Anton Webern

Cantata No. 2 for soprano, bass, chorus & orchestra, Op. 31

    Description by James Leonard

    Webern began work on what would become his Cantata No. 2 in spring 1941 and completed it in winter 1943. In it, he set six poems by Hildegard Jone that fuse the two great loves of Webern's spiritual life: pantheism and Christianity. Webern's largest work, the Cantata No. 2 is scored for soprano and bass soloists plus mixed choir and a delicately colored orchestra consisting of piccolo, flute, oboe, English horn, clarinet, bass clarinet, saxophone, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, tuba, bells, glockenspiel, celesta, and strings. Cast in six movements and lasting more than a quarter of an hour, the cantata is Webern's longest work. It was also his last work: Webern was accidentally shot and killed at the end of World War II. The cantata received its posthumous premiere under Hans Rosbaud in 1950. The cantata opens with a powerful strophic setting of "Schweigt auch die Welt" (Silent Is the World) for heroic bass and brass-led orchestra in fast triple time. The second movement is "Sehr tief verhalten innerst Leben singt" (Very Deep Innermost Life Sings), a pastoral song for lyrical bass and shimmering orchestra in gently shuddering duple time. The third movement is "Schöpfen aus Brunnen des Himmels" (Created From the Springs of Heaven), a joyfully ringing, four-part work in lilting triple time scored for ecstatic soprano, blissful women's chorus, and glittering orchestra. The fourth movement, the first to be composed, is "Leichteste Burden der Baume" (Lightest Burden of Trees), a short aria in quick duple time for stratospheric soprano and very lightly scored orchestra. The fifth movement, the heart of the work, is "Freundselig ist das Wort" (Compassionate Is the Word), a three-part song with the expressive soprano alternating with the full chorus in the outer sections and then singing alone in the central section, with an evanescent orchestra made up of solo strings and winds against celesta and harp. The sixth and final movement is "Gelockert aus dem Schosse" (Delivered From the Womb), a finale canonic chorale for full chorus doubled by the warmly colored orchestra.


    1. Schweigt auch die Welt
    2. Sehr tiefverhalten
    3. Schöpfen aus Brunnen
    4. Lichteste Burden
    5. Freundselig ist das Wort
    6. Gelockert aus dem Schosse

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon / Universal 4811510
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 002894794261
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon 002894793431
    2009 Naxos 8557531
    2006 Accord 4768862
    2006 Universal Music
    2000 Deutsche Grammophon 457637
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 447765
    1991 Sony Music Distribution 45845
    Deutsche Grammophon 457639