Anton Webern, WEBERN: Passacaglia / Symphony / Five Pieces

Todd Burns

By Todd Burns

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
A collection of work that spans the breadth of Webern’s storied career.

Along with Arnold Schoenberg and Alban Berg, Anton Webern was part of the Second Viennese School, a group of composers exploring the idea of atonality and 12-tone composition. Webern, specifically, was known for his extreme brevity. His nearly forty years of compositions fit on only six CD's; lending each individual note heightened drama. (The fourth of his "Five Pieces" is just six bars long.) Collected here are works from the beginning of his career ("Passacaglia" was composed in 1908, just after Webern had completed his studies with Schoenberg) until the end ("Variations" was his penultimate piece, completed in 1940). Takuo Yuasa leads the Ulster Orchestra through each expertly, but it seems that the group gains more confidence as they go on: the Symphony helps belie the myth that Webern is more for the head than the heart. If you listen long enough, you'll begin to hear lyricism poking its head out of his trademark iciness.