From classical training and influences to the initial exploration of atonality, Webern explores his new world using tools from his past. However, because he is exploring new sounds in atonality, he ends up creating new worlds of music. Through analysis we can see his classical background echoed in his development of motivic material, migrating from one motive to the next, making variations to the motives, but also retaining elements while moving forward.
Yet, in his use of harmony we see him break from tradition. Rather than create tonal centers or chord migrations, the pitch sets he uses end up being more melodic in nature, sometimes using subsets of the melody and other at other times using complementary sets. The harmonies move like his melodies and occasionally foretell what is to come melodically. At the end of each movement, harmony and melody combine to create the final culmination, each dependant on the other to achieve the end.
The death of his mother in 1906 had a profound effect on Webern during the time of this composition. He wrote to Schoenberg in 1912, "almost all my compositions have originated in her memory."1 He couldn't separate his compositions from the memory of his mother, so, too, his melodies can not be separated from his harmonies.
Relations for the melodic phrases for the 5th Movement
Relations for the harmonic movement for the 5th Movement
1 Letter of 17 July 1912, translated in Hans Moldenhauer and Rosaleen Moldenhauer,Anton von Webern: A Chronicle of His Life and Work (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979), p. 83.
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