Composers: Pianissimo Prophet

Some composers challenge posterity with a roar. Others woo it with seductive languor or graceful wit. Austrian Composer Anton Webern conjured it with a whisper. A shy, intense man who physically shrank from noise, he wrote spare, slight pieces filled with directions like "scarcely audible" and "dying away." Such was the understated economy of his scores that his life's work amounts to a bare three hours of playing time. Nearly all of his compositions take less than ten minutes to perform. He turned out works containing as much silence as music, and...

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