Webern: String Trio

Webern composed his Op. 20 String Trio between 1926-27, and it was his first purely instrumental work using the twelve tone technique.  The first, short movement sets a mysterious tone, using glissandos, pizzicato and harmonics.  The notes created from the tone row sound fairly disconnected from each other to me, it’s not very melodic even for atonal music.  The second movement is more jagged, with sudden changes in dynamics and tempo, extremely high pitched notes and unpleasant dissonances.  This builds up to a climax and then fades out rather suddenly and unexpectedly to the end.  As with most atonal music, my own response is one of tension and feeling ‘on edge’.  I didn’t enjoy this piece at all; some serialist music (such as Berg’s Lyric Suite) is very expressive, creating cohesion through rhythm or melodic snippets, whereas this trio sounded very disjointed and clinical to me.

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