In English, Funf Kanons is translated to “Five Canons”. Funf Kanons was an early work from the twentieth century. Anton Webern’s Five Canons is written for one high soprano, the clarinet and bass clarinet.
Similarly to Gustav Mahler, Webern had a busy schedule and it restricted his time for composing to only the summer holidays. Hence, three of the five canons were written in the summer of 1923, the other two canons were written in the following year. Thus the period of time when the piece was written was in the 1920s and in the 20th century.
During this time, numerous things impacted Classical music. The First World War took a toll on classical music. Many composers and performers were dying in battle.
Many pieces of music that were written in a similar time period were even written for the cause, while others were the result of despair at the tragedy of the war. The World war changed the course of music history and brought on some amazing pieces that in any other situation might not even have existed. The main impacts that the War had on classical music were new pieces being composed for the war effort, an example composer is Edward Elgar.Other composers were lost during the war. George Butterworth is a good example as he was shot and only managed to leave behind a small handful of works giving only a tiny glimpse of what the war might have been.The word “Canon” in “Five Canons” has a double meaning. The five pieces are each composed in strict canons, but the texts themselves are called also “canonical”, and this is taken from the Catholic liturgy. Each of the five pieces keep going between 30 seconds and one minute, so Webern shuns both literary reiteration or repetition and relismas.
All the canons are in relation to the liturgy, it is specifically pointed out in the text – three of the texts “Christus factus est”, “essence fidelis” and “crucem tuam adoramus, domine” are straightforwardly identified with Christ’s cruxifiction. The other two are more related to Christ’s infancy. “Dormi Jesu, mater ridet” and purification in the text “asperges me, Domine”.