The Complete Webern Edition

In a century with no scarcity of remarkable figures, Webern nevertheless occupies a special place. Revolutionary? Certainly, but without any fuss and with an incredible discretion. Radical? Absolutely, but with a kind of unworldly na´vete - creating music that gradually distanced itself from immediate seductiveness to achieve the fascination of a deliberate asceticism. Purity - of language, of expression, of intention: this is perhaps the best word for summing up the character of this music, seemingly sparse yet rich in its multiple repercussions.

For me and for many other musicians, Webern's works have been an essential touchstone - one of supreme significance - which has forced us, as it were, to take sides, to reveal ourselves to ourselves. The composer's discreet personality has exerted a profound, almost dictatorial influence, to the point that it became hard to free oneself from it in order to move on.

His music poses problems to its interpreters that call into question a good many acquired habits - problems stemming less from its technical demands than from its extreme concentration of idea and expression. The severe writing must be invigorated, even exalted by a sensitivity in performance: this involves a learning process which has been encouraged but not made easier over the passing years.

The music of Webern, sensitive in the extreme, has proved to be an exacting paradigm, like that of few other composers. I believe it will remain so, permanently etched from now on in the profile of the 20th century.

Pierre Boulez, Paris, October 1999

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