Exploring Webern in-depth
Thanks to Alex Ross' new book (which is wonderful, by the way), I am exploring Anton Webern more deeply than I have in the past. Pierre Boulez' wonderful DGG box, the Complete Webern, makes for an economical and great way to get into Webern.
Having entered modern avant-garde music through Boulez' own compositions (especially Le marteau sans maître and Pli selon pli), Webern's grammar is not entirely surprising. There is, though, a wonderful economy of form with Webern's music that is not necessarily there with Boulez (and certainly not there with someone like Luciano Berio). Webern seemed capable of compressing the works down to their essence, which talent must have come as quite a breath of fresh air after Mahler's expansive compositions and some of Schoenberg's more massive works (Gurrelieder, anyone?)
While it is too early to form a comprehensive judgment, I will say this: Webern is an underrated Lieder composer.