Irina Snitkova

Webern. Symphony, Opus 21: 'Lyrical' or 'Symbolical' Geometry?

The presentation presents a hypothesis, which offers a new structural and symbolical rendition of Anton Webern’s Symphony Op. 21, one of the most ‘classic’ compositions of 20th century music. A detailed analysis of the serial technique and the register, carried out with the aid of a certain additional analytical coordinate, reveals another dimension in the construction of the composition, hidden in its compositional subtext. It presents itself as being complementary in regards to the conventional interpretation of the first movement as a double canon in inversion.

This type of approach to Webern’s famous opus is substantiated by the testimony of one of the composer’s friends, Cesar Bresgen: “I remember very well the musical staff, on which it was possible to see geometrical figures around an immobile point and inscription… Webern considered the work itself as carried out within this graphical notation at his table.”
The presentation proposes a version of deciphering a part of these types of figures. The latter are reflected in a series of graphical pictures which correspond in their contours with the serial structures of the first movement of the Symphony. One of such symbolic depictions, in our opinion, is the ‘primordial plant’ (‘die Urpflanze’) described by Goethe, which for Webern became the main symbolism of the idea of ‘metamorphosis’ and the ideal model of the structure of the universe.
A continuation of the presented visual-graphic code is also presented by the unfolded numerical symbolism discovered by us. The supposition is stated that this type of conception for the symphony, implying not only ‘lyrical’ (according to Herbert Eimert), but also ‘symbolical’ geometry, presents a direct continuation of the ideas of the Medieval and Renaissance conceptualism.