Anton Webern: 5 Pieces

  • for orchestra
  • 1 1 2 0 - 1 1 1 0 - perc(4), hp, cel, harm, mand, guit, vln, vla, vc, cb
  • Duration: 6’
  • Instrumentation details:
    flute (+picc)
    oboe
    clarinet in Eb
    clarinet in Bb (+bass cl(Bb))
    horn in F
    trumpet in Bb
    trombone
    percussion(4 players): glockenspiel, xylophone, bells (some of them low), cow bells, triangle, cymbals, snare drum, bass drum
    harp
    celesta
    harmonium
    mandolin
    guitar
    violin
    viola
    violoncello
    double bass
  • Composer: Anton Webern
  • Table of contents:
    Fünf Stücke für Orchester

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Work introduction

Like the Op. 9 Bagatelles, these orchestra pieces have a complicated origin. Two of them (nos. 1 and 4) were written in 1911, the other three in 1913, along with a larger number – some merely sketched, some completed, and some including a singing voice. Webern conducted the premiere in Zurich in 1926.

The instrumental forces of Op. 10 are actually a chamber orchestra: the winds and strings one-to-a-part and the small complement of instruments never used in full. The use of harmonium, mandolin, guitar, celesta, bells and cowbells were certainly suggested by Mahler (Symphonies 6 through 8), whom Webern passionately admired. As with the Bagatelles written at the same time, everything is reduced to its essentials; the fourth piece, only six bars long, is the shortest one Webern ever composed, and only the last one, 31 bars long, attains the dimensions of Opp. 5 and 6. However, everything here has become quieter, subcutaneous. Schönberg’s notion of Klangfarbenmelodie doubtless plays a certain part in the orchestration; for example, the thrice-repeated F at the end of the first piece is scored differently each time: first, the flute alone, then flute and muted trumpet, then trumpet alone and finally celesta. These pieces are surely among the most beautiful and disciplined of all Webern’s works.

Manfred Angerer

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The complete perusal score (PDF-preview)

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