Neoclassical Ties in the Works of Webern and Stravinsky Comparison Essay by LisaLove

Neoclassical Ties in the Works of Webern and Stravinsky
An examination and comparison of Anton Webern and Igor Stravinsky's approaches to incorporating Neoclassical ideas into their music in the early 20th century.
# 151729 | 976 words | 0 sources | 2006 | US
Published on Sep 06, 2012 in Music Studies (Contemporary) , Music Studies (History) , Music Studies (Composers)

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This paper examines how the advent of the 20th century brought with it an entirely new generation of art music composers and, with them, a multitude of new ideas, and how at the forefront of this innovation were the Austrian composer Anton Webern and the Russian Igor Stravinsky. Though both of these composers sought to set themselves apart from other composers and past traditions, both also maintained ties to practices of the Baroque and Classic eras. The paper further discusses how two pieces that demonstrate this fusion of old and new elements include Webern's "Symphonie, op. 21", and Stravinsky's "Symphony of Psalms". These pieces combine traditional elements of form with fresh and innovative harmonic practices to form something completely new and original.

From the Paper:

"Both composers sought to use a harmonic language that would distinguish their works from those of past eras and, they hoped, would influence later composers as well. Webern chose Schoenberg's twelve-tone row system as his harmonic foundation, creating a row of all twelve chromatic notes in succession and then manipulating that row in various ways to delineate "themes" and articulate the form. In this way, he also avoids the establishment of a single tonic. Stravinsky, on the other hand, uses a neotonal harmonic language--instead of using chord progressions and cadences to establish the tonic, as earlier composers did, he insistently repeats the note E, making that the effective tonal center. This allows him to allude to classical tonality in his work (one of the characteristics of his Neoclassical style) without necessarily copying it verbatim. Though they use completely different harmonic foundations, Webern and Stravinsky achieve the same goal of using harmony and tonality in a distinct, individual manner."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Webern and Stravinsky use their symphonies to display, besides their penchant for classical forms, their affinity for Baroque and Renaissance musical techniques. Webern's use of canonic technique and imitative counterpoint (in the exposition of his symphony) as well as palindrome (in the development) recall his collegiate studies of Renaissance music history. Stravinsky borrows directly from early church music traditions by setting his choral symphony to biblical text in Latin and including a fugue in the second movement. His frequent use of triads and other diatonic devices also alludes to Baroque practices. Even though these techniques had been in existence for hundreds of years, Webern and Stravinsky both found ways to use them in a completely new context, resulting in pieces that have a sound and style uniquely their own. That was the secret of the neoclassical movement - to refer to earlier styles of music but place them in a contemporary setting, adapting them to new harmonic and melodic treatments. Composers like Webern and Stravinsky have also ensured, with their works, that the classical forms and traditions known and loved by listeners everywhere will not be abandoned but will continue to live on.

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