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August 31, 2015

The accidental shooting by a nervous American soldier and subsequent death of Anton von Webern in the Austrian town of Mittersill immediately after WWII on the night of September 15, 1945, was a terrible tragedy for the impoverished Webern family and for the world of serious music. Webern, then 61, demonized as an artistic degenerate and his music banned by the Nazis, was but a few years from becoming one of the most famous and influential composers of the Twentieth Century, something he could have easily lived long enough to enjoy.

 

By the time of the death of Webern’s teacher and friend, Arnold Schoenberg, in 1951, Webern’s work was beginning to form the basis of exploratory compositional methods employed by a new generation of major composers, such as Boulez, Stockhausen and Nono in Europe, and Babbitt, Cage, Feldman, Wolpe, and, a decade later, Zappa in the US. Even older, established composers like Messiaen and Stravinsky (who was born the year before Webern) came under his influen...

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