Anne Shreffler's recent book on Webern is a breath of fresh air in the antiseptic laboratory of more traditional Webern studies. Challenging his conventional image as a "cerebral master of control," she paints an intimate portrait of a lyrical composer of Lieder in the line of Schubert and Wolf, whose intellectual concern for logical coherence is tempered by an intuitive appreciation of the expressive potential of ambiguity. This book presents detailed musicological evidence about Webern's life and compositional process to substantiate analytical assertions about his music in support of this lyrical reappraisal. There is important new information about the composer's sketching routine, the precise nature and sequence of each compositional step, the aesthetic criteria invoked in revisions, and the essential character of his creative decision making. Contrary to analytic approaches that ignore or devalue ambiguity as a flaw, Shreffler praises the richness of multiple associations it implies. Poignantly, it is the quintessentially structured music of Webern, the paragon of analytic formalism, in which the author asserts this theoretical imperative. Her musical insights and interdisciplinary methodology merit careful attention and considerable praise.
Alpern, Wayne (1998) Review Article, "Will the Real Anton Webern Please Stand Up?": Anne C. Shreffler, Webern and the Lyric Impulse (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), pp. xvi+256. In: Music Theory Online, Vol. 4, pp. np. Available at https://openmusiclibrary.org/article/85379/.