Second Viennese School XII – Anton Webern’s “Wie Bin Ich Froh!”

“Wie Bin Ich Froh” is the first of three lieds in Opus 25. Webern has written this album in 1934-35 based on poems by Hildegard Jone.

“What great delight!
Once more now all the green’s unfurled and shines so bright!
And still the world is overgrown with flowers!
Once more I in creation’s portal live my hours,
And yet am mortal.”

Webern has used  dodecaphonic scale and series of rhythmic figuration which are repeated throughout this short piece. In voice part rhythms are simple, consisted of quarter and eighth notes, mixed with eighth-note triolets. In piano part sixteenth-note triolets gives accompaniment part a commenting role and makes the music more active. Big leaps both in voice and piano part drag the attention of listener.

The piece’s tempo is slow (quarter note equals 60). In the first two bars, piano accompaniment introduces all the rhythmic patterns which are going to be used later in the piece. Moreover, all degrees of dodecaphonic scale are used in these two bars.

“What great delight!”

In the phrase in order to depict the word ‘delight’ Webern has used an ascending leap from e to D# and then F#. The phrase’s dynamic is forte, showing the bright sense of words, followed by decrescendo, ending with piano and ritardando. Accompaniment follows the sam figuration and dynamic strategy.

“Once more now all the green’s unfurled and shines so bright”

Tempo is back to its original mode. The phrase is longer and more lively and dynamic changes help it. “Once more now” is an descending motion, because Webern wants to emphasize on the contrast of the words ‘all the green’s’ by descending motion and dotted quarter-note as the longest division for ‘green’. The phrase’s climax happens on ‘unfurled’, with major seventh ascending leap from A to G#. G# is the highest note of this phrase, emphasized by forte, depicting the sense of lengthening. Stopped by a short rest (eighth-note), the phrase continues in a gentler manner, with decrescendo, piano and general descending motion. The only ascending leap is placed on the word ‘shines’ reflecting brightness.

“And still the world is overgrown with flowers!”

In order to depict the sense of steadiness, Webern uses the same note (G) for ‘and still’. In order to deliver the feeling of earth he has used relatively low register (B,G#) and successfully highlighted ‘is overgrown’ with high (A); and as it is followed with ‘by flowers’ Webern uses successive leaps in contrary motions.

“Once more I in creation’s portal live my hours’

Webern considers a long duration for ‘in creation’s portal’ consisting of 3.5 beats. Also, in terms of intervals, it occupies a relatively large span (minor 9th). Dynamic is forte throughout the phrase, with a small decrescendo at the end. ‘Live my hours’ is marked with ritardando, emphasizing length and regularity of lifetime.

“and yet am mortal”

The last phrase, a short one, with slower tempo (quarter-note equals 42), piano dynamic with decrescendo at the end reflects mortality and Webern beautifully ends the piece with an ascending leap depicting the rising of human’s soul leaving body at the time of death.


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