. I)
Dec. 1925 (op. 19, no. i) begun (Three Satires, op. 28, nos. 3, 2)
Note: Asterisks denote that although row sketches were made, either they were not used in the
piece or the work remained a fragment. Works within canted brackets are based on a
twelve-tone row throughout.

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286 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

entrusted with "secret" confidences between 1921 and 1923; testi-


mony is mixed on this point." One of these recollections is famous,
in which Schoenberg is reported to have said, "I have made a
discovery which will ensure the supremacy of German music for the
next hundred years."" Whether Schoenberg said this first in private
or not, he evidently did say something to this effect at the meeting of
February 1923. Here again accounts differ; while Max Deutsch
remembered the time period of "leadership" as fifty years, Kolisch
recalled mention of a "hegemony of German music for centuries."23
Whether it was Stein or Rufer (or both) to whom Schoenberg
confided before the meeting, the one person he did not tell, Schoen-
berg later emphasized, was Webern. In 1951 (the last year of
Schoenberg's life), he claimed, "I . . . immediately and exhaustively
explained to him [Webern] each of my new ideas (with the exception
of the method of composition with twelve tones-that I long kept
secret, because, as I said to Erwin Stein, Webern immediately uses
everything I do, plan or say, so that ... 'By now I haven't the slightest
idea who I am.')"'4
The evidence is overwhelming that Schoenberg did indeed share
his discoveries with several friends and students, including Webern,
before his formal announcement in February of 1923. In a letter
written to Hauer in August 1922, Schoenberg related quite a different
version of events: "Where my inquiry has led me and where it stands
at the present I communicated to my students in a few lectures given
several months ago."25 Even though these "lectures" are not con-

1920) or Deutung des Melos (1923), not Vom Melos zur Pauke (1925).
21 See Stein, "Neue Formprinzipien," 296: "Es war an der Hand diese Stiickes
[op. 23, no. 3, composed in February 1923]... daB dem Verfasser von Sch6nberg die
ersten Mitteilungen uber die neuen Formprinzipien gemacht wurden." In some notes
from around 1940, Schoenberg claimed to have told Stein about the new method in
1921 (Stuckenschmidt, Schoenberg, 442). Stuckenschmidt reports that Rufer was the
one in whom Schoenberg confided (Stuckenschmidt, Schoenberg, 277)-
22 Stuckenschmidt, Schoenberg, 277.
23 Smith, Schoenberg and His Circle, 202, 205. Schoenberg's famous statement
echoes further at the end of Berg's essay "Warum ist Sch6nbergs Musik so schwer
verstandlich?" from 1924: "So daB man schon heute, an Sch6nbergs fiinfzigstem
Geburtstage, ohne ein Prophet zu sein, sagen kann, daB durch das Werk, das er der
Welt bisher geschenkt hat, die Vorherrschaft nicht nur seiner pers6nlichen Kunst
gesichert erscheint, sondern, was noch mehr ist: die der deutschen Musik fir die
nichsten fiinfzig Jahre" (reprinted in Willi Reich, Alban Berg: Leben und Werk [Zurich:
Atlantis Verlag, 1963], 193)-
24 Schoenberg, Style and Idea, 484.
25 "Woher mein Weg war und wo ich gegenwirtig halte, habe ich vor mehreren
Monaten in einigen Vortragen meinen Schiilern mitgeteilt" (letter to Josef Hauer, 25
August 1922 [not sent], Archives of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute, transcribed by

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WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE COMPOSITION 287

firmed in the published reminiscences, some communication almost


certainly did take place (even if Schoenberg perhaps exaggerated in
calling informal conversations "lectures"). The talks might have taken
place as early as 1921, when Webern visited Schoenberg at Traun-
kirchen for several days in August.26 Webern and Schoenberg also
spent the summer there together in 1922.
Why Schoenberg later denied telling Webern about the new
method makes sense in light of the reception of the twelve-tone
technique and Schoenberg's subsequent attempts at myth building.
From the moment the method was announced-which happened
earlier than planned, Schoenberg acknowledged, because Josef Hau-
er's own version of twelve-tone composition was beginning to become
known-Schoenberg was to fight two battles for the rest of his life:
first, the issue of priority, and second, his reputation as a "construc-
tor." Schoenberg's battle for acknowledgment of his priority in
discovering the twelve-tone method was fought first with the living
Hauer and later with the dead Webern. Schoenberg fought against his
reputation as a "cerebral" composer by continually urging his friends
and disciples not to emphasize the technical aspects of twelve-tone
composition when discussing his work." His lecture "Composition
with Twelve Tones," first written in 1933, was designed primarily to
combat the impression that he was a constructivist composer, by
explaining the method's origin as a result of both inevitable historical
forces and artistic inspiration. When twelve-tone composition is
viewed this way, the body of atonal music composed prior to the
discovery of the technique would seem as though in anticipation of it.
As Webern put it, "At that time we were not conscious of the law, but
had been sensing it for a long time."8
Schoenberg's concern with establishing the twelve-tone method as
his exclusive intellectual property-which also led him to require
Thomas Mann to add a statement to that effect in his book Doktor
Faustus--caused him to mistrust the motives of his most loyal student

Anita M. Luginbihl). Cited by Bryan R. Simms, "Who First Composed Twelve-


Tone
122.
Music, Schoenberg or Hauer?"Journal of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute i0o (1987):

26 Webern later thanked Schoenberg for his hospitality and ven


liebster Freund, bitte, teile mir etwas mit iber deine Arbeit!" (unpubli
the Library of Congress, Moldenhauer collection, dated 31 August 1
27 See, for example, his letter to Rudolf Kolisch, in Arnold Schoenb
selected and edited by Erwin Stein, translated by Eithne Wilkins an
(London: Faber and Faber, 1964), 164-65.
28 "Das Gesetz war uns damals noch nicht bewusst, aber es war lin
(Webern, Path, 51 [Ger. 551).

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288 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

(for Webern always, at least in public, effusively acknowledged


Schoenberg's priority).29 This sensitivity about priority led Schoen-
berg to rewrite history, portraying the origins of the method--even to
himself, for I am not suggesting that he consciously misrepresented
the truth-as the work of a solitary genius.

Webern's Earliest Twelve-Tone Sketch, Op. 15, No. 4 (1922)

Webern first attempted to compose with a row in the summer of


1922. But the twelve-tone sketches he made on the chorale text "Mein
Weg geht jetzt voriiber" were soon abandoned. He completed the
piece as op. 15, no. 4, retaining elements from the original row, but
reverting to the familiar atonal style of earlier works. The sketches
manipulate a row in transposition, inversion, retrograde, and retro-
grade inversion. The permutations are nonetheless remarkable at this
early date, for Webern's twelve-tone efforts two and even three years
later commonly employ only one form of the row. These sketches
show moreover how Webern first tried the new method by simply
extending his previous practice of vocal writing. The attempt foun-
dered on his inability to reconcile an inflexibly ordered series with the
freely developing vocal line that normally served as Hauptstimme.
By 1922, when Webern began to sketch the song, he had already
selected three songs from what later became op. 15 (nos. i, 3, and 5)
to form a complete set, which he called "Drei geistliche Lieder op. 16"
[sic]. "Mein Weg" (and its companion drafted four days earlier: "Steht
auf, ihr lieben Kinderlein," later op. 15, no. 2) did not at first belong
to the set of "geistliche Lieder," but rather to a projected sacred
cantata (this aspect will be discussed more thoroughly later).3o
The first of four sketch pages for "Mein Weg" preserves Webern's
initial attempts to sketch the vocal line, together with his formulation
of the twelve-tone row and its transformations.3' Then follow two
pages on which Webern attempted to develop the twelve-tone idea
further; both break off after a short instrumental introduction and the

29 See Webern, Path, 32 (Ger. 34)- Schoenberg's reaction should also be inter-
preted in light of the fact that he was in America at the time and had no direct con-
tact with Webern. Schoenberg was also highly suspicious of Webern's political
sympathies.
30 Letter from Webern to Berg, in Schoenberg, Berg, Webern: The String Quartets, a
Documentary Study, ed. Ursula v. Rauchhaupt, trans. Eugene Hartzell (Hamburg:
Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft, 197 i), 12 I.
3' PSS, film ioi:o647, 0649, o658, 0659. The manuscript sources for all the
works under discussion are listed below in the Appendix.

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WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE COMPOSITION 289

first line of text. Shortly after these experiments, Webern gave up


composing with the row and sketched a continuity draft of the whole
piece dated 26 July 1922, only four days or so after sketching had
begun.3' The ending is incompletely notated and reached its final
form only in the second fair copy. A facsimile of the first sketch page
was first published by the Moldenhauers, who note that it is "highly
enigmatic" that the sketch anticipates Schoenberg's formal announce-
ment of the twelve-tone method by several months.33 This crucial
sketch has not yet received the attention it deserves (see a transcription
in Ex. 2).
The top two systems of page I look very much like dozens of other
song sketches Webern had made over the last decade. The passage
consists of the vocal line alone, extending through the whole poem.
Although different from the voice part of the published version, this
first sketch anticipates the latest stage in both its pitches and its
intervals. Both versions begin with the descending pair E9-C. The
vocal high points of the sketch occur on the words "Himmel" and
"Gottes," as in the final version, though the sketch's tessitura is
higher, reaching even to b" and cl"'. Though certain intervals are used
consistently in the sketch, there is no systematic ordering of pitches;
the first phrase of thirteen notes repeats the pitch-class E, while the
other phrases freely circulate the total chromatic with many repeti-
tions.

If Webern, having finished the vocal line, had gone on to fill in the
instrumental parts, this sketch would be like many other sketches

32 I estimate four days because Webern sketched the piece on the verso of a draft
of op. 15, no. 2, dated 22 July 1922. At the end of the op. I5, no. 2, draft, Webern
made some changes dated 3 January 1924. I carefully considered, then rejected, the
possibility that the rows for op. 15, no. 4, were sketched in 1924, after the piece was
completed. The row sketches must have preceded the completion of the atonal
version of the piece for the following reasons: (i) a complete row and allusions to other
forms of the row are present in the final version of the piece, (2) all the handwriting
on the sketch page containing the first melodic idea and the rows is similar (this and
their musical connections strongly suggest that the rows immediately followed the
first, nonserial idea), and (3) the first complete draft has more in common with the row
sketches than do later drafts.
33 I have not reproduced this page because it is now available in facsimile in two
sources: in black and white, in Moldenhauer and Moldenhauer, Anton von Webern,
311 (with discussion on p. 3 o); and in color, in Hans Oesch, "Webern und das
SATOR-Palindrom," in Quellenstudien I: Gustav Mabler-Igor Strawinsky--Anton
Webern-Frank Martin, ed. Hans Oesch (Winterthur: Amadeus, 199i), 114-15. Oesch
is primarily interested in how the early sketch anticipates the later, more controlled
serialism of the Concerto, op. 24. Like many other writers, he emphasizes those
aspects of Webern's twelve-tone music that he saw as leading to postwar total
serialism.

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Example 2

"Mein Weg geht jetzt voriiber," op. 15, no. 4, sketch p. 1 (encircled numbers added). Paul Sacher Founda

04 ?- lieber Mich ni

Gnaden dahin

Mein Weg geht jetzt vo - - er Welt was acht' ich dein

D.F.

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Example 2 (continued)

- HIM- '
Fl6te

Klar " reb__s_


ar r r| IA' I l .

I- ri mdKre b sr ( . . -

1R, 4F -F 'IF- WE, ,. vU

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292 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

from these years. But at this point he strayed from his usual procedure
and began to write the vocal line again, this time as a sequence of
twelve different pitches (see Ex. 2, at 0). Even given the certain
influence of Schoenberg, this was a conceptual leap. Whereas at first
Webern was still sketching a vocal line, in the later sketch he was
composing a row. (He made sure he used all twelve pitches by
crossing off notes in the right margin, a later instance of his reported
experience with the Bagatelles.) Webern's earlier compositional prac-
tice-reacting to a poem's sounds and meters-had begun to shift
toward the more abstract process of fashioning material that would
serve for an entire work.
This first row clearly betrays its origins in the preceding vocal
sketch, for the first three pitches of the row match those of the sketch.
The pattern of two descending minor thirds a half step apart appears
also at "da muss ich fah[ren]" in the sketch; moreover the EJ-C from
the beginning recurs at the last phrase of the sketch: "fahr' ich [mit
Freud dahin]." Similarly, the row's pitch pair b-b' occurs also in the
sketch's first phrase. The last four notes of the row (which have only
three pitches because of the repetition of A) match the sketch at
"lieber/da [muss ich]." In short, the two intervals most prominent in
the sketch-minor third and major seventh--have been taken over
into the row both at their original pitch levels and in transposition.
After fashioning the row, Webern wrote out its retrograde (Krebs)
and inversion (Umkehrung) forms (see Ex. 2 at ().34 These are
constructed literally, following the exact registers of the original. The
inversion is particularly awkward, resulting in a high register that
requires many ledger lines. Why would Webern have avoided trans-
posing registers? Octave equivalence is for us such a fundamental
assumption of twelve-tone music that Webern's attempt to write a
literal inversion seems naive. Here is evidence that the row in question
was not yet an abstract formulation, but a specific musical gesture. As
such its special contour was conceived simultaneously with its
pitches, and Webern apparently did not want to separate the two
properties.
The second row (Ex. 2 at 0) is significant for both its new profile
and its relationship with the transposed form. Though some segments
have been preserved-the groups E9-C and F$#-A-G~ and the reor-
dered pairs Bb-B and G-C0, for example--others have been changed
so that the minor third is much more prominent. The text distribution

34 Webern inverts the row about its first pitch, a procedure that became the
standard "inversion form" for him as well as for Schoenberg and Berg.

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WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE COMPOSITION 293

emphasizes this interval even more, since three of the six acce
syllables now fall at the end of a minor third pair. Because of
meter of the poetry, the row is divided not into hexachords,
instead into two groups of seven and five pitches each: "Mein
geht jetzt voriiber" (seven syllables, seven pitches) / "0 Welt,
acht' ich dein" (six syllables, five pitches). The first group of s
pitches ends with a tritone, while the last group ends with the

B,-B. This pattern had been reversed in the earlier version of the r
suggesting that Webern was beginning to think of specific p
groups as movable units. He still had the vocal line clearly in mind
we can see from the accompanying text and the repeated note (G#
the words "was acht' " (this pitch is repeated in all of the transfor
tions as well, even the retrogrades!).
Next Webern sketched the transposition at the tritone, whic
labeled "D.F." for "Dominant Form" (Ex. 2 at 0) (this terminolo
was common practice at this time, as I shall explain below). 35 He t
used this form in the instrumental sketch below (Ex. 2 at D).
scored these staves for flute, clarinet, and viola, with a blank line
the voice (the final version is for flute and clarinet only). The
begins alone with the tritone transposition of the row, the firs
pitches stated in their original register; perhaps the range of this
suggested the choice of instrument. Then the sketch breaks off
one can easily imagine why. When the register of each pit
preserved, the contour of an answering D.F.--or even an occurr
of the original form--would be too similar to the opening idea.
Webern then wrote out all three transformations of his row and
transposition, perhaps as a way of generating new material. The or
is not systematic; first he sketched the retrogrades of both the
and the original, then the inversion of the original and its retrogr
Then he wrote out the remaining two possibilities, the inversion
retrograde inversion of the D.F.
At some point, Webern sought to explore the harmonic properti
of the two row forms, arranging them to create vertical sonorities
overlapping trichords. At the top of the next page, he divided up t
D.F. among the three instruments (see Ex. 3). He then transposed
whole pattern down a half step. The chordal disposition of the
alone reduces the similarity between this row form and the upcom
vocal line, which uses the original form of the row; furthermore,
transposing the D.F., Webern diverged from the row forms sket

35 The row is hexachord combinatorial at T6, a property that Webern does


exploit and of which he may not have even been aware.

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294 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

on the previous page. Yet he did not continue this idea; instead, the
accompanying treble instrument (either flute or clarinet) presents
isolated trichords of the original row, out of order so as not to double
the voice's statement of the same row. The sketch breaks off where all
the others have (except the very first non-dodecaphonic draft of the
whole vocal line), at the end of the first line of text.
On the next page, we can see all of Webern's careful preparations
coming to pieces (see Ex. 4). He simply could not make the row do what
he wanted, either horizontally or vertically. First he tried to continue the
chordal approach from the previous page, using the notes of the row only
in the upper voice (D.F.: A F# Ab). The chords underneath are not
derived from the row, and there are many pitch repetitions. Then came
the ultimate crisis: Webern changed the row. Both attempts to write a new
vocal line are incomplete; surprisingly, these fragments hark back to the
very first version of the row (Ex. 2, fourth staff). Then Webern tried a
more traditional contrapuntal approach; the sketch indicates schemati-
cally that certain lines are to be heard in rhythmic diminution or
augmentation ("Umk[ehrung] verkl[einert]," "Umk[ehrung] vergr[6s-
sert]"). The "row" has only seven pitches here, and it is unclear whether
Webern intended to introduce the rest.
That Webern could even attempt relatively sophisticated row tech-
niques in the summer of 1922 is explicable only through contact with
Schoenberg, which has now been established. In particular, the sketch
for "Mein Weg" resembles-in its row structure, choice of transposition,
and harmonic disposition-Schoenberg's sketches for the Prfiludium
(later op. 25, no. i), which he had completed the previous summer.
Schoenberg, like Webern, does not present a "row" as an abstract
entity here, but instead forms his material from the process of composing
with motives. In one sketch page, Schoenberg lined up the three
tetrachords on top of one another, exactly as Webern did on the first
sketch page for "Mein Weg" (see Ex. 5). Webern's row is also very similar
to Schoenberg's. First, the last tetrachord of both consists of a chromatic
group. In addition, the pitch pairs E-F and (more significantly) G-C#
appear in both rows. Both composers chose a single transpositional level:
at the tritone. This choice results in the pair G-CQ as an invariant tritone,
a property Schoenberg used to advantage in the Priiludium (see Ex. 6).36
Webern also follows Schoenberg's labeling for the most part,
although not exactly. They both call the transposition at the tritone

36 In his lecture "Composition with Twelve Tones (i)," Schoenberg pointed out
that the transposition at the tritone is desirable here because it avoids doubling the
pitches of the original row (Style and Idea, 23 3).

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Example 3

"Mein Weg geht jetzt voriiber," op. 15, no. 4, sketches p. 2 (order numbers added). Paul Sacher Found

[U.F.] 1 2 3 4 5
A9-

Mein Weg geht jetzt vor-j

Fl6te ____________ -__ _____-


9 10 11 12

Klar.__ _ __I _ _
.p ..pp [U.F.] , 6l
_-If_ _

I 2 3 4 6 7 8 1 2 3

Br.__

5 6 7 8 >

.... i ?

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296 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

Example 4

"Mein Weg geht jetzt voruber," op. 15, no. 4, sketches p. 3. Paul Sacher Foundation,
Basel.

Mein Mein Weg geht jetzt vor - tiber

' ' I " ' L "A

, - --D" I- [Br.
W I t

Umk. verkl. Ges

Umk. vergr.

Fl6te

Verkl. ges. Klar.


40 F ,,

the D, or Dominante, form. This unusual designation w


practice among the Second Viennese School in the ear
twelve-tone composition. In sketches for the Lyric Suite, Be
indicates the tritone transposition as the "Dominante For
the transposition at the third as "Mediante unten, Medi
and so forth.37 The terminology of tonal music is invoked

37 See sketch page reproduced in Franz Grasberger and Rudolf S


Alban Berg Studien, vol. I, Katalog der Musikbandscbriften, Scbriften, und
Bergs im Fond Alban Berg und der Weiteren Handscbriftlicben Quellen
Osterreichischen Nationalbibliotbek (Vienna: Universal Edition, 1981)
Nr. 208. I am very grateful to Felix Meyer for bringing this to my at

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WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE COMPOSITION 297

Example 5

Schoenberg, Priludium, op. 25, no. i, sketch. From Samtliche Werke, Kritischer
Bericht, p. 77. Used by permission of Belmont Music Publishers, Pacific Palisades,
CA 90272.

Ti iL v-

r-T r -K

KU

_Dm k ADeKr

% b I/

Example 6

Schoenberg, PrAludium, op. 25, no. I, mm. 1-3. Used by permission of Belmont
Music Publishers, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272.

Rasch (. = 80)
P-0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

P-6
1. 2 3 4 ~ 5 6 7 8

9 10 11 12
9f!

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298 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

grappling with a new technique, which had as yet no rules and no


vocabulary. Webern's labeling of rows differs somewhat from Schoen-
berg's. In place of Schoenberg's T (presumably "Tonika") for the
original row form, Webern invented his own term, abbreviated as "U"
(for "Ur-form" or "Urspriingliche Form"). (Webern then had to write
"Umk" for the inversion forms.)
The failure of Webern's attempted imitation also sheds light on his
curious reaction to Schoenberg's explanations at the 1923 meeting, as
reported by Felix Greissle:

We all tried to understand and I think we came pretty close to what he


meant except there was one person who resisted-who resisted more by
being silent and not saying anything, and that was Anton Webern. He was
the one who resisted most. At one point, when Schoenberg said, "There
I used the row transposition and transposed it into the tritone," so Webern
said, "Why?" Schoenberg looked at him and said, "I don't know," and then
Webern burst out, "Ah, ah!," because Webern was waiting for some
intuitive sign in the whole matter and this was it, you see.38

While Greissle interprets Webern's exclamation as an expression of


relief in discovering an "intuitive" aspect of the twelve-tone method,
other explanations are more likely given Webern's earlier furtive
experiments. Perhaps he felt guilty about sneaking a look at Schoen-
berg's sketches, or perhaps he was already convinced that the method
could never work; in any case, Webern's discomfort clearly came
across.

At the same meeting, Webern reportedly "confess


written also something in 12 tones . . . and he said:
what to do after the 12 tones.' "39 (This statement, alwa
without reference to the early sketch, has until now se
He was perhaps reluctant to tell Schoenberg anything m
arousing the other's jealousy, as suggested in a letter W
him in the summer of 1923: "My work is, I believe,
At first I experimented a good deal, discarding what I h
this reason I have not given you details."40 Schoenb
jealous, as his later recollections show. Evidently when W
out about the twelve-tone method, he did try to imit
thus confirming the latter's worst fears. And Schoenbe

38 Smith, Schoenberg and His Circle, 198. Smith's interviews


English (see p. xi).
39 Ibid., 199.
4o Moldenhauer and Moldenhauer, Anton von Webern, 272.

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WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE COMPOSITION 299

whether obtained through "lectures," informal discussions, or surr


titious glances at Schoenberg's sketches, is apparent on every pa
the sketches for op. 15, no. 4.4'
What went wrong with Webern's attempt to "follow the pa
the other side"? The problem was not the potential of the mat
On the contrary, the ingredients for a successful composition
present. Webern created an interesting row with combinatorial pr
erties, while exploring strategies for working out both the horizo
and the vertical implications of the row. The resulting eight
forms (four forms of To and T6) provide plenty of material; he
just this configuration in several later works. The problem lay ins
in a conflict between old and new technique: more precisely, be
composition based on specific gestures and motives, and compos
based on a globally functioning ordered series.
He preserved the row only in the first four measures of the vo
line, where it appears with the same pitches and contour as it d
the second page of row sketches. The instrumental parts do not
to be derived from the row or any of its related sketches. Some pi
groupings can with difficulty be related to the D.F., but the order
is not preserved. The instrumental parts repeat pitches befor
twelve have been stated, as do all subsequent phrases in the voi
Instead of organizing the piece around a fixed succession
pitches, Webern adopted fragments-often pitch pairs-from his
sketches, allowing more flexible manipulation of pitches than a
ordering would permit. He drew not only on the row's final form,
also on the earlier version of the row and even its non-dodecap
predecessor. Successive drafts reveal a curious pattern; while the fi
draft refers to the row sketches, later layers of revisions retur
many cases to the earliest, pre-row sketches.42
The result is a freely chromatic context not bound by the dema
of pitch order. Rather, certain pitch classes anchor crucial poin
the piece. The most prominent of these are the last two notes i
first vocal phrase, B6 and B (these are also paired in both the "U" a
the "D" forms of the row, as well as in the earliest sketch). T

4' Given the discrepancies between these and Schoenberg's first twelve-
sketches, it is possible that he did not get a very close look. It is also possibl
Webern got his information thirdhand, perhaps from Stein or Rufer. (By
mentioning Schoenberg at all, Oesch, in "Webern und das SATOR-Palindro
implies that the sketches confirm Webern's precocity in composing with twelv
method. This case now seems strongly undermined.)
42 This is most apparent in the Library of Congress manuscript (source B in
Appendix).

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300 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

pitch-class pair marks the beginning of the second half of the piece, at
"Mich nicht zu sehr beladen" (m. 9). The same pitch classes, up an
octave, produce the vocal climax, appropriately enough on the words
"in Gottes [Fried]" (m. i i). The opening measure foreshadows this
climax with a B-Bb leap in the exact register in which it later appears
(flute, m. i). An inversion of the B-B6 pair, Bb and A, first pushes the
voice up into its high register, on the word "Himmel" (m. 5); this is
anticipated by the clarinet's leap on the same pitches in the previous
measure (this is conspicuously one of only two leaps of this size in the
clarinet part; the other, also from A, occurs in m. 2). The piece ends

with the same note pair-B, and A, around C# this time-which now,
however, defines a new low register, just as it had articulated the high
point before. The pitch connection of the Bk-A pair in both measure
5 and measure 13 implies a text connection as well, between "Him-
mel" (heaven) and "Freud' dahin" (I go there [to heaven] joyfully).
(The last vocal gesture also echoes the climax at measure i i, which
features a descending leap from Bb over another pitch to the A a minor
ninth lower.) The major seventh (or minor ninth) is of course one of
the most commonly encountered intervals in Webern's music. But the
motivic references in this tiny piece come from the recurrence of
certain pitch classes, which results in an interconnected network of
relationships spanning the work.
In "Mein Weg," composition of a specific gesture--designed for a
specific text-led to the formulation of a row that preserved both its
shape and its textual associations. Because of these associations,
Webern treated the row very cautiously; he often preserved notes in
their original registers, used only one transposition, and was reluctant
to combine row forms. The harmonic use of the row proved especially
problematic. Clearly the four chords formed by the superimposition
of three tetrachords was not going to provide enough harmonic
material for a piece, and Webern was unable to come up with other
solutions.
His strategy in the final version of the piece depended on the free
circulation of small intervallic cells and fixed-pitch motives, which
was not possible within the twelve-tone method as Webern under-
stood it at that time. The main obstacle was the ordering of the
pitches, since an unordered twelve-tone set-the total chromatic-
cannot be perceived as a structural element in itself. A paradoxical
result of the emphasis on pitch order in twelve-tone writing is that
pitch itself is de-emphasized; intervals, rhythms, and textures become
the primary means of differentiation. When on the other hand a set
smaller than twelve is used, it can be identified by its pitch classes

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WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE COMPOSITION 301

alone. Schoenberg solved a similar problem by using ordered sets o


fewer than twelve notes, as he did in his op. 23. Schoenberg also
experimented from the very beginning with various kinds of part
tioning of a twelve-tone set that permit notes to be chosen "out o
order."43 Webern overcame this obstacle of course; in his late
twelve-tone works, he found different ways to emphasize certain pitc
classes and registers. His original conviction that a row was
primarily melodic entity apparently prevented him from going further
at this stage.
Webern's sketches for "Mein Weg" embody a clash between two
fundamentally different modes of musical thought: the earlier one, in
which the piece grew out of a direct response to the poem, and th
later, in which the composition is governed by a twelve-tone row. His
failure to reconcile them here is apparent and informative.

Delaying Tactics (1922-24): Five Canons on Latin Texts

In The Path to the New Music, Webern recalled how difficult it had
been to decide to adopt the twelve-tone method: "This compulsion,
adherence, is so powerful that one has to consider very carefully
before finally committing oneself to it for a prolonged period, almost
as if taking the decision to marry."44 The experience of "Mein Weg
had evidently soured him on twelve-tone technique, and perhaps
slowed his compositional output; between August 1922 and th
autumn of 1924, Webern was able to complete only the Five Canons
op. i6. For a full year after finishing "Mein Weg," Webern compose
nothing. When he resumed in the summer of 1923, he did not even tr
to sketch a twelve-tone row. He produced instead three atonal canon
in quick succession.4s Though at this time Webern considered these
complete set, over a year later he wrote two more Latin canons for th
same ensemble and added them to the three already completed.
All commentators writing about op. i6 before the publication of
the Moldenhauers' biography of Webern (and there have been no
substantial accounts since then) have had to assume that Webern

43 See Haimo's discussion of isomorphic partitioning in Schoenberg's Serenade,


op. 24, in Schoenberg's Serial Odyssey, 80-83.
44 "Der Zwang, die Bindung ist so gewaltig, daB man es sich sehr fiberlegen muss
bevor man sie endgiiltig ffir lange Zeit eingeht-fast, als ob man sich zum Heirate
entschliesst" (Webern, Path, 54 [Ger. 58]).
4s Shortly after finishing these in August, he wrote out at least two manuscript
fair copies containing what later became op. I6, nos. 2, 3, and 4; these were entitled
"Lateinische Lieder" and were presumably given away as presents.

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302 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

wrote the canons before having had any direct experience with the
twelve-tone method, and so they have viewed the canonic technique
as evidence of a natural propensity for serial composition.46 When we
know that Webern had experimented with the method's specific
properties as early as 1922, the picture looks rather different. Instead
of viewing the canons as a prescient anticipation of twelve-tone
technique, we can now see how they helped Webern to work through
some of its known demands. On the other hand, the existence of five
brief atonal canons, the only fruits of a two-year dry spell, hardly
suggests an all-out effort to come to terms with the new method.
Although in op. i6 Webern adopted several of the operations used in
twelve-tone music, he avoided the heart of the matter: the use of a
twelve-tone row itself. Op. i6-and its halting progress--could
therefore document Webern's struggle to compromise, to adapt
aspects of Schoenberg's discovery without embracing its full implica-
tions. If Webern was not yet ready to adopt twelve-tone serialism, in
these canons he explored other ways of controlling his materials.
Schoenberg first solved the problem of how to impose order on
free materials by what he called "composing with tones of a motive,"
that is, manipulating ordered sets smaller than twelve. Webern's op.
16 represents an alternative solution. With canonic technique he
achieved horizontal and vertical control of pitch as well as uniformity
of rhythm and contour. While adapting parts of Schoenberg's
method, Webern shifted its emphasis from "composing with tones" to
what could be characterized as "composing with inversion and
transposition."
Webern's op. 16 explores serial techniques such as transposition,
inversion, and invariance within a firmly non-dodecaphonic context.
The canons introduce two features that had not been a part of
Webern's practice for many years and that play an important role in
serial composition: equal parts and ordered pitches.47 First, the equal
disposition of voices in a canon represented a real change in Webern's
compositional procedures, which in this period normally allotted the
primary role to the singing voice. Then, by writing canons Webern

46 Wallace McKenzie notes, for example, that in op. 16, no. T, the predominant
intervals are found both horizontally and vertically, creating a unity "which is basic
to serial composition" ("The Music of Anton Webern,", 354)-
47 In 1917 Webern had written the atonal canon "Fahr' hin, o Seel'," op. 15, no.
5, and in 19o8 the tonal canon "Entflieht auf leichten Kihnen," op. 2. Webern's
interest in strict counterpoint goes back at least to his edition of Isaac's Choralis
Constantinus for his doctoral dissertation in 1904: Webern, ed., Heinrich Isaac: Choralis
Constantinus II, Denkmiler der Tonkunst in Osterreich, vol. 32 (1909).

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WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE COMPOSITION 303

had a perfect opportunity to practice composing within the con-


straints of fixed order. By adopting a procedure that requires an
unchanging ordering of pitches and rhythms in all parts, he coul
subject the freely developing motives of his earlier style to mor
rigorous control. Webern had foundered on precisely this aspect o
twelve-tone composition the previous summer; the demands of pitc
order had not permitted repetition sufficient to create motives based
on certain fixed pitches. Not surprisingly, these new steps taken with
op. i6 led to a change in composing habits; he sketched, drafted, an
revised much more than he had before.
Webern also used canonic technique to explore inversional relation-
ships between parts and the transposition of ordered sets. In doing this
he discovered how to control the invariance that results from the
combination of transposed or inverted forms of the same set. Three of
the five canons of op. 16 use an inverted voice. In each case, the voice
is literally inverted (by exact interval and by register) and therefore
forms the mirror image of the dux; the two voices will balance around
a pitch axis of symmetry. In "Dormi Jesu" (op. i6, no. 2, drafted in
August 1923), the two voices are arranged in a canon at inversion at the
tritone. Because the first note of the dux (clarinet) is Bb and the comes
(voice) is E, the two lines unfold symmetrically around g'. Such a
property means, for example, that a C# in one voice would be answered
by C# in the other, and G would likewise be answered by another G.
Other notes produce the relationships shown in Example 7.
Although there are no notations resembling Example 7b in any of
Webern's sketches for op. i6, Schoenberg made sketches very much
like this in the summer of 1921 for the Prailudium (see Ex. 8). Here he
inverted each tetrachord separately, around the axis of the last note of
the first tetrachord. This is shown below (extracted from Ex. 5):

T: E F G D, U (around D6): B6 A G DI
G, Eb Ab D Ab Cb G, C
B C A Bb Eb D F E
This kind of inversion differs from
procedure for the Second Viennese Sch
its first note.
Of course simply writing a canon at inversion would produce
symmetrical relationships, whether Webern was thinking in terms of
serial operations or not (and no sketches for "Dormi Jesu" survive that
might explain whether he was). The relationship between the two
canonic lines in this piece is, however, exactly that which would obtain

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304 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

Example 7

(a) "Dormi Jesu," op. i6, no. 2, mm. 1-2, final version

RuhigS
( = ca 72)
1 2 P ==- L3

Dor - mi Je - su,

A p - -------
pp symmetry around G and C

(b) inversional symmetry around G and C_


(I L , I imL
0)k UI

Webern Fiinf Canons


Copyright 1928 by Universal Edition
Copyright renewed
All Rights Reserved
Used by permission of European American Music Distributors Corporation, sole U.S. and
Canadian agent for Universal Edition.

Example 8
Schoenberg, Priludium sketches. From Samtliche Werke, Kritischer Bericht, p. 75.
Used by permission of Belmont Music Publishers, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272.

- iA I I IgJ I

between a row containing the tritone G-C


for "Mein Weg." The pitch classes G and C
the other notes paired as shown above. Ex
ships with two of the canonic voices of "
canons enabled Webern to work inten
relationships; manipulation of such relatio
an integral part of his later twelve-tone t
Between August and the end of Octob
the three-voice canon "Crucem tuam
texture is more complex than before: o
tion and the other at inversion. At some

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WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE COMPOSITION 305

Example 9

"Dormi Jesu," op. i6, no. 2, final version. Dux and comes from mm. 5-7, lined up.

r--- 3-. , -- 3---- .

comes 6-7
, 3-. ,3 r------ 3-----

- I -

dux 5-6 .
Webern Fiinf Canons
Copyright 1928 by Universal Edition
Copyright renewed
All Rights Reserved
Used by permission of European American Music Distributors Corporation, sole U.S. and
Canadian agent for Universal Edition.

of the piece, Webern sketched a twelve-tone row, his first in over two
years. A tentative effort, the row was quickly abandoned. Though it
clearly originates among the sketches for "Crucem tuam," it was never
integrated into any stage of the composition and does not appear in the
finished piece. Moreover Webern did not attempt to transform the
row through transposition, inversion, or retrograde. This seems
peculiar, given his previous experimentation with the method and his
familiarity with Schoenberg's twelve-tone music, which by now
included the Serenade, op. 24, the Suite, op. 25, and the Wind
Quintet, op. 26. His confidence in Schoenbergian twelve-tone tech-
nique had clearly not grown in the year since he expressed his initial
reservations.
The row sketches for "Crucem tuam" are found on the back of a
sheet belonging to draft 3.48 The row is sketched four times (see Ex.
i o and Fig. 2). Webern numbered the notes of the first row i through
12, something he had failed to do in his first twelve-tone sketches. In

48 PSS, film 101o:o7oo (the page with the row sketches is not on film). The row
sketch is undated, and therefore its placement within the loose sketch pages cannot be
determined exactly. Webern probably sketched the row either between drafts I and
3 or during composition of draft 2. Since only drafts 2 and 3 have any material in
common with the row, it is probable that he made the twelve-tone sketches either
after he was unable to complete the second draft, or after essaying the first bars of
draft 2.

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Example 0o
"Crucem tuam," op. 16, no. 5, row sketches. Paul Sacher Foundation, Basel.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

tLr

0 o

I ., LJ -.-M
' NOW

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WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE COMPOSITION 307

..
r i E,
'' r
A

_ ______ _~-~.-~..... ~-, --I--?.-

__..._. -TI-?j- -
.__I --?-?----------.-^--.--- -?-I---

-I_
I, ~

-- ' -?---- --?--?------~~------- --


-- ~-.--I--
=-~-----------------------
-- I--
_-------i---t--?-- ---- -- ~-~----;L~-

- --- ----- --"I'.-.--..-. --- --- --


- ~---.~-.1.--^~-------
---I --~---
.-
--

--

___~_ --'-----~---=
---?---s ~-~---------- ?
- ----
---

Figure 2. Webern, op. 16, no. 5, row sketches. Paul Sa

the final draft of the row, the two hexachords


staves, with the second and third trichords o
A striking feature of these sketches is how W
rows with fixed registers. Each of the four row
specific registral disposition and, in one case, sp
(in the last three drafts, Webern even needed
second hexachord). These rows are not abstract
classes, but rather melodic gestalts that span
octaves. While the first row fits (with diffic
(f-eb"), the second and third rows span two
between B6 and eb". Although this range doe
instrument used in op. 16, no. 5, its total span
the range of each part in the final version:

bb--d"'; bass clarinet, G-c".


The effect of the final, non-dodecaphonic version of "Crucem
tuam" largely depends upon the registral placement of pitches; the
energy and momentum of the individual lines comes as much from the
wide spaces they traverse as from their bristly dissonance. Through-

49 The "final" version of the row found among the "Crucem tuam" sketches
conforms in certain respects to a familiar Webernian type. Each of its hexachords is
a member of set class 6-5; this is Bailey's "type d" (see The Twelve-Note Music, 3 35-36).
This row is notated in such an idiosyncratic manner, however, that I hesitate to view
it as closely related to other type d rows such as the String Trio (op. 20) or String
Quartet (op. 28). Another unusual feature of the row is the overwhelming prominence
of interval class 5. The two trichords formed by order pitches 6, 7, 8 and 1o, 11, 12
would be switched at the tritone transposition of both P and I forms. This kind of
invariance later interested Webern greatly and culminated in the row for the
Concerto, op. 24, in which under certain transpositions each trichord changes places
with another and preserves its pitch classes.

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308 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

out the piece, pitches are introduced in new registers whenever


possible. For example, when Bb is heard for the second time in the
vocal line (m. 2, beat i), it is sounded two octaves higher than before
(m. i, beat 2), resulting in a particularly extreme contrast for the
voice. In measure 3, no new pitch classes are heard, but six pitches
occur in registers different from those in which they first appeared.
Webern continues to place new pitches in crucial places, such as vocal
high points. Even the last two pitches of the piece occur in new
registers; the voice sings g# to a", which creates its largest leap.
The resulting two-and-a-half-octave space for each canonic voice
functions as an alternative to twelve-tone space. By treating each pitch
as an individual entity (instead of as a member of a pitch class),
Webern created a "mega-row" of some thirty pitches in each voice.
This gave him much more room to play out the canonic voices than a
twelve-tone set would have allowed. This also explains Webern's
peculiar notation of the twelve-tone row that he sketched while
working on the canon. With this experiment, he created a twelve-tone
collection that could operate within the wide registral space that he
had so carefully worked out.
Why did this second attempt to create a row also fail? Probably
because Webern had still not made the conceptual leap between an
idea generated as part of a musical process, on the one hand, and the
set of properties and relationships extracted from that idea and applied
to the rest of piece, on the other. His one experiment with a
twelve-tone row during composition of op. 16 shows that he did not
yet think of the row as an abstract entity that exists apart from a
particular melodic gestalt. In designating a specific range, contour,
and even (in one draft) rhythm, Webern designed the row as a possible
canonic voice; like the row for "Mein Weg," which began as a vocal
line, the "Crucem tuam" row serves a particular musical situation. In
the sketch, Webern had perhaps hoped to overcome the limitations he
had experienced with the earlier row by giving the new one an
expansive registral profile. But even with its wide-ranging shape, the
row's ordered sequence of twelve pitches would severely limit the
kinds of melodic lines that could result. In fact Webern was soon to
discover that the solution lay in a different direction. Instead of
making the row more specific, it was necessary to make it more
abstract. Only by de-emphasizing the row as an individual musical
gesture was it possible for its properties to become more generally
applicable to the whole piece.

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WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE COMPOSITION 309

II

During the next year, Webern finally completed his first works
based on the twelve-tone method. He continued to progress sporad-
ically, however, alternating between what we would characterize as
"complex" and "simple" attempts. His first twelve-tone serial compo-
sitions were a Kinderstiick for piano (M. 267) and a song, "Armer
Siinder, du" (op. 17, no. i), both written in the fall and early winter
of 1924. Upon completion of these two works, Webern ended his
resistance to the method. From this point on he employed the
technique for everything he wrote. The two pieces explore quite
different solutions to the problem of twelve-tone composition. The
dense, knotty surface of "Armer Suinder, du" contrasts markedly with
the spare texture of the Kinderstiick. The piano piece projects the quiet
minimalism for which Webern's music is known. With only seventy-
six attacks in seventeen measures, it seems typically--even stereotyp-
ically--Webernian, while the song, with its busy nervous rhythms
and loud dynamics, seems to come from another hand entirely.
These works also illustrate two approaches to handling a twelve-
tone row, a distinction that runs through the rest of Webern's output.
In the Kinderstiick, the row is treated as a horizontal event; the few
simultaneities that occur are heard as part of a linear flow. In "Armer
Sunder, du," by contrast, the row is broken up and distributed among
all the parts; completely a-thematic, it is heard as a succession of
unordered aggregates. While the "horizontal" approach is character-
istic of many of Webern's later works (for example, the canonic first
movement of the Symphony, op. 2 i), the "vertical" technique (which
Bailey calls "block topography") also occurs, for example in the String
Trio, op. 20.5s These first successful twelve-tone efforts show that
both modes of Webern's serial discourse were present at the very
beginning. Moreover they achieve the opposite aims; whereas the
Kinderstiick row is projected transparently and audibly (perhaps too
much so), the song "Armer Suinder, du" obscures the row's very
existence within a dense, disordered texture.

Sketching Children's Pieces

The Kinderstiick (1924), probably completed before "Armer Sun-


der, du," was composed in response to a request by Emil Hertzka of

5so Bailey, The Twelve-Note Music, 3 1.

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310 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

Universal Edition for a cycle of children's pieces for piano, and


remained unpublished during Webern's lifetime.s' The tiny work was
to have been part of a larger group of children's piano pieces; on a
sketch page, Webern lists sixteen possible types, including dance
forms and "Charakterstiicke" such as Waltzer, Polka, Menuett, and
Landler, as well as stricter forms such as variations, fugue, passa-
caglia, and canon. These types are clearly evocative of Schoenbergian
models: the Five Pieces, op. 23 (whose fifth movement is a waltz),
Serenade, op. 24 (which includes movements entitled Variationen and
Tanzscene), and Suite, op. 25 (whose six movements are entitled
Praludium, Gavotte, Musette, Intermezzo, Menuett, and Gigue). By
proposing dance types and strict forms for his projected cycle of
children's pieces, Webern was emulating Schoenberg's solution to the
problem of form in twelve-tone music.
Though no sketches for the completed Kinderstiick survive, those
for another serially organized children's piece that Webern did not
finish (M. 266) show exactly what he was up against: specifically, the
conflict between composing with an ordered set and exercising his
previous techniques of motivic variation."5
For the Kinderstiick fragment, Webern sketched two rows, one with
only eleven notes (accompanied by the remark "ohne a") and one with
twelve; the fragment uses the eleven-note row exclusively (see Ex. I I).
As early as the third measure Webern found it difficult to keep to the
rules of an ordered set. His mistakes are informative. Consistent with
the kind of motivic variation he used often in his atonal music, he tried
in measure 3 to invert the B-Bb simultaneity of measure I to B-A (as
the original row is restated). But this would have introduced the note
A, which is not part of his eleven-note row. In the same measure
Webern tries another familiar procedure: reinterpreting the C#-D of
measure I as D-C0 in measure 3, with the registers inverted.
Changing the order of pitches is of course not allowed under the
restrictions Webern has set for himself. Noting these "mistakes," he
deleted the whole measure (by encircling it, his customary mark for
deletion). The only remaining solutions are changes in rhythm and
register. Whereas Webern had originally planned to repeat in measure

s' Moldenhauer and Moldenhauer, Anton von Webern, 312. As a result, its
existence was unknown until i965, when the Moldenhauers discovered an ink fair
copy of the piece. See Raymond Ericson, "New Webern Haul Found in a Dark
Attic," New York Times, Sunday, io April 1966, section X, p. i i. The piece was
published by Carl Fischer in 1966.
52 PSS, film o01:o684.

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WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE COMPOSITION 311

Example i i
Kinderstiick sketch, M. 266. Paul Sacher Foundation, Basel.
(a) eleven-note row

(b) mm. 1-3

3 33
I I L 1 11

io i k L",,M

3 both the opening rhythms and the contour, he arrived instead at


solutions with different note values and octave positions.
With this sketch we can see Webern finally coming to terms with
the method. This cannot have been easy. Even after two years of
constant exposure to it and several rather sophisticated attempts on his
own, composing within these constraints required significant modifi-
cations of his normal techniques of motivic development. Realizing
that two favored types of motivic transformation-inversion around
an axis and reordering of pitches--were no longer available (in the
unrestricted sense in which they had earlier been used), Webern
focused on rhythm and register. Now confronting the immediate
problem of how to continue after all twelve notes have sounded, the
difficulty of extreme brevity still remained: after six row statements,
the sketch ends with a double bar after only nine measures.
In the completed Kinderstiick (M. 267), Webern began to solve the
problem of length, not by adding any rows, but by using repeated
notes, creating a "Morse-code" effect that resonates through many of
his early twelve-tone works. Here he also used six statements of the
row, but the piece at seventeen measures lasts almost twice as long as

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312 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

the previous sketch. Since the repeated notes emphasize the first
pitches of the row, it is quite audible, even perhaps overarticulated
(see Ex. 12).53
By drawing attention to the row's boundaries, Webern puts the
row itself in high relief, treating it as an extended melody. This
conception departs radically from Schoenberg's practice; his rows are
often broken up into tetrachords or trichords, which are then reor-
dered so that their identity as part of a series is aurally obscured. Even
when Schoenberg treated the row melodically, as in the vocal line of
the Sonnet (in the Serenade, op. 24), he rotated the fourteen-note
series through lines of thirteen syllables, so that its beginning and end
points were not audibly marked.

Example 12

Kinderstiick, M. 267, mm. 4-8. Notated according to fair copy (order numbers added).
Paul Sacher Foundation, Basel.

3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1011 12 2 3 4

A 1 6 L

At ? ? - ?I

"Armer Siinder, D

Instead of continu
familiar practice of
Suinder, du" (com
the exact identity o
unknown until rece
lost resurfaced.4" T
of the Three Tradit
i7, although the so

s3 Webern originally i
a return to the first
reemphasized the prom
had kept this reading,
instruction would mak
54 PSS, op. 17, no. i,
ss Webern offered th
letters to Hertzka in 1
who implies that Webe

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WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE COMPOSITION 313
In "Armer Siinder, du," Webern again faced the problem of how
to distribute the row among several parts. The complexities of the
four-part texture (voice, violin, clarinet, and bass clarinet) forced
Webern away from the simple deployment of the row in a single line,
as he had practiced in the Kinderstiick. Webern instead opted for a
vertical distribution of the total chromatic and a correspondingly
dense texture. Rather than emphasizing the row's presence, he now
attempted to obscure it. The row has so little identity that even its
order is unclear. The version given in Example 13, which differs from
the commonly accepted one, comes from the sketches.56 The twelve
pitches are notated in the space of one octave and lie within the treble
staff. The row is divided by bar lines into four trichords, which
belong to only two trichord types: o, 1,6 (trichords I and 3) and o, 1,2
(trichords 2 and 4). It is probably no coincidence that Webern
de-emphasized the row's presence as a melodic gesture precisely when
he first notated it in a single octave, indicating that he conceived of it
more abstractly than he had before. The twelve-tone series, no longer
associated with specific properties such as register or rhythm, can now
function globally, and this in turn allows much greater freedom in the
handling of the musical surface.
The best evidence for this conceptual shift is the simple fact that
the voice does not follow the row. When sketching "Mein Weg" two
and a half years earlier, Webern was able to conceive of the twelve-
tone row only as it was manifested in the concrete musical instance of
a vocal line. In the Kinderstiick of the fall of 1924, Webern likewise

Example 13
Row for op. 17, no. i. Paul Sacher Foundation, Basel.

0i t ij,.
row technique: "Weberns Plan einer Gesamtausgabe," in Neue Musik und
Festschrift Rudolf Stephan zum 65. Geburtstag, ed. Josef Kuckertz et a
Laaber-Verlag, 99go), 508. "Liebste Jungfrau" (op. 17, no. 2) was publis
"Geistlicher Volkstext" in New Music, 193o.
56 PSS, op. 17, no. I, sketches. This is the version most often given: B
E E G G# A C C# D. See Rognoni, The Second Vienna School, 356; and Jan M
"Weberns Zwolftonreihen," in Analytica: Studies in the Description and Analysis
ed. Anders Linn and Erik Kjellberg (Uppsala: Borgstroms Tryckeri, 198
Lynn provides the correct row and makes the plausible conjecture tha
derived it from the opening measures ("Genesis, Process, and Reception,"

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314 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

treated the series as a kind of extended melody. Although he had


composed with ordered sets in his op. 16 canons, in "Armer Sunder,
du" he tried something different: using the row as a source for
motives. For the vocal line he freely chose from among the twelve
pitches, often forming new associations between nonadjacent pitches
of the row. After the voice sounds order numbers 9 through 12 at the
beginning of the piece, it never stays that close to the row again.
Instead, it focuses on interval-class i relationships, some of which are
present in the highly chromatic row, others created by juxtaposing
pitches out of order. A prominent example of the latter is the frequent
pairing of G# and A in the vocal line, order numbers 6 and 9 in the
row (see Ex. 14).57
Webern in effect freed the voice part of "Armer Suinder, du" from
a controlling dodecaphonic organization, shaping it much as he had
shaped earlier vocal lines. The line rises from beginning to end; the
high points in each phrase ascend incrementally, marked by impor-
tant words such as "Mark," "Blut," "Himmel," and others.s8 In the
final version, many of the extremely wide leaps present in the sketches
and the first fair copy were compressed, lending the finished piece a
more plausibly "Volkslied" character. In the last quarter of the piece

Example 14
"Armer Siinder, du," op. 17, no. i, final version, excerpts from the vocal line (mm.
2-3, 7-8, and 13-14; order numbers added)
6 9 10 11 12 1 6 9 2 5 4 3 6 9 3 6 9

Ar-mer Siin-der, du der Him mel ist dein Hut


Webern Drei Volkstexte
Copyright 1955 by Universal Edition
Copyright renewed
All Rights Reserved
Used by permission of European American Music Distributors Corporation, sole U.S. and
Canadian agent for Universal Edition.

s7 These chromatic pairs are prominent in (and between) the instrumental parts as
well. Even in the sketches and early draft, Webern treated these two-note gestures as
fixed units, replacing one with another or shifting their positions.
s8 As Joachim Noller has noted in "Das dodekaphone Volkslied," in Musik-
Konzepte Sonderband Anton Webern II, ed. Heinz-Klaus Metzger and Rainer Riehn
(Munich: Edition Text und Kritik, 1984), 143.

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WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE COMPOSITION 315

(mm. I3-16), motives heard at the beginning recur; as in man


Webern's atonal songs, the recurring pitches are reordered
registrally displaced.59

The Ineffable Row

All of Webern's twelve-tone efforts in the fall of 1924 were car


out with the same family of closely related rows. In spite of
different compositional strategies behind them, the rows in
Kinderstiick sketch, the completed Kinderstiick, the "Crucem t
sketch, and "Armer Sfinder, du" are all quite similar (see Ex. i5
developing these rows, Webern did not manipulate intervallic
tionships, as he would do later, but instead explored the diffe
placement of pitch classes. Groups of notes are moved en bloc from
to row; some even occur in all four rows. The rows, which grew
of concrete musical gestures, are treated almost as different versio
a melodic gesture rather than as neutral raw material.
Webern's awareness of a row's complex properties very s
followed, even as he continued to write pieces that did not exp
these properties. In the spring of 1925, he sketched a string
movement that bears a remarkable resemblance, in both row struc
and finished surface, to the String Trio, op. 20, completed two

Example I5
Rows Webern used in autumn 1924

Op. 16, _ .

no. 5-
266 - e

wp I

Op. 17,
no. 1I v

59 In the sketc
clearer: the vio
before only in

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316 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

later.6' The row is worth observing, since it represents Webern's


earliest "complex" row, and because it has not been described in the
literature (see Ex. i6 and Fig. 3).
The most striking feature of this row is the high degree of
invariance it displays with many of its prime and inverted forms.6'
The sophistication of the row seems inconsistent with its typically
early notational features, however. Archaic aspects include the way
Webern wrote each pitch of the row with stems, gave the row a
distinct registral contour, and labeled the rows in tonal terms (with
the prime as T[onika] and the tritone transposition as D[ominant]). In
the bottom two staves, he experimented with writing the twelve tones
in overlapping tetrachords, just as he had done in sketches for "Mein
Weg." Yet the properties of tetrachordal invariance are also clearly
displayed in the transpositions and transformations which he wrote
out; notice, for example, the tetrachordal invariance among P-o ("T"),
P-6 ("D"), and I-i i (unlabeled, staff 6).6,
It seems odd, from an evolutionary standpoint at least, that even
after this "advanced" row sketch, Webern continued for the next ten
months or so to compose pieces that use much simpler row technique.
A fragmentary setting of "Erl6sung" (later op. I8, no. 2) attempted in
June 1925 is based on a single row form; Webern was undecided only
whether to use the row horizontally or to distribute it vertically
throughout the texture. A complete setting of "Heiland, unsere
Missetaten" (op. 17, no. 3) presents the row continuously in the vocal
line, while the instruments echo with disjunct fragments of the series.
In the next work, "Liebste Jungfrau" (op. 17, no. 2), Webern scatters
one row among all the parts. He did not use even the simple
transformations of a row-its retrograde, inversion, and retrograde
inversion--until late September and early October of i925, in settings
of "Erl6sung" (op. I8, no. 2) and "Ave Regina Coelorum" (op. 18, no.
3). Only in late 1925, in his Two Songs for chorus, op. i9, did he
employ even a transposed form of a row (this almost a year after his
forward-looking string trio sketches). On one level, this seemingly

6 String trio, M. 273. PSS, film o03:o834-o841.


61 Even-numbered prime forms and odd-numbered inverted forms preserve the
content of the three unordered tetrachordal partitions, although not necessarily their
order with respect to each other. The P-6, 1-5, R-io, and RI-3 forms are completely
invariant with the original at the tetrachord level. For any P form and its I form a half
step higher, the last tetrachord of the former will match the first tetrachord of the latter.
62 He even uses both types of inversion on the same page: the later standard
method of inverting around the first note (as he does with the TU), and the earlier one
of inverting around a tritone axis (as he seems to do with the "DU," although this
labeling of what is apparently the TU could simply have been a mistake).

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Example 16

String trio fragment, M. 273, sketches. Paul Sacher Foundation, Basel.

Reihen zum Streich-Trio

X b b ![ ~Krebs
TU.

d . , ' I.
DU

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318 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

, , --... -.- --? --

K A

* i +, " 7 .-
4 19 *1 0 . r

I ;I

.. -"d I X&
" ?, .,

Figure
Basel.

inconsistent progress simply indicates a gap between what Webern


explored in his sketches and what he was able to realize in completed
works.
But the differences between the "sophisticated" string trio sketches
and the "rudimentary" setting of "Armer Siinder, du" should not be
measured solely on the basis of serial complexity. For even a work
based on a single untransposed and untransformed row reveals much
about how Webern viewed the row's function and purpose; such
works confidently assume that the mere presence of a series-
however imperceptible-can serve as an organizing force. This belief
allowed Webern to liberate the musical surface. His apparently simple
efforts in op. 17 and op. i8 were aimed not at "mastering" the
twelve-tone apparatus (by which standards they fail), but rather at
seeing how far he could separate the perceived music from its
underlying structure. In this sense, these songs are not simple at all.
Hardly a tentative first step into twelve-tone technique, "Armer
Suinder, du" suggests rather a headlong plunge. With this piece
Webern pushed the organizational capability of the row to the limits
of perception. The frenetically rapid rhythms and the stratified
repeated-note figures disrupt the row, which has been pushed into the
background. The work's highly disordered surface is essentially
a-thematic. This approach was very different from that of Schoen-

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WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE COMPOSITION 319

berg, who chose to exert control over the technique by working it


within strict formal types. Webern opted, it seems, to relinq
control.
He could do this only because he placed great faith in the po
of the twelve-tone row to provide a subconscious order. He bel
in this power all his life, as these remarks from The Path to the N
Music suggest: "The twelve-note row is, as a rule, not a 'theme
I can also work without thematicism, that's to say much more fre
because of the unity that's now been achieved in another way; the
ensures unity. . . . Only now is it possible to compose in free fanta
adhering to nothing except the row.""6 Webern's comments, us
interpreted metaphorically, can now be seen as literal statemen
belief. The songs op. 17, nos. 2 and 3, and op. I8, based on
conventional row techniques than "Armer Siinder, du," still s
supreme confidence in the row's organizing power and-by tak
away the safety net of the "well-marked" row-great nerve. F
Schoenberg's model, which Webern had tried to resist, he
developed a new solution that was at the same time individua
quite radical.

III

The history of twelve-tone composition does not entirely concern


technique, as Dahlhaus has warned.64 In freeing the twelve-tone row
from the musical surface, Webern granted it a metaphysical signifi-
cance that far surpassed any structural role. He had shifted away from
his original conception of the row as concrete gesture toward a
formulation of the row as an abstract model (even though it still often
originated as part of a melodic gesture). The religious and folk texts
that Webern used in the transitional works opp. I5- 8, far from being
irrelevant kitsch, reflect some of his central aesthetic concerns.
Indeed, Webern's early twelve-tone technique developed, in part, in
response to the images and symbols resident in these texts.

63 Path, 55 (Ger. 59-60).


64 "Thus historians investigating the prehistory of dodecaphony should not only
search for substantial preconditions-for twelve-note complexes or permutations of
interval structures-but should also reconstruct the problems as the solution to
which, within the system of reference of Schoenberg's musical poetics, dodecaphony
acquired a significance that would hardly have been accorded to it if it had been
merely a technique" (Dahlhaus, Schoenberg and the New Music, 80).

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320 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

Many Austrian intellectuals became more overtly religious after


the First World War.6s The unprecedented destruction of the war and
the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire overwhelmed many
with a sense of their own powerlessness. For Schoenberg, the war,
which "overturned everything we formerly believed in," also inspired
the growing intensity of his own faith (which was at the time a
mystical Protestantism). He described this to Kandinsky in 1922:
"You would, I think, see what I mean best from my libretto 'Jacob's
Ladder' (an oratorio): what I mean is---even though without any
organisational fetters-religion. This was my one and only support
during those years-here let this be said for the first time."66
Another example of increasing religiosity can be found in the
journal Der Brenner, which had introduced Webern to Georg Trakl's
poetry in the 191os. Its editorial orientation shifted from an avant-
garde artistic stance to a reactionary, mystical Catholicism (this
outlook was later to attract Hildegard Jone to the Brenner circle).
Webern's religious beliefs, a pantheistic piety that blended elements
of Lutheranism and nature worship with his native Catholicism, were
never closely associated with an institutional church. For religious
inspiration Webern drew upon musical and literary sources more than
theological ones; the folk poetry of Rosegger, the music of Mahler,
and the ideas of Goethe figured larger in his conception of God's role
in the world than the teachings of any religion. Examining Webern's
choice of texts for opp. 15-I 9--never taken seriously or in many cases
even identified--can illuminate this aesthetic stance.
In place of the contemporary poetry by George, Rilke, Kraus, and
Trakl that had attracted him earlier, Webern now drew upon "every-
day" texts from the breviary and hymnal, along with equally familiar
folk songs. (Later he was to find in the poems of Hildegard Jone a
sympathetic blend of modernist complexity, religiosity, and Volkstiim-
lichkeit.) The "anonymous" texts Webern used between 1921 and 1925

65 H. H. Stuckenschmidt notes: "These religious songs [op. I5] give Webern a


place within the religious movement that overtook German expressionism in the years
following 1918. The same tide of feeling gave rise to the religious, visionary works of
painters and sculptors such as Nolde, Schmidt-Rottluff, Rouault and Barlach"
(Twentieth Century Music, trans. Richard Deveson [New York and Toronto: McGraw-
Hill, 1970], '45)-
66 "Was ich meine, wiirde Ihnen am besten meine Dichtung 'Jakobsleiter' (ein
Oratorium) sagen: ich meine--wenn auch ohne alle organisatorischen Fesseln--die
Religion. Mir war sie in diesen Jahren meine einzige Stiitze--es sei das hier zum
erstenmal gesagt" (Arnold Schoenberg Lettern, 71 [Erwin Stein, ed., Arnold Schoenberg
Briefe (Mainz: B. Schott's S6hne, 1958), 70]). This letter evoked a cruelly anti-Semitic
response from Kandinsky, which ended their friendship.

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WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE COMPOSITION 321

are shown in Table 2. They come from two main sources: church
liturgy (both Catholic and Lutheran) and folk song (as adapted in th
collection Des Knaben Wunderborn and by the novels and stories of Pete
Rosegger).67 Uncharacteristically for Webern, he left most of thes
texts unidentified in his manuscripts.68 Perhaps he thought they were

TABLE 2

Webern's "Anonymous" Texts

Work First Line Text Source

Op. 12, no. I(1915) Der Tag ist vergangen Ro


Fragment (1918) *Der du bist drel in einig
Op. 15, no. I (1921) Das Kreuz, das muBt' er trage
Op. 15, no. 2 (1922) *Steht auf, ihr lieben Kinderl
Op. 15, no. 3 (1921) *In Gottes Namen aufste
. I5, no. 4 (1922) *Mein Weg geht jetzt voriber Chorale
. 15, no. 5 (1917) Fahr hin, o Seel' Roseger, Erdsegen and Das Buch der
Novew& I
Op. 16, no. I (1924) Christus factus est Gradual, Maundy Thursday
Op. i6, no. 2 (1923) Dormi, Jesu Des Knaben Wunderborn
Op. 16, no. 3 (1923) Crux fidelis Hymn, Good Friday
Op. 16, no. 4 (1923) Asperges me Antiphon, Ordinary
Op. 16, no. 5 (1924) Crucem tuam adoramus Antiphon, Good Friday
Fragment (1924) Morgenglanz der Ewigkeit Chorale
Fragment (1924) *Mudtg trigst du die Last Karl Kraus
Op. 17, no. (1924) Armer Suinder, du Rosegger, Die Alper ..
Op. i7, no. 2 (1925) *Liebste Jungfrau Rosegger, Das Bucb der Novellen I
Op. 17, no. 3 (1925) Heiland, unsre Missetaten
Fragment (1925) *Dein Leib geht jetzt der Erde zu Rosegger, Das Bucb der Novellen I
Op. 18, no. I (1925) Schatzerl klein Rosegger, Das Buch der Novellen II
Op. i8, no. 2 (1925) Erl6sung Des Ktiaben Wunderborn
Op. 18, no. 3 (1925) Ave Regina Coelorum Marian antiphon
Note: Asterisks in the Table indicate a new identification.
Sources: [PSS] below indicates a source in Webern's library at the Paul Sacher Foundation, Basel.
L. A. v. Arnim and Clemens Brentano, Des Knaben Wunderhorn (Berlin, 1846).
Albert Fischer, ed., Kirchenlieder-Lexicon (Gotha, i878) (chorales).
Karl Kraus, Worte in Versen, vol. 7 of Werke von KarlKraus, ed. Heinrich Fischer (Munich: Kosel Verlag, 1959).
Peter Rosegger, in Gesammelte Werke, vom Verfasser neu bearbeitete und neu eingeteilte Ausgabe, vols. i-4o
(Leipzig: Staackmann, 1913-16):
Ds Buch der Novellekn I (GW 2). [PSS]
Die Alper in ibren Wald- aund Dorfrypen gcbildert (GW 3).
Peter Mayr, der Wirt an der Mabr. Eine Geschicbte aus deutscbher Heldenzeit (GW i9).
Das Buc i der Novellen II (GW 24). [PSS]
Erd~egen: Vertrauliche Sonntagsbr e Bauernknecbts (Ein Kulturroman) (GW 25). [PSS]
Mein Himmererich: Ein Glaubesbekenntnis (GW 34). [PSS]
Peter Rosegger, other editions:
Mein Himnmelreich: Bekenntnise, Gestiindnisse und Erfabrungen aus dem relgieien Leben (Leipzig: Staackmann,
1910). [PSS]
Waldheimat (Pressburg and Leipzig: Gustav Heckenast, 1877).
Waldheimat. Erinnerungen aus dkrfugendzt, Bd. 2, Leh'ahre (Leipzig: Staackmann, 1902).
Johannes Zahn, ed., Psalter und Harft fir das deutsche Haus. Ein evangelischer Liedenscbatz (Gditersloh, 1886)
(chorales).

67 The Moldenhauers identified only "Fahr' hin, o Seel' " as Rosegger's; in 1983
Peter Andraschke attributed more of the "anonymous" folk poems to Rosegger
("Webern und Rosegger," in Opus Anton Webern, ed. Rexroth, o8-12). Felix Meyer
of the PSS identified Kraus as the author of "Mutig triigst du die Last." I located the
rest (new attributions marked with asterisks) with the invaluable help of Dr. Meyer.
68 With the exception of the two poems from Des Knaben Wunderborn, op. I6, no.
2, and op. I8, no. 2.

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322 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

so familiar that identification was unnecessary. More likely, he simply


viewed liturgical, chorale, and folk poetry as common property.
In discussing Webern's songs opp. 15, 16, 17, and 18 (themselves
rarely studied), most commentators have simply ignored the texts.'6
This stance reflects the greater interest shown in the technical aspects
of Webern's music than in the aesthetic (which is demonstrated also in
the general bias in the Webern literature in favor of his instrumental
music).70 But if the poems had come from a high art tradition, their
reception-and perhaps that of the pieces as well-would probably
have been different.
There is clearly a wide gulf between anonymous, "public" litera-
ture and the high modernist aesthetic of ever-increasing assertion of
individuality that Webern embraced in his music. Two explanations,
neither altogether convincing, come to mind: that the "simple" texts
correspond well to the "rudimentary" twelve-tone technique; and that
texts which make fewer literary demands allow the composer greater
freedom to fashion musical structures. With regard to the first, I have
argued that Webern's early twelve-tone efforts are hardly simple
except by the barest technical standards. Besides, it has never been
considered necessary for poem and musical setting to match in terms
of difficulty or literary pretension (just think of Schubert's Klopstock
settings). The second hypothesis is more plausible, since it supposes
that Webern needed room to develop his twelve-tone technique
freely, without the constraints imposed by the dense, multivalent
poetry of Trakl, for example. But if this were true, then the best
solution would be to write music without texts at all. Webern was in
fact unable to complete any of the larger-scale instrumental works he
attempted during these years (not even the set of Kinderstiicke). He still
needed a text both to begin composition and to carry it out. It was

69 In his analysis of "Schatzerl klein" (op. 18, no. i), for example, Reinhard
Schulz claims that the only significant relationship between text and music consists of
structural factors (metrical patterns, number of syllables, etc.) (1Jber das Verbiltnis von
Konstruktion und Ausdruck in den Werken Anton Weberns [Munich: Wilhelm Fink Verlag,
1982], oo- i o i). Ren6 Leibowitz does not mention the text of "Liebste Jungfrau" (op.
i7, no. 2) in his analysis; in fact he omits the words from the musical examples
(Introduction, 86-87). Wildgans (Anton Webern) likewise focuses exclusively on the
technical features of these works. Two notable exceptions to this tendency are H. H.
Stuckenschmidt, who treats Webern's opp. i6 and I7 as sacred music in a chapter
entitled "The Music of Commitment" (Twentieth Century Music, i45-47), and Joachim
Noller, who writes sensitively about the text of "Armer Siinder, du" (without,
however, exploring its context, since its source was unknown to him) ("Das
dodekaphone Volkslied," 142-43).
70 My forthcoming book, Webern and the Lyric Impulse, attempts to redress the
balance somewhat.

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WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE COMPOSITION 323

only with the String Trio, op. 20, completed in 1927, that Webern
finished an instrumental work for the first time in over a decade.
Webern, I suggest, saw no inconsistency between such "simple"
poetry and twelve-tone technique. Nor was the naivete of the poem
a foil for greater musical complexity; rather he viewed the two a
compatible. What he valued most in the texts corresponded exactly to
what he valued most in twelve-tone composition: unity, immediacy,
and most of all, a kind of eternally present meaning that he found also
in nature. Both the familiarity of the poems and their artless-even
naive-mode of expression served the composer to advantage by
allowing the texts to communicate with an ingenuous directness.
Webern's treatment of the religious texts he chose, even the
liturgical ones, closely reflects his humane beliefs. He selected Latin
texts not to serve as distant icons or religious symbols, but rather to
communicate directly. (In this he differed from Stravinsky, who chose
Latin for Oedipus Rex precisely because of its objectifying, distancing
effect.) In a letter to Schoenberg, Webern expressed enthusiasm for
these poems: "I have borrowed the breviary from the priest. It
contains everything: hymns, psalms, and so forth. The breviary is a
glorious work.""7' He also assumed that the texts would be intelligible
to his audience, describing to Berg how the three songs he first
envisioned as a set, "Dormi Jesu," "Crux fidelis," and "Asperges me"
(later part of op. 16), create a kind of narrative progression: "The first
is, textually, a kind of lullaby of Mary; the second an antiphon: song
(prayer) to the crucifix; the third an invocation (holy water). Musically
the whole represents a unit in form and expression, I believe.""7
While the canonic technique of op. 16 itself alludes to the Netherlands
Renaissance masters, Webern also believed the liturgical texts to be
expressive in themselves.73 Even as a musicology student editing the
Choralis Constantinus of Heinrich Isaac, Webern did not distinguish
between the ritual function of a text and the personal viewpoint of the
composer: "One must not suppose that the reason for doing this
[composing a polyphonic Gradual cycle] was entirely practical; rather
one should also consider the profound piety of the master and his love
for the beauty of these liturgical poems."74

7' Moldenhauer and Moldenhauer, Anton von Webern, 272.


72 Ibid., 273.
73 Stuckenschmidt finds in the use of canon a symbol of "the Imitation of Christ"
(Twentieth Century Music, 146).
74 "Die Initiative zu dieser Tat wird man nicht ausschlieBlich in praktischen
Bedfirfnissen suchen diirfen, sondern auch in der tiefen Religiositit des Meisters und

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324 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

We can now add that Webern was involved with the Lutheran
liturgy during these years as well, by setting or drafting four German
chorale texts (see Table 2). In 1922, after completing "Morgenlied"
(later op. 15, no. 2), Webern wrote to Berg of his plans to compose a
"sacred cantata." Here he refers to "Morgenlied" and "Mein Weg,"
both based on chorale texts.75 Four years earlier he had sketched
another chorale setting, "Der du bist drei in einigkeit."76 By 1924, he
had even sketched an instrumental "Vorspiel," possibly to the
planned cantata, along with a draft of another chorale, "Morgenglanz
der Ewigkeit." This "chorale cantata" anticipates not only Webern's
later cantatas on Hildegard Jone's texts, but also reflects his lifelong
involvement with the music of J. S. Bach, with whom the concept of
"chorale" would have been indelibly associated. (Webern's continued
admiration for Bach is shown by his reverent orchestration, in
1934-35, of the Ricercar from the Musical Offering.)77
That Webern's plans to compose a sacred cantata date precisely
from the time of his first attempt at twelve-tone composition is
probably no coincidence. After more than a decade of composing
instrumental miniatures and songs, he would have been anxious to
produce something in a larger form again, perhaps in response to
Schoenberg's massive oratorio project, Die Jakobsleiter. The two
chorales with which Webern began, "Steht auf, ihr lieben Kinderlein"
and "Mein Weg geht jetzt voriiber," could represent the start and end
of a personal religious journey: the first belongs to the category of
"Morgenlieder," while the latter is the second verse of "Ich hab mich
Gott ergeben," a funeral chorale.78 The text of "Mein Weg"-"My
path now goes to the other side / Oh world, what do I care of you; /
Heaven is closer to me, / So I must go there"-can also be read as a

in seiner Liebe zur Sch6nheit dieser kirchlichen Dichtungen" (Webern, ed., Heinrich
Isaac: Choralis Constantinus II, vii).
75 Morgenlied is also found in Des Knaben Wunderborn (the Moldenhauers give this
source only). I am grateful to Daniel Melamed, who first suggested to me that "Mein
Weg" might be a chorale text.
76 PSS, film io3:0798.
77 A colleague of Webern's during the i92os related how he spontaneously played
a Bach chorale after a chorus rehearsal: "Webern, lighting a cigarette, sat down at the
piano and began to play the chorale 'Wenn ich einmal soll scheiden' from Bach's St.
Matthew Passion: 'Now, that chorale was very well known to me. Yet I stood there and
was deeply moved. Webern played it with so much expression and deep emo-
tion. .... I could see one aspect of his personality I had not recognized before: that
Webern was essentially a religious man' " (Moldenhauer and Moldenhauer, Anton von
Webern, 289).
78 As they are classified in Johannes Zahn, Psalter und Harfefiir das deutsche Haus:
Ein evangelischer Liederscbatz (Giitersloh: C. Bertelsmann, 1886).

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WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE COMPOSITION 325

literal statement of intent to "go over" to new compositional re


much as Schoenberg's foray into atonality in his Second S
Quartet had been heralded by the George text "Ich fiihle Luf
anderem Planeten."
Webern made his actual transition to twelve-tone composition not
with liturgical texts, but with religious "folk poetry." Frowned upon
by mainstream religion-the editor of a major chorale collection
expressed the hope that the book "might also help to drive back the
mawkish, trivial so-called sacred folk songs, which are inundating the
populace and corrupting its taste"79-this poetry, especially that of
the folk novelist Peter Rosegger, was immensely popular.
Rosegger (i84 3-1918), a self-educated man from the peasant class,
spent almost his whole life in his native Styria and devoted himself to
describing its customs, people, and landscape. His direct, intention-
ally nonliterary style-which seems designed to be read aloud-was
characteristic of other Volksschriftsteller of the time as well.8s Roseg-
ger's stories are aimed at a distinctly modem, urban audience,
however; when reporting an old-fashioned local custom, for example,
he often stops to explain it and even to ridicule it in a humorous
fashion. His descriptions are often heavy with irony. Reading Roseg-
ger allowed first- or second-generation urban dwellers to indulge in a
little nostalgia for the countryside without damaging their sense of
superiority. If Rosegger's work was relegated to anthologies of
children's literature shortly after the Second World War, in the early
part of the century he enjoyed respect in literary circles as well as
popular acclaim.8'
Webem had been reading Rosegger for years: in 1912, he wrote to
Berg that, in spite of moments of apparent banality (which, he
explained, were like the profound "banalities" of Mahler), Rosegger
"is the greatest German poet living today.""'8 In Rosegger's books
Webern found a rich source of poetry that was direct and artless,
fashioned as if it came straight out of the mouth of the Volk (whether

79 "Mochte es auch dazu beitragen die siiflichen, tindelnden, sogenannten


geistlichen Volkslieder zuruickzudraingen, mit denen man gegenwartig das Volk
fiberschwemmt und seinen Geschmack verdirbt" (Zahn, introduction to Psalter und
Harfe, n.p.).
o Peter Horwath discusses Rosegger in a chapter together with the Heimatdich-
ter Ludwig Anzengruber (i839-89): Der Kampf gegen die religiose Tradition: Die
Kulturkampfliteratur Osterreichs, 1780-1918 (Bern: Peter Lang, 1978), 2oi-i i.
81 See Dean Garrett Stroud, The Sacred Journey: The Religious Function of Nature
Mot, in Selected Works by Peter Rosegger (Stuttgart: Akademischer Verlag, i986), i.
"Er ist der gr68te deutsche Dichter, der heute lebt" (Anton Webern: 1883-1983,
ed. Ernst Hilmar [Vienna: Universal Edition, 1983], 66).

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326 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

it actually did or not). 83 Rosegger's characters sing in many situations,


ranging from the comic to the sublime: there are songs for waking up,
songs for courting, songs for church, weddings, and funerals. Many
poems are given in dialect.
The contexts of Rosegger's poems can cast new light on Webern's
settings.84 "Armer Siinder, du" (op. 17, no. i), for example, is a
humorous, even irreverent poem from a story called "Der Winkeldok-
tor" ("The Quack"). The quack, an Augustinian monk, offers a dark
potion called "Sympathiemittel" to his gullible customers, claiming it
can cure the most severe illnesses. As he "blesses" them he sings the
following rhyme:

Armer Siinder, du You poor sinner


die Erde ist dein Schuh; the earth is your shoe;
Mark und Blut, marrow and blood,
der Himmel ist dein Hut. heaven is your hat.
Fleisch und Bein Flesh and bone
sollen von dir gesegnet sein, should be blessed
du Heilige Dreifaltigkeit you holy Trinit
von nun an bis in Ewigkeit! from now until e

The crudely simple imagery ("die Erde ist dein S


ist dein Hut"), the irregular line lengths, and th
("Mark und Blut" instead of "Mark und Bein,"
instead of "Fleisch und Blut")8s suggest that the m
a drop too many of his own "Sympathiemittel.
claims to have forgotten most of what went on du
because of his own consumption of the potion. So
peculiarities in Webern's setting of the monk's
attributed to his attempt to reflect in music not on
of the quack but also his drunken state. Both c
rhythm of the vocal line. It begins simply, folklik
notes with two balanced phrases. Then, just when
mix his idioms (mm. 5-6, "Mark und Blut"), the
beat in triplet subdivisions. After briefly regainin

83 Whether Rosegger made up these poems or merely rec


from the region is still open to question. The former is mor
notes that most of Rosegger's poems are not listed in the Vol
i.Br. ("Webern und Rosegger," io8). The vocabulary and id
imply an "artificial" origin (see below).
84Webern's only source for the poems would have been
the poems were never published separately. He owned seve
5 I am indebted to my late colleague Martin Hoyer for t

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WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE COMPOSITION 327

(mm. 7-9, "der Himmel ist dein Hut"), the singer "gets off" again
"Fleisch und Bein," as if trying unsuccessfully to "rhyme" with th
parallel "Mark und Blut.""86 The vocal range gets increasingly wid
culminating in the final leap on the word "Ewigkeit"-as the note
values halve to sixteenths, reflecting the singer's mounting agitati
and progressive loss of control. Even the chaotic, mostly unorder
treatment of the twelve-tone row may have been a conscious reflectio
of the character depicted in Rosegger's story. (And we have alread
seen how, since Webern had composed with an ordered row in th
Kinderstiick, his failure to do it here was not due to inability.)
Although Rosegger often poked fun at the clergy and the orga
nized church, religion was a subject he took very seriously indee
His religious liberalism-particularly his belief in the possibility of
close relationship between humankind and God-would have be
very attractive to Webern, who owned a copy of Rosegger's testament
of his own faith, Mein Himmelreich, and set a poem from it.87 Thoug
Rosegger remained nominally a Catholic, he recognized no automat
authority of priest or pope. Because of Rosegger's belief that divi
redemption comes from human charity, his writings were often
attacked by the Catholic church.88
Another recurring motif in Rosegger's work-and the one that
would have resonated most strongly with Webern's beliefs-is that
God represented in nature. In Mein Himmelreich, Rosegger explain

I would still have found such a tightly knit, unified world of belief upon
the awakening of my reason. And if I had not encountered something like
this, no church, no pulpit, no altar, no pious mother and no father t
point me to God, I believe that I would still have believed from the
depths of my being. I imagine that for example the flower, the storm, the
stars in the heavens, the mountains, the sea, the entire world-essenc

86 Webern sketched "Fleisch und Bein" many times, each time placing it more of
the beat, at the same time increasingly matching the contour to "Mark und Blu
(PSS, op. I7, no. i, sketches).
87 Peter Rosegger, Mein Himmelreich: Ein Glaubensbekenntnis (Leipzig: Staackmann,
1924). The poem Webern set is "Das Kreuz, das muBt' er tragen," op. 15, no. I
(1921).
88 Some of these attacks are documented in Henry Charles Sorg, S.D.S.,
Rosegger's Religion: A Critical Study of His Works (Washington: Catholic University of
America, 1938), 9. This book, which comes to the conclusion that Rosegger's views
were so unorthodox that he can scarcely be considered a Christian at all (see especially
PP- 46-74), represents another such attack. Rosegger also opposed prevailing
anti-Semitic views, although without avoiding conventional anti-Semitic stereotypes
in making his arguments: see Karl Wagner, Die literarische Offentlicbkeit der Provinzlit-
eratur: Der Volkscbriftsteller Peter Rosegger (Tiibingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1991),
237-47.

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328 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

would have gradually but urgently said to me: one God, one eternal
life!89

God's presence in nature, according to Rosegger, is revealed most


immediately and purely on the mountain peaks. As Dean Garrett
Stroud has pointed out, "The metropolis and the mountain top form
a polarity in Rosegger's philosophy in which the metropolis represents
the physical side of life and the mountain symbolizes the spiritual
side.""' This ancient conceit had special resonance for Rosegger, who
refashioned the notion of pilgrimage into a vertical journey rather than
a horizontal one. The mountain excursions that figure so prominently
in his stories represent the voyage into the soul, in which "the
mountain represents the goal of the journey, and . . . serves as the
place where union with the Divine is most likely to take place."'' The
familiar topos-the dichotomy between "irdische" and "himmlische"
and its spiritual associations--plays out audibly in Mahler's works as
well.
Webern's religious feelings were similarly pantheistic. His lifelong
habit of mountain excursions has been well documented; these
expeditions were not merely recreational, but served as spiritual
journeys. Webern's own early poems, "O sanftes Glihn der Berge"
and "Schmerz immer blick nach oben," testify to his veneration of the
mountains.9' His sketchbooks are filled with notations about moun-
tain excursions. These, as Joachim Noller has pointed out, are not
incidental remarks, but formed the direct impetus for many of his
later works.93 Webern was a passionate amateur botanist as well, with
a special interest in mountain flora; many of the books he owned still
contain specimens of pressed flowers.

89 "Eine solche enggeschloffene, einheitliche Welt des Glaubens hatte ich noch
vorgefunden bei dem Aufwachen meiner Vernunft. Und hitte ich nichts desgleichen
vorgefunden, keine Kirche, keine Kanzel, keinen Altar, keine fromme Mutter und
keinen zu Gott weisenden Vater, so meine ich doch, daB ich meiner ganzen Natur
nach glauben hitte muissen .... ich vermute, daB z.B. die Blume, der Sturm, der
Sternenhimmel, die Gebirgswelt, das Meer, die ganze Wesenheit der Welt allmAhlich
so eindringlich zu mir gesprochen hiitten: Ein Gott, ein ewiges Leben!" (Rosegger,
Mein Himmelreich, 9).
90 Stroud, The Sacred Journey, o102.
9' Ibid., 18. Rosegger, like Webern, hated to travel outside his native country.
92 See Felix Meyer, " 'O sanftes Glihn der Berge': Ein verworfenes 'Stuck mit
Gesang' von Anton Webern," in Quellenstudien II: ZwdilfKomponisten des 20. Jahrbun-
derts, ed. Felix Meyer (Winterthur: Amadeus, 1993), 12-17.
93Joachim Noller, "Bedeutungsstrukturen: Zu Anton Weberns 'alpinen' Pro-
grammen," Neue Zeitscbriftfiur Musik 151, no. 9 (1990): 12-I8.

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WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE COMPOSITION 329

What does this have to do with compositional technique? A


deal, evidently, since Webern believed that music, as a part of na
could reflect the divine order. Specifically, his view of natu
manifestation of the divine is reflected in his metaphysical conc
of the twelve-tone row. Let us look more closely at this connecti
light of a revealing letter from Webern to Berg in 1925:

The significance [Sinn] of this flora, unfathomable: that is the g


magic to me. I perceive an unimaginable [unerbhrten] idea behind it
I can say: to reproduce musically what I perceive there, for that
struggled my whole life. A greater part of my musical production c
traced back to that. Namely: just as the scent and shape [Gestalt] of
plants--as a model given by God--come over me, that is what
from my musical shapes [Gestalten] also. If it does not soun
presumptuous; then I immediately add: vain struggle to gra
ungraspable. But perhaps you will understand if, in connection with
folksong that I told you about recently, I tell you what has been
speak, formative: rosemary.94

In reacting with gratitude and enthusiasm to Berg's descriptio


mountain-climbing trip, Webern moves easily from nature to m
God, as if they belong in a seamless continuum. He does
emphasize the technical details about the pieces he is writing.
he focuses on the divine order expressed in nature. This is n
simple correlation; the underlying Presence is mysterious, hi
and difficult to grasp ("I feel an unimaginable idea behind [the se
impression of the plants]"). More crucially, Webern states his des
capture in his music just this ineffable aspect of nature. To recre
impression of the smell and shape of the plants (which are "a
given by God") had been a major part of his musical efforts for
time, he tells Berg. In the face of this daunting task, he continue
"vain struggle to grasp the ungraspable."

9 "Der Sinn dieser Flora, unerforschlich: das ist der gr68ite Zauber for mi
spiire einen unerh6rten Gedanken dahinter. Und ich kann wohl sagen: mu
wiederzugeben, was ich da spire, danach ringe ich schon mein ganzes Le
Hauptteil meiner musikalischen Produktion liBt sich darauf zuriickfiihren. N
so wie der Duft und die Gestalt dieser Pflanzen--als ein von Gott ge
Vorbild-auf mich zukommen, so m6chte ich es auch von meinen musika
Gestalten. M6ge das nicht als Oberhebung klingen; denn ich setze gleich
vergebliches Bemuihen, das Unfaflbare zu fassen. Aber so wirst Du viell
verstehen, wenn ich im Zusammenhang mit diesem Volkslied, von dem
neulich erzahlt habe, sozusagen als richtunggebend gesagt habe: Rosmarin"
Anton Webern, ed. Rexroth, 90-9i). All citations from the letter in the n
paragraphs come from this source, pp. 90-92.

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3 30 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

Even without directly addressing musical technique, Webern's


remarks do illuminate how he conceived of the twelve-tone method,
which, he states in the same letter, is now "completely clear" to him.
The key analogy can be found in his metaphysical attitude toward
nature. In his early twelve-tone songs, as we have seen, the row's
presence is inaudible; it serves an imperceptible underlying frame-
work, as ineffable as the "unerh6rten Gedanken" behind the sense of
the plants. Just as the plants were created by and are subordinate to
a larger Being, the piece of music exists in the same relationship to its
twelve-tone row. Later he refined and developed this idea, finding an
analogy between the twelve-tone row and Goethe's Urpflanze, the
(imagined) primeval plant, from which all other existing plants have
evolved: "Goethe's primeval plant; the root is in fact no different from
the stalk, the stalk no different from the leaf, and the leaf no different
from the flower: variations of the same idea."9s The mere presence of
the row ensures this unity; unlike a basic motive in tonal music, the
row need not be perceptible: "This is how unity is ensured; something
surely sticks in the ear, even if one's unaware of it."96
Webern's cycle Three Songs, op. 18 (composed in 1925), shows
just how abstract this unity is: the set uses three different text sources
(in two languages), three different rows, and three distinct kinds of
twelve-tone technique. Op. 18 has commonly been viewed as an
example of how Webern's twelve-tone technique "evolved" from
simple to more complex.
Rather than merely showing a gradual acquisition of technique,
the different technical strategies in the three songs, I suggest, serve a
symbolic purpose. The cycle pays homage to the Virgin Mary, each
song forming part of an elaborate theological progression. As Webern
described it, "The three songs, the first on a folk-like bridal song, the
second on a Wunderhorn song 'Erl6sung,' the third on a Latin Marian
hymn, form a complete whole, something in the sense of Dr.
Marianus's invocation from the second part of 'Faust': 'Virgin,
Mother, Queen of Heaven.' "97 Here Webern makes a remarkable

9s Webern, Path, 53 (Ger. 56).


96 Ibid., 55 (Ger. 59). For a detailed and fascinating discussion of how Webern
understood Goethean philosophy, see Barbara Zuber, "Reihe, Gesetz, Urpflanze,
Nomos: Anton Weberns musikalisch-philosophisch-botanische Streifiige,"
Musik-Konzepte Sonderband Anton Webern H (1984): 304-36.
97 "Die drei Lieder, das erste nach einem volkstiimlichen Brautlied, das zweite
nach einem Wunderhornlied 'Erl6sung,' das dritte nach einem lateinischen Marien-
hymnus, bilden ein geschlossenes Ganzes, etwa im Sinne der Anrufung des Dr.
Marianus aus dem II. Teile des 'Faust': 'Jungfrau, Mutter, Himmelsk6nigin' "(Letter

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WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE COMPOSITION 33I

allusion to one of the most famous scenes in German literature: the


closing scene of the second part of Goethe's Faust, in which the
Lutheran (and not at all God-fearing) Faust is inexplicably redeemed
and carried up to the heavens amid a panoply of medieval Catholic
imagery.98 Webern's interest in these lines was probably awakened by
Mahler's setting of them in his Eighth Symphony, which Webern was
preparing to conduct around this time.99 For Webern (however he
understood this cryptic passage), the crucial point was the three-part
invocation of the Virgin; this resonated with a lifelong veneration of
Mary that can be seen in many other of the texts that he set.,oo This
tripartite unity-itself a reflection of the Holy Trinity-points to a
tripartite symbol structure that exists in op. I8 on several levels.
First, each song text corresponds to one part of the trinity
"Jungfrau-Mutter-Himmelsk6nigin." "Schatzerl klein" (op. 18, no.
I), sung by "Felix, der Begehrte," the young hero of Rosegger's story,
to the Cinderella-like character of Konstanze, represents the youthful,
virginal part of the trinity.'0' The second song, "Erl6sung," a sacred
dialogue that begins with Mary addressing Jesus, represents the
"Mutter" stage. The third part, "Himmelsk6nigin," is depicted by a
Marian antiphon: "Ave regina coelorum." The three disparate texts
therefore represent different aspects of their common subject: the
Virgin Mary.

to Hertzka, 2 February 1926, in Anton Webern: 1883-1983, ed. Hilmar, 76).


98 The Faust literature is of course vast. My thoughts on the closing scene have
been influenced by the following: Jane K. Brown, Goethe's Faust: The German Tragedy
(Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1986); Ernst Busch, "Die Tranzendenz
der Gottheit und der naturmystische Gottesbegriff im Miitter-Symbol," in Aufsitze
zu Goethes "Faust II," ed. Werner Keller (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesell-
schaft, I991), 70-79; Walter Kaufmann, introduction to Goethe's Faust, bilingual ed.,
trans. Walter Kaufmann (Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Books, 1963); and Helmut
Kobligk, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Faust II: Grundlagen und Gedanken zum Verstandnis des
Dramas (Frankfurt: Verlag Moritz Diesterweg, i99o).
99 He conducted the symphony in April 1926 with the Arbeiter-Symphonie and
several Viennese choral groups (Moldenhauer and Moldenhauer, Anton von Webern,
290-92).
'" These include the Rosegger poems "Der Tag ist vergangen" (op. 12, no. I), a
prayer to Mary; "Das Kreuz, das muBt' er tragen" (op. 15, no. I), which in Rosegger's
Mein Himmelreicb represents the disciple Peter's report to Mary about the crucifixion;
"Liebste Jungfrau" (op. 17, no. 2), a prayer to the Virgin; and "Dormi Jesu" (op. I6,
no. 2), a lullaby sung by Mary to the infant Jesus. The Moldenhauers propose that the
op. 18 cycle is silently dedicated to Webern's wife and represents the three roles she
held in the family (Anton von Webern, 317)- Meyer describes Webern's veneration of
his own mother after her death, in " '0 sanftes Glihn der Berge,' " 12-17-
o"' The "Rosmarin" mentioned twice in the poem was a symbol of virginity;
according to Rosegger it was used to make garlands for young girls on "Jungfrautag."
See "Der Hintersch6pp" in Bucb der Novellen I (Leipzig: Staackmann, 1913).

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332 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

At the center of the three works, in the second song ("Erl6sung"),


a further tripartite structure unfolds. The dialogue text from Des
Knaben Wunderborn explains the mystery of redemption (see Ex.
i7a).2"' There are three speakers, Mother (Mary), Son (Christ), and
Father (God); the Father's and Mother's lines are arranged symmet-
rically around the four lines of the Son (see Ex. I7b). Webern's setting
emphasizes the centrality of the Son's utterances. The midpoint of the
piece (at "Vater," just after the text's middle point) is marked by the
highest note in the voice (d'") and the subsequent rapid sweep across
the entire vocal range (down to g). The final clarinet gesture, which
presents a near retrograde of its opening figure, hints at a larger
symmetry.
This song, Webern's first completed work that uses the transfor-
mations of a row-inversion, retrograde inversion, and retrograde--

Example 17

"Erl6sung," op. i8, no. 2


(a) text, from Des Knaben Wunderborn

Erl6sung (Knaben Wunderhorn)

(Mother) Mein Kind, sieh an die BrUste mein,


kein Sunder laB verloren sein.

(Son) Mutter, sieh an die Wunden,


die ich fur dein Siind trag alle Stunden.

(Son) Vater, laB dir die Wunden mein


ein Opfer fir die Sunde sein.

(Father) Sohn, lieber Sohn mein,


alles was du begehrst, das soil sein.

(b) poetic structure and row forms


(prime forms)

Mary

(retrograde forms) Jesus God

Jesus

"'o2 This text may have had a further Mahlerian association for Webern:
for the sixth movement of the Third Symphony reads, "Vater, sieh an die
mein! / Kein Wesen laB verloren sein!" Webern was of course intimately fam
the symphony, having conducted it in 1922 (Moldenhauer and Moldenhau
von Webern, 246). Whether he knew the motto or not--it does not appear
published editions but was apparently inscribed in an autograph score--
question.

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WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE COMPOSITION 333

remains a landmark in his path to twelve-tone composition, alth


we know now that Webern had worked with these kinds of transfor-
mations for three years. The work's organization seems quite logical:
each of the four couplets in the dialogue text is set to one of the four
forms of the row. Yet the row, distributed vertically among the voice
and instruments and repeated several times per section, never appears
linearly, and only rarely are segments of it heard together (consecutive
row pitches are found only in the Eb clarinet, in mm. o, 5, and I8).
Nor does the row function as a source of motives; sevenths, ninths,
and tritones figure prominently in all parts, while major and minor
thirds are predominant in the row. Moreover, the row is so configured
that there is very little difference between its four forms: the inverted
forms preserve many of the same pitch groupings as the prime (see Ex.
18). The relationship between the four parts of the dialogue and the
four row forms functions therefore on an abstract, even hermetic,
level.

The first song, "Schatzerl klein," is also arranged around a


central point. In the letter quoted above, Webern told Berg that the
single word "Rosmarin" was "formative" ("richtunggebend") for his
conception of the piece. He could have meant this metaphorically;
he claims to have tried to capture the "Duft und die Gestalt dieser
Pflanzen" in all his music. But in the song, the word itself is
emphasized in several ways. The second statement of the word
"Rosmarin" falls at the exact midpoint of the piece: measure 7 is
preceded and followed by six measures. Further, this measure is
marked by three features: the only deviation from row order in the

piece (the vocal high C is repeated), registral extremes in E, clarinet


and guitar, and the first completion of the total chromatic in both
voice and Eb clarinet parts.
The third song, "Ave, Regina coelorum," represents Webern's
first use of simultaneous row forms in a completed composition. This

Example I8

Row of op. I8, no. 2, prime and inversion forms


P

0 _ _ , ~It . ..oL ,
eyI , .0.J._ ' - i -'--...L_

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334 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

piece also makes a nod to the symmetry of the whole; it ends with the
reversed forms of the rows with which it began:

Beginning End
Eb clarinet: P R
Guitar: RI I

The invocation to
poem-"Gaude, Virgo
relatively long dur
voice up to that poin
The symbol "Jung
Webern associated
correspondence of e
of the tripartite sh
progressive, moving
from youth to matu
being ascend from ea
ulating the inexorabl
The texts that Web
several ways: "Schat
earth, while "Ave r
The second song, "
heavenly realms as
The language used
"Schatzerl klein" to
the universal Latin
The different kinds
represent yet anothe
bern adopted for th
employs a single row
The second, associat
while the last, the hy
row forms simultane
Even if the progressio
(praxis) of serial proc
the sequence "Jungf
When Webern wrot
him,'?4 he was referr

0o3 Pierpont Morgan Li


104 Opus Anton Webern

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WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE COMPOSITION 335

Example 19
Progressive relationships in op. I8

1. Schatzerl klein peasants earth dialect 1 row form "Jungfrau"

2. Erl6sung human/divine earth, pointing High German 4 forms in "Mutter


toward heaven succession

3. Ave, Regina coelorum divine heaven Latin 4 forms, 2 or "Himmelsk6nigin"


more simult.

and row sketches demonstrate, but instead to his control over different
kinds of twelve-tone techniques, which he could now deploy according
to the poetic situation at hand.
Webern evidently did not judge the third song of op. I8 to be
superior to the other two because of its more advanced row technique.
For the anthology prepared in honor of Emil Hertzka's twenty-fifth
anniversary at Universal Edition in 1925, Webern chose "Schatzerl
klein," the first and "simplest" of the three songs from op. 18. This
occasion represented the public debut of both Webern and Berg in
twelve-tone composition. Berg's contribution-two settings of
"Schliesse mir die Augen beide," one tonal and one using the
twelve-tone method-makes a rather self-conscious assertion about
the progress of musical technique. In choosing his "Rosmarinlied,"
Webern was concerned only about the appropriateness of the text as
a dedication song, but finally decided in its favor: "I'll just call it
'Schatzerl klein, muBt nicht traurig sein', as in my song," he wrote to
Berg. He expressed no reservations about the technical level of his
contribution. 'I
In adopting the twelve-tone method, Webern was convinced
neither of its historical inevitability (at least at first) nor of the need to
"ensure the supremacy of German music for the next hundred years."
Rather, he came to the decision from a personal desire that was more
modest and at the same time more ambitious: to reflect Nature's order
in music. This could take a literal form, as in the texted vocal melody
that led to his first twelve-tone row, or in the more abstract presen-
tation of the row in his later works. But whether he used one row or
several, the technique was never an end in itself. For Webern, it
served as a metaphor for the ineffable in nature and heaven, and

105 "Ich uiberlege nur noch wegen des Textes; aber schlieglich der hat doch nichts
zu bedeuten, d.h. wenn ich jemandem ein Lied oder Lieder widme . . . mug doch
nicht der Text unbedingt eine Beziehung ausdrticken ... Also meine ich kann es doch
auch wie in meinem Lied ruhig heiBen: 'Schatzerl klein, muBt nicht traurig sein' "
(ibid.).

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336 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

provided a way for him to realize one of his longest-held goals in


music: to grasp the ungraspable. He would later design elaborate
structures in order to ensure what he and Schoenberg called
Faflichkeit. In the earliest twelve-tone compositions, on the other
hand, he found unprecedented freedom in relying on the row to
function the way nature does, "als ein von Gott gegebenes Vor-
bild."'"6 This freedom, verging on the chaotic, was grounded in the
row's origin in musical gesture and its echo in the artless power of the
texts.

The University of Chicago

APPENDIX

Sources 107

Sources for "Mein Weggebtjetzt voruber" (Op. i5, No. 4)

A. Pencil sketches, 4 pp. Paul Sacher Foundation.


i. First sketches of vocal line; rows, transpositions, and permutations. Flute,
clar., viola. N.d. (verso of sketch of op. 15, no. 2, dated 22 July 1922).
2. Sketch using rows. Flute, clar., viola. N.d.
3. Sketch using rows, contrapuntal operations indicated. Flute, clar., viola. N.d.
4. Draft of entire piece. Flute, clar. Dated 26 July 1922.
B. Ink score with pencil sketches, 2 pp. Library of Congress.
One sheet, two sides, with no title or remarks. Flute, clar. Ink score to m. 8,
then pencil sketches.
C. Ink score with corrections, 2 pp. Paul Sacher Foundation.
"Anton Webern op. I6." Flute, clar. "Ruhig [half note] = ca."
D. Ink fair copy (Stichvorlage). Pierpont Morgan Library, Robert Owen Lehman
Collection.
"Fiinf geistliche Lieder / fir / Gesang, Fl6te, Klarinette / (Bass-Klar.),
Trompete, / Harfe und Geige (Viola) / von / Anton Webern / op. I5 /
Partitur" [between Feb. and May 1924].
E. Ink fair copy (piano/vocal reduction). Paul Sacher Foundation.
"Finf geistliche Lieder / for / Gesang, Flite, Klarinette (auch Bass-Klar.),
Trompete, (mit Diimpfer) / und Geige (auch Bratsche) / von / Anton Webern
/ op. 15 / Klavierauszug" [between Feb. and May 1924].

Sources for "DormiJesu" and "Crucem tuam," Op. i6, Nos. 2 and 5

A. Pencil sketches for no. 5, 8 pp. Paul Sacher Foundation.


i. Sketches, three-voice canon. No instr. designations. Marked "5. Kanon, op.
16 (schon Somer 1923 ?)-
2. Draft i, two-voice canon. No. instr. designations or remarks.

'"6 Ibid.
107 This list includes only the manuscripts relevant to the present study. Omitted
manuscripts are usually fair copies that Webern made for presentation; these are
especially numerous for op. 15, no. 5, and for op. i6.

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WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE COMPOSITION 337

3. Continuation of draft I, two-voice canon. Marked "5. Kanon op. I6 (s


Somer 1923?)."
4. Draft 2, three-voice canon. No instr. designations. Marked "5. Kanon
16."
5.
Continuation of draft 2. Marked "5. Canon, op. I6."
6.
Continuation of draft 2. Marked "Canon V op. I7[X]6."
7.Row sketches.
8.Draft 3, three-voice canon. Clar. and bass clar. Marked "V. Canon op
dated 29 October 1924 ("Angefangen August 1924").
B. Ink fair copy, nos. 2, 3, and 4. Pierpont Morgan Library, Robert Owen Le
Collection.
"Lateinische Lieder / fiir / Gesang, Klarinette u. Bass-Klarinette / von / Anton
Webern."
C. Ink fair copy, nos. 2, 3, and 4. Pierpont Morgan Library, Robert Owen Lehman
Collection.
"Anton Webern / Lateinische Lieder / fiir / Gesang, Klarinette u. Bass-
Klarinette / M6dling, Neusiedlerstr. 58" (provenance Marya Freund).
D. Ink scores with corrections. Paul Sacher Foundation.
"Lateinische Lieder op. 16 / Januar 1923 / Dormi Jesu ('Wunderhorn') / Crux
fidelis (Brevier) / Asperges me ([Brevier]) / Crucem tuam ([Brevier]) (1924) /
Christus factus est [Brevier] 1924."
No. 2, I p.: "Dormi Jesu ... Canon in motu contrario"
"Ruhig ([quarter note] = 72)"
No. 5, I p. [no title]
"Bewegt ([quarter note] = ca 63-72)"
E. Ink fair copy (Stichvorlage). Pierpont Morgan Library, Robert Owen Lehman
Collection.
"Fuinf Canons / nach / lateinischen Texten / ftir / hohen Sopran [crossed out:
Gesang], Klarinette u. Bass-Klarinette / von / Anton Webern / op. 16."

Sources for Kinderstiicke, M. 266 and 267

A. Pencil sketches for M. 266, I p. Paul Sacher Foundation.


Also on same sheet: sketches for op. i6, no. I (completed 12 November 1924).
Top of page:
Wintergriin Mussette 2 Variationen I Waltzer
Melodie Charakterstficke i Priludium I Polka
mit Titeln 3 fuge i Menuett
ohne I Passacaglia I Liindler
I Kanons [sic] i Reigen
I Etude I Mazurka
Chorvariationen
Tempo: "Lieblich"
B. Ink fair copy of M. 267. Paul Sacher Foundation.
"Kinderstiick (Herbst 1924)."

Sources for Three Traditional Rhymes, Op. 17

A. Pencil sketches for no. I, 3 pp. Paul Sacher Foundation.


i. Draft of entire piece, dated Io December 1924. Bass clar., violin, horn (later
clar.?).
2. Sketches of individual passages; also sketches for "Mutig tr~gst du die Last"
(Karl Kraus): clar., violin, horn, cello.

3. Sketches of individual passages; row. Marked "3 Lieder, op. 17 No. i."

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338 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY

B. Ink score with corrections, no. I, 2 pp. Paul Sacher Foundation.


I. Mm. 1-13-
2. Mm. 14-16; pencil sketches of individual passages.
C. Pencil sketches for no. 3, 3 pp. Pierpont Morgan Library, Robert Owen Lehman
Collection.
Sketchbook I, pp. 3, 4, 5. Dated ii July 1925.
D. Pencil sketches for no. 2, 3 pp. Pierpont Morgan Library, Robert Owen Lehman
Collection.
Sketchbook I, pp. 6, 7, Io. Dated 17 July I925-
E. Pencil sketches for no. 2, I p. Paul Sacher Foundation.
Sketches of mm. 13-14-
F. Ink score with corrections of op. 17, 15 pp. (3 blank). Paul Sacher Foundation.
"Drei Volkstexte / fiir / Gesang, Geige (auch Bratsche), Klarinette u. Bass-
klarinette / von / Anton Webern / op. 17." Order of songs as in published
version, but Inhalt page designates that nos. 2 and 3 should be switched.
G. Ink fair copy in another hand, 8 pp. Stadtbibliothek Winterthur Dep. RS 72/1.
"Anton Webern / Drei Volkstexte / ffir Gesang, Violine (auch Bratsche),
Klarinette und Bassklarinette / op. 17." Order of songs: I, III, II.

Sources for String Trio, M. 273

A. Pencil sketches, 7 pp. Paul Sacher Foundation.


i. "Ruhig," 3/8. Page numbered i, marked "Streich-Trio friihjahr 1925."
2. Page numbered 2.
3. Verso of 2.
4. Page numbered 3 (continued from p. 2).
5. "Str.-Trio (friihjahr 1925)." New draft.
6. Preliminary row sketches.
7. Row sketches: "Reihen zum Streich-Trio, Friihjahr 1925."

Sources for Tbree Songs, Op. 18

A. Pencil sketches for no. 2, 6 pp. Pierpont Morgan Library, Robert Owen Lehman
Collection.
i. Sketchbook i, pp. 1, 2, 3. Sketches for early version. Clar., bass clar., viola.
"Begonnen Juni 1925."
2. Sketchbook i, pp. 19, 22, 23. Dated 27 September 1925-
B. Pencil sketches for no. i, 4 pp. Pierpont Morgan Library, Robert Owen Lehman
Collection.
Sketchbook 1, pp. i8, 19, 20, 21. Dated io September 1925-
C. Pencil sketches for no. 3, 4 pp. Pierpont Morgan Library, Robert Owen Lehman
Collection.
Sketchbook I, pp. 24, 25, 26, 27. Dated 28 October 1925. Row charts pasted
into sketchbook.
D. Pencil sketches for no. 3, 3 Pp. Paul Sacher Foundation.
Canonic sketches, undated (possibly 1923-24, in connection with Five
Canons).
E. Ink fair copy of no. i, 2 pp. Library of Congress.
Made for 25th anniversary of founding of Universal Edition: "Die innigsten
Gluckwiinsche, sehr verehrter Herr Direktor, von Ihrem Ihnen treu und
dankbar ergebenen Anton Webern." "September 1925, M6dling."
F. Ink score with corrections of op. i8, io pp. Paul Sacher Foundation.
"3 Lieder ffir Gesang, Es-Klarinette u. Gitarre op. 18 (1925)."
G. Ink fair copy. Pierpont Morgan Library, Robert Owen Lehman Collection.

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WEBERN'S TWELVE-TONE COMPOSITION 339

"Drei Lieder fuir Gesang, Es-Klarinette u. Gitarre von Anton Webern o


Verso of title page: "Herrn Direktor Emil Hertzka in Verehrun
Dankbarkeit / Anton Webern M6dling, Mai 1926."
H. Ink fair copy (Stichvorlage). Pierpont Morgan Library, Robert Owen L
Collection.
"Drei Lieder ftir Gesang, Es-Klarinette u. Gitarre von Anton Webern op. I8."

ABSTRACT

The essay explores Anton Webern's earliest encounters with the twelve-
tone method in the context of his previous decade-long preoccupation with
vocal music. Examination of Five Sacred Songs, op. 15, Five Canons, op. 16,
Three Traditional Rhymes, op. 17, Three Songs, op. I8, and sketches and
drafts from 1922 to 1925 suggests that Webern did not accept Arnold
Schoenberg's method uncritically, but alternately rejected and embraced it.
The religious and folk texts that Webern set during these years, hardly
anonymous ciphers, were essential in helping him to articulate his own
twelve-tone technique.

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