Bass solo and orchestra
Schweigt auch die Welt
II Sehr verhalten
Bass Solo and orchestra
Sehr tiefverhalten innerst Leben
III Sehr bewegt
Soprano solo, women's chorus and orchestra
Schopfen aus Brunnen des Himmels
IV Sehr lebhaft
Soprano solo and orchestra
Leichteste Burden der Baume
V Sehr massig
Soprano solo, mixed chorus, solo violin and orchestra
Freundselig ist das Wort
VI Sehr fliessend
Four-part mixed chorus and orchestra
Gelockert aus dem Schosse
Webern's op. 31, his last completed work, strikes a balance between traditional
older styles of the Renaissance Netherlands composers on one hand, while
at the same time looks to the future. The concise writing epitomizes the
precision which Webern is famous for, and expresses a depth of thought which
is typical of his mature style. It is evident from the numerous letters
he wrote to his friends, including Hildegard Jone, who supplied the text,
and Willi Reich, that the work contains many levels of interpretation and
personal meaning for Webern, which is partially evident in the text-painting
in which he manipulates the row or emphasizes certain notes.
Apparently, Webern did not specifically set out to write a Cantata, and at
one point he describes the work as an oratorio. The gestalt of the
piece was not evident to Webern until much of the work had been completed,
suggesting that he relied on his intuition in shaping the piece together.
It was not until he started working on a seventh movement that he
realized the piece was complete as it was, needing only a few alterations
to round off the work. While it has been interpreted from his letters
to Jone that he first began composing Freundselig ist das Wort, the
evidence from examining his sketchbooks indicate that he actually composed
Leichteste Burden der Baume first. The chronology of the movements
according to when they were composed is: IV, V, VI, then I, II and III.
The work was composed while Webern was undergoing extreme hardship, due to
Hitler's ban on his later music. The reason for the excessive delays
in composing the work is due to the fact that he was forced to work for Universal
Edition during the war years, arranging and reading scores of others, a task
which to Webern was unbearable. Complicating
things further were the bombings of Modling, where he resided during these
last years, which resulted in numerous relatives taking refuge at his residence.
Several aspects of the work make it unique compared with his comparitively
small output: the last movement, in strophic form, is repeated twice
with no variation other than the change of text; the entire work is
his longest opus regarding performance time; it is the only time he
wrote for women's chorus as well as bass solo. However, the pointillistic
technique and use of klangfarben texture are typical of Webern's expressive
gestures, as is also the sparseness of the score. The fullest texture
is achieved in the final movement which is a four-part canon reminiscent
of the Renaissance in appearance, but completely contemporary in sound. The
first and fourth movements are recitatives which serve as introductions to
the proceeding movements. During these movements Webern's awareness
of sonority is evident as he obtains numerous timbres by combining or contrasting
instruments which punctuate the accompanying text.
The resulting mood of the piece actually mirrors the dark and forboding influence
of the war which was transpiring as Webern composed this work. In contrast,
the text speaks of nature and alludes to a Christian outlook of life.
Kolneder, Walter. Anton Webern: An Introduction to His Works.
Trans. by Humphrey Searle. Berkeley: University of California Press,
Moldenhauer, Hans. Anton von Webern: Perspectives. Ed. by Demar Irvine.
Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1966.
Moldenhauer, Hans and Rosaleen Moldenhauer. Anton von Webern: A Chronicle
of His Life and Work. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979.
Webern, Anton. Letters to Hildegard Jone and Josef Humplik. Ed. by
Josef Polnauer. Trans. by Cornelius Cardes. Bryn Mawr: Theodore Presser Company;
London: Universal Edition, 1967.