Anton Webern: Im Sommerwind (Dans le vent d'été) performed by the Orchestre National de France

Duration : 15 minutes

Pascal Rophé conducts the Orchestre National de France performing Im Sommerwind (Dans le vent d'été), idyll for symphony orchestra composed by Anton Webern in 1904. Extract from the live concert recording on 24 May 2018 at the Radio France Auditorium (Paris).

Revolutionary? Certainly, but without any fuss and with an incredible discretion. Radical? Absolutely, but with a kind of unworldly naïvete - 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.

Pierre Boulez, Pierre Boulez, Paris, October 1999

In October 1999, Pierre Boulez stated yet again how much, in his opinion, the student of Schoenberg deserved his place in the pantheon of 20-th century music. Having expanded the logic of serial music, consisting of determining a series of notes using pre-established rules, Webern had single-handedly "laid the path for a new oral dimension". And though Boulez told Célestin Deliège that he enjoyed in the music of Berg what he no longer found in the ascetic perfection and "total destitution" of Webern's music, he never stopped performing the works of the composer that inspired him so, fascinated by the deep wealth hidden deep within each work and far more difficult to reveal. Can one, however, identify in the earlier works by Webern this sublime modernity that thoroughly changed the course of 20th-century music? 

Summer 1904: Anton Webern had yet begun working with Arnold Schoenberg when he started composing a symphonic poem inspired by the work of the poet, philosopher and liberal politician Bruno Wille. "

Été 1904  : Anton Webern n’a pas encore travaillé sous la direction d’Arnold Schoenberg quand il entreprend la composition d’un poème symphonique sur un texte du poète, philosophe et politicien très libéral Bruno Wille. In 1890, he wrote: "take me to those steep heights where the human voice has never reached [...], my wounded soul dreads the sound of that voice, and my eyes roll in my head when they contemplate men. The rock and the cloud are my silent consolations, and when the storm rumbles around me, I hear sublime singing."

For his work, however, Webern used a more recent text, Révélations d'un genévrier (published in 1901), having already copied several passages into his diary. Yet again, the poet writes about nature, the stillness of a summer evening suddenly interrupted by a storm, and a lark song announcing a calm both earthly and heavenly. Whilst on holiday at the family home of Preglhof in Carinthia, Webern undoubtedly found inspiration as much in the natural surroundings as in the works of Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss. Naturally, the musical language is entirely post-romantic and tonal. No surprises in the chromatic progressions, the long harmonic phrases that gradually transform as the work progresses, in the use of the crescendo and the sudden changes of mood.

Some already noted a shift in instrumentation, and increasingly fragmented lines hinting at a "parcelling" of the musical matter; however, thematic development was never an end in itself, and the melodies are sufficiently short to be continuously renewed and developed. It is important not to seek solely what is new in Im Sommerwind but rather what characteristics and techniques would remain in Webern's later great works, from the point of view of the literary imagination as well as from the point of view of musical romanticism. In 1904, the meeting with Schoenberg never took place, nor did the inspirational trigger that would have resulted. Thus the sparseness of the language is in no way comparable with the future aphorisms, and the gestures are fully in keeping with historical continuity.

Text written by François-Gildas Tual

L'Orchestre National de France performs Webern, Dusapin, Stravinsky and Varèse
Full concert
The Orchestre National de France performs Webern, Dusapin, Stravinsky and Varèse
Auditorium de la Maison de la Radio
Anton Webern
All artists
  • Pascal RophéConductor
  • Orchestre National de FranceOrchestra