On several occasions in the midcentury United States, the music of Anton Webern was reimagined as music for children. In 1936 conductor and musicologist Nicolas Slonimsky published the score of Webern’s op. 10/4 on the children’s page of the Christian Science Monitor. In 1958 Webern’s op. 6/3 was featured in a New York Philharmonic Young People’s Concert, the first conducted by Leonard Bernstein. Eight years later, Webern’s Kinderstück (Children’s Piece) received its posthumous premiere at Lincoln Center, performed by a nine-year-old pianist. In each case children served as a marker of accessibility, meant to render Webern’s music more palatable to adult audiences; thus was Webern’s music subsumed within the middlebrow circulation of classical music. Although recent scholarship has considered the intersections between modernist music and middlebrow culture, Webern’s music has remained absent from these discussions. Indeed, Webern’s terse, abstract, and severe compositions might at first appear ill suited to middlebrow contexts. Yet, as these three historical moments make clear, children served as a potent rhetorical force that could be used to market even this music to a broad audience of adults.

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