Anton Webern and the Renaissance Tradition

Irina I. Snitkova


The composers of the postwar avant-garde trend in music perceived Anton Webern’s music primarily as a brilliant expression of a break with tradition. Nonetheless, what was perceived upon first glance as a manifestation of innovatory radicalism, upon more careful examination revealed to a greater degree its obvious historical genesis. Entirely different ideas and values disclosed themselves beyond Webern’s serial precepts — a profound symbolism permeated with mysticism and elements of developed Medieval and Renaissance traditions of ‘‘parametric’’ musical thinking.
This article demonstrates in a thesis manner observations tracing out the lines of connection between the new elements of structural compositional logic of certain oeuvres by Webern and the traditional ideas of the polyphonic works by the Renaissance composers, primarily the ‘‘Great Flemish Masters,’’ the most sophisticated artists of counterpoint, giving special attention in their musical compositions to the architectonic organization of form, in whose music Webern experienced an indelibly profound interest during the course of his entire life. In the opinion of many researchers, certain aspects of Webern’s music become more visible, if they become connected to his profound knowledge of and fondness for such composers from the Netherlands as Dufay, Josquin, Ockeghem, Isaac, etc. The concept of tradition in the context of this article is not exhausted by the technological aspects of polyphony, but also presumes a mystical philosophical constituent connected with a particular system of symbolic encoding which plays a substantial role in both cases.

Keywords: Webern, the Renaissance tradition, the mensural principles, canon, numerical and graphic symbolism

For citation: Snitkova I. I. Anton Webern and the Renaissance Tradition [Electronic source]. In: Sovremennye problemy muzykoznaniya / Contemporary Musicology, 2023, no. 3, pp. 26―39. DOI: 10.56620/2587-9731-2023-3-026-039

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