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Members of the Second Viennese School were active participants on the

Austro-Hungarian and German Side of the first World War, as all three members were
enlisted. However, these composers had varied opinions and reactions to the war.
These biases are reflected in their music, and in some cases the lack thereof.

Arnold Schoenberg was enlisted into the Austrian Army at the age of 42. He saw the
German assault symbolic to the fall “bourgeois decadence of established French music”
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, foreshadowing his ‘emancipation of dissonance’ with his development of the 12 tone
system, and securing German dominance in music for the nearly 100 years. However,
this had a detrimental effect on his music; his participation in the war left many musical
ideas unfinished and undeveloped. Because of this, we see a dichotomy in his views, a
resentment for the interruption of his music, but a political agenda against French
music.

Alban Berg was enlisted in to the Austrian Army from 1915 to 1918. He showed
‘tremendous impatience and restlessness because of the war’ and the ‘urge to take
part, the feeling of impotence at not being able to serve the fatherland’2. However, his
sentiment diminished after a series of mental breakdowns. Because of these break
downs, his wife’s favor enabled him to work as a clerk for the War Ministry. He was
granted leave numerous times, during which he was able to work on his opera
Wozzeck. ​Wozzeck can be seen as a reflection of the horrors of war, Berg describes
"There is a little bit of me in his character, since I have been spending these war years
just as dependent on people I hate, have been in chains, sick, captive, resigned, in fact,
humiliated.’

Anton’s Webern’s participation and support for the war constantly fluctuated. Initially
enlisting in the Austrian Army in 1915 where he was quickly promoted to sergeant, as
well as played in a string quartet and chamber emsemble consisting of soldiers. He
received aid from composer Alexander Zemlinsky, but re-enlisted upon learning of his
mentor Arnold Schoenberg’s participation.

During the years of the war, Webern composed his set of Four Songs (op 12)3 for voice
and piano, as well as Four songs (op 13) for Voice and Chamber Orchestra. We will
now hear Maeve perform the first song of Opus 12: der tag ist vergangen.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-one/inside-first-world-war/part-seven/10667636/first-world-
war-composers-notable.html
2
http://ww1.habsburger.net/en/chapters/militarism-and-terror-set-music
3
https://www.allmusic.com/composition/songs-4-for-voice-piano-op-12-mc0002366062