Music: Haunting Viennese

During a performance some years ago of Anton Webern's String Trio, the cellist of the London Philharmonic Trio rose abruptly and stalked off stage with the words: "I can't play this thing."

Few would guess that "this thing"—a craggily concentrated twelve-tone composition that the cellist called "a nightmare and not music at all, but mathematics" —was the work of a Viennese who grew to musical maturity when Johann Strauss had barely laid down his fiddle. Turn-of-the-century Austria led a double life: outwardly it was a gilded castle, but in the basement a fascinating and...

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