It is almost fifty years since Anton Webern was shot and killed in a freakish accident in the aftermath of World War II. From this vantage point, Webern now seems one of those profound and original artists (James Joyce is another) whose work remains not only valuable but, for many of us, positively essential, yet whose influence has been baleful and sometimes ruinous to the numerous young artists who have attempted to follow in his steps.

Has any great composer ever been done so much harm by disciples and admirers? Here is Paul Griffiths, far from the worst of them, writing on Webern’s use of serialism in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians:

Linking serial forms through common terminals is a frequent practice in Webern from Opus 21 onwards, but the shared notes are most usually one or two in number; this technique may limit, of course, the range ...

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