When Webern completed his studies at the gymnasium in Klagenfurt, his family rewarded him with a trip to the Beyreuth Festival of 1902. That experience of Wagner’s music sparked Webern’s first major attempt at composition, a ballad for soprano and orchestra titled Young Siegfried. In the fall of 1902, he entered the University of Vienna to study musicology with the renowned scholar Guido Adler. His doctoral dissertation, a study
of the Choralis Constantinus by the Renaissance master Heinrich Isaac, was completed in 1906 and included a description of the contrapuntal devices permeating Isaac’s score that reads like a precis of the canonic techniques that later prevailed in Webern’s mature works. He began supplemental studies in composition with Arnold Schoenberg in 1904 and, as was true of many Schoenberg students, came to revere his mentor with an intensity approaching idolatry. After 1908, the aspiring composer embarked on a conducting career that took him through a succession of appointments in provincial theaters, most of the engagements marked by musical success but personal frustration. In 1920, he settled in Mödling as conductor of a male chorus and private teacher of composition.