Franz Schubert

"Schubert" redirects here. For the other composer of the same name, see François Schubert. For other uses, see Schubert (disambiguation).
Oil painting of Franz Schubert by Wilhelm August Rieder (1875), made from his own 1825 watercolor portrait.
signature written in ink in a flowing script

Franz Peter Schubert (German: [ˈfʁant͡s ˈʃuːbɐt]; 31 January 1797 – 19 November 1828) was an Austrian composer. Schubert died before his 32nd birthday, but was extremely prolific during his lifetime. His output consists of over six hundred secular vocal works (mainly Lieder), seven complete symphonies, sacred music, operas, incidental music and a large body of chamber and piano music. Appreciation of his music while he was alive was limited to a relatively small circle of admirers in Vienna, but interest in his work increased significantly in the decades following his death. Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms and other 19th-century composers discovered and championed his works. Today, Schubert is ranked among the greatest composers of the late Classical and early Romantic eras and is one of the most frequently performed composers of the early nineteenth century.


Early life and education

Schubert was born in Himmelpfortgrund (now a part of Alsergrund), Vienna, Archduchy of Austria on 31 January 1797. His father, Franz Theodor Schubert, the son of a Moravian peasant, was a parish schoolmaster; his mother, Elisabeth (Vietz), was the daughter of a Silesian master locksmith and had been a housemaid for a Viennese family before marriage. Of Franz Theodor's fourteen children (one of them illegitimate, born in 1783), [1] nine died in infancy.

Their father was a well-known teacher, and his school in Lichtental (in Vienna's ninth district) had numerous students in attendance. [2] Though he was not recognized or even formally trained as a musician, he passed on certain musical basics to his gifted son. [3]

The house in which Schubert was born, today Nussdorfer Strasse 54

At age six, Franz began to receive regular instruction from his father, and a year later was enrolled at his father's school. His formal musical education started around the same time. His father taught him basic violin technique, [3] and his brother Ignaz gave him piano lessons. [4] At age seven, he was given his first lessons outside the family by Michael Holzer, organist and choirmaster of the local parish church in Lichtental; the lessons may have largely consisted of conversations and expressions of admiration. [5] The boy seemed to gain more from an acquaintance with a friendly joiner's apprentice who took him to a neighbouring pianoforte warehouse where Franz could practice on better instruments. [6] He also played viola in the family string quartet, with brothers Ferdinand and Ignaz on first and second violin and his father on the cello. Franz wrote his earliest string quartets for this ensemble. [7]

Young Schubert first came to the attention of Antonio Salieri, then Vienna's leading musical authority, in 1804, when his vocal talent was recognized. [7] In October 1808, he became a pupil at the Stadtkonvikt (Imperial Seminary) through a choir scholarship. At the Stadtkonvikt, he was introduced to the overtures and symphonies of Mozart, and the symphonies of Joseph Haydn and his younger brother Michael. [8] His exposure to these and lesser works, combined with occasional visits to the opera, laid the foundation for a broader musical education. [9] One important musical influence came from the songs by Johann Rudolf Zumsteeg, an important Lieder composer of the time. The precocious young student "wanted to modernize" them, as reported by Joseph von Spaun, Schubert's friend. [10] Schubert's friendship with Spaun began at the Stadtkonvikt and lasted throughout his short life. In those early days, the financially well-off Spaun furnished the impoverished Schubert with much of his manuscript paper. [9]

In the meantime, his genius began to show in his compositions. Schubert was occasionally permitted to lead the Stadtkonvikt's orchestra, and Salieri decided to start training him privately in music theory and even in composition. [11] It was the first orchestra he wrote for, and he devoted much of the rest of his time at the Stadtkonvikt to composing chamber music, several songs, piano pieces and, more ambitiously, liturgical choral works in the form of a "Salve Regina" (D 27), a "Kyrie" (D 31), in addition to the unfinished "Octet for Winds" (D 72, said to commemorate the 1812 death of his mother), [12] the cantata Wer ist groß? for male voices and orchestra (D 110, for his father's birthday in 1813), and his first symphony (D 82). [13]

Teacher at his father's school

At the end of 1813, he left the Stadtkonvikt and returned home for teacher training at the Normalhauptschule. In 1814, he entered his father's school as teacher of the youngest pupils. For over two years young Schubert endured such drudgery, dragging himself through it with resounding indifference. [14] There were, however, compensatory interests even then. He continued to take private lessons in composition from Salieri, who gave Schubert more actual technical training than any of his other teachers, before they parted ways in 1817. [11]

In 1814, Schubert met a young soprano named Therese Grob, daughter of a local silk manufacturer, and wrote several of his liturgical works (including a "Salve Regina" and a "Tantum Ergo") for her; she was also a soloist in the premiere of his Mass No. 1 (D. 105) in September [15] 1814. [14] Schubert wanted to marry her, but was hindered by the harsh marriage-consent law of 1815 [16] requiring an aspiring bridegroom to show he had the means to support a family. [17] In November 1816, after failing to gain a musical post in Laibach (now Ljubljana, Slovenia). Schubert sent Grob's brother Heinrich a collection of songs retained by the family into the twentieth century. [18]

One of Schubert's most prolific years was 1815. He composed over 20,000 bars of music, more than half of which was for orchestra, including nine church works (despite being agnostic [19] [20]), a symphony, and about 140 Lieder. [21] In that year, he was also introduced to Anselm Hüttenbrenner and Franz von Schober, who would become his lifelong friends. Another friend, Johann Mayrhofer, was introduced to him by Spaun in 1814. [22] Maynard Solomon suggested that Schubert was erotically attracted to men, [23] a thesis that has, at times, been heatedly debated. [24] Musicologist and Schubert expert Rita Steblin claimed that he was "chasing women". [25]

Supported by friends

Significant changes happened in 1816. Schober, a student and of good family and some means, invited Schubert to room with him at his mother's house. The proposal was particularly opportune, for Schubert had just made the unsuccessful application for the post of kapellmeister at Laibach, and he had also decided not to resume teaching duties at his father's school. By the end of the year, he became a guest in Schober's lodgings. For a time, he attempted to increase the household resources by giving music lessons, but they were soon abandoned, and he devoted himself to composition. "I compose every morning, and when one piece is done, I begin another." [26] During this year, he focused on orchestral and choral works, although he also continued to write Lieder (songs). [27] Much of this work was unpublished, but manuscripts and copies circulated among friends and admirers. [28]

Caricature of Johann Michael Vogl and Franz Schubert by Franz von Schober (1825)

In early 1817, Schober introduced Schubert to Johann Michael Vogl, a prominent baritone twenty years Schubert's senior. Vogl, for whom Schubert went on to write a great many songs, became one of Schubert's main proponents in Viennese musical circles. He also met Joseph Hüttenbrenner (brother to Anselm), who also played a role in promoting Schubert's music. [29] These, and an increasing circle of friends and musicians, became responsible for promoting, collecting, and, after his death, preserving his work. [30]

In late 1817, Schubert's father gained a new position at a school in Rossau, not far from Lichtental. Schubert rejoined his father and reluctantly took up teaching duties there. In early 1818, he was rejected for membership in the prestigious Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, something that might have furthered his musical career. [31] However, he began to gain more notice in the press, and the first public performance of a secular work, an overture performed in February 1818, received praise from the press in Vienna and abroad. [32]

Schubert spent the summer of 1818 as a music teacher to the family of Count Johann Karl Esterházy at their château in Zseliz (now Želiezovce, Slovakia). The pay was relatively good, and his duties teaching piano and singing to the two daughters were relatively light, allowing him to compose happily. Schubert may have written his Marche Militaire in D major (D. 733 no. 1) for Marie and Karoline, in addition to other piano duets. [33] On his return from Zseliz, he took up residence with his friend Mayrhofer. [31]

During the early 1820s, Schubert was part of a close-knit circle of artists and students who had social gatherings together that became known as Schubertiaden. The tight circle of friends with which Schubert surrounded himself was dealt a blow in early 1820. Schubert and four of his friends were arrested by the Austrian police, who (in the aftermath of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars) were on their guard against revolutionary activities and suspicious of any gathering of youth or students. One of Schubert's friends, Johann Senn, was put on trial, imprisoned for over a year, and then permanently forbidden to enter Vienna. The other four, including Schubert, were "severely reprimanded", in part for "inveighing against [officials] with insulting and opprobrious language". [34] While Schubert never saw Senn again, he did set some of his poems, "Selige Welt" (D. 743) and Schwanengesang (D 744), to music. The incident may have played a role in a falling-out with Mayrhofer, with whom he was living at the time. [35]

He was nicknamed "Schwammerl" by his friends, which Gibbs describes as translating to "Tubby" or "Little Mushroom". Schubert, at 1.52 m height, was not quite five feet tall. "Schwamm" is Austrian (and other) dialect for mushroom; the ending "-erl" makes it a diminutive.

Musical maturity

The compositions of 1819 and 1820 show a marked advance in development and maturity of style. [36] The unfinished oratorio Lazarus (D. 689) was begun in February; later followed, amid a number of smaller works, by the hymn "Der 23. Psalm" (D. 706), the octet "Gesang der Geister über den Wassern" (D. 714), the Quartettsatz in C minor (D. 703), and the Wanderer Fantasy in C major for piano (D. 760). Of most notable interest is the staging in 1820 of two of Schubert's operas: Die Zwillingsbrüder (D. 647) appeared at the Theater am Kärntnertor on 14 June, and Die Zauberharfe (D. 644) appeared at the Theater an der Wien on 21 August. [37] Hitherto, his larger compositions (apart from his masses) had been restricted to the amateur orchestra at the Gundelhof, a society which grew out of the quartet-parties at his home. Now he began to assume a more prominent position, addressing a wider public. [37] Publishers, however, remained distant, with Anton Diabelli hesitantly agreeing to print some of his works on commission. [38] The first seven opus numbers (all songs) appeared on these terms; then the commission ceased, and he began to receive penurious royalties. The situation improved somewhat in March 1821 when Vogl performed the song " Der Erlkönig" (D. 328) at a concert that was extremely well received. [39] That month, Schubert composed a Variation on a Waltz by Diabelli (D 718), being one of the fifty composers who contributed to the Vaterländischer Künstlerverein publication.

The production of the two operas turned Schubert's attention more firmly than ever in the direction of the stage, where, for a variety of reasons, he was almost completely unsuccessful. All in all, he embarked on twenty stage projects, each of them failures which were quickly forgotten. In 1822, Alfonso und Estrella was refused, partly owing to its libretto. [40] Fierrabras (D 796) was rejected in the fall of 1823, but this was largely due to the popularity of Rossini and the Italian operatic style, and the failure of Carl Maria von Weber's Euryanthe. [41] Die Verschworenen (The Conspirators, D 787) was prohibited by the censor (apparently on the grounds of its title), [42] and Rosamunde, Fürstin von Zypern (D 797) was withdrawn after two nights, owing to the poor quality of the play for which Schubert had written incidental music. Of these works, the first two are written on a scale which would make their performances exceedingly difficult (Fierabras, for instance, contains over 1,000 pages of manuscript score), but Die Verschworenen is a bright attractive comedy, and Rosamunde contains some of the most charming music that Schubert ever composed. In 1822, he made the acquaintance with both Weber and Beethoven, but little came of it in either case. Beethoven is said to have acknowledged the younger man's gifts on a few occasions, but some of this is likely legend and in any case he could not have known the real scope of Schubert's music, especially not the instrumental works, as so little of it was printed or performed in the composer's lifetime. On his deathbed, Beethoven is said to have looked into some of the younger man's works and exclaimed: "Truly, the spark of divine genius resides in this Schubert!", [43] but what would have come of it, if he had recovered, we can never know.

Watercolor of Franz Schubert by Wilhelm August Rieder (1825)

Last years and masterworks

Despite his preoccupation with the stage, and later with his official duties, Schubert found time during these years for a significant amount of composition. He completed the Mass in A-flat major (D. 678) and, in 1822, embarked suddenly on a work which more decisively than almost any other in those years showed his maturing personal vision, the Symphony in B minor Unfinished (D. 759). The reason he left it unfinished after two movements and sketches some way into a third remains an enigma, and it is also remarkable that he did not mention it to any of his friends even though, as Brian Newbould notes, he must have felt thrilled by what he was achieving. The event has been debated endlessly without resolution.

In 1823 Schubert, in addition to Fierrabras, also wrote his first large-scale song cycle, Die schöne Müllerin (D. 795), setting poems by Wilhelm Müller. [44] This series, together with the later cycle Winterreise (D. 911, also setting texts of Müller in 1827) is widely considered one of the pinnacles of Lieder. [45] He also composed the song Du bist die Ruh' (You are stillness/peace, D. 776) during this year. Also in that year, symptoms of syphilis first appeared. [46]

In 1824, he wrote the Variations in E minor for flute and piano Trockne Blumen, a song from the cycle Die schöne Müllerin, and several string quartets. He also wrote the Sonata in A minor for arpeggione and piano (D. 821) at the time when there was a minor craze over that instrument. [47] In the spring of that year, he wrote the Octet in F major (D. 803), a sketch for a 'Grand Symphony'; and in the summer went back to Zseliz. There he became attracted to Hungarian musical idiom, and wrote the Divertissement à la hongroise in G minor for piano duet (D. 818) and the String Quartet in A minor Rosamunde (D. 804). It has been said that he held a hopeless passion for his pupil, the Countess Karoline Eszterházy, but the only work he dedicated to her was his Fantasy in F minor for piano duet (D. 940). [48] His friend Eduard von Bauernfeld penned the following verse, which appears to reference Schubert's unrequited sentiments:

In love with a Countess of youthful grace,
—A pupil of Galt's; in desperate case
Young Schubert surrenders himself to another,
And fain would avoid such affectionate pother [49]

The setbacks of previous years were compensated by the prosperity and happiness of 1825. Publication had been moving more rapidly, the stress of poverty was for a time lightened, and in the summer he had a pleasant holiday in Upper Austria where he was welcomed with enthusiasm. It was during this tour that he produced the 7-song cycle Fräulein am See based on Walter Scott's Lady of the Lake and including " Ellens Gesang III" ("Hymn to the Virgin") (D. 839, Op. 52, No. 6) with the lyrics of Adam Storck's German translation of the Scott's poem now frequently substituted by the full text of the traditional Roman Catholic prayer Hail Mary (Ave Maria in Latin), for which the Schubert's melody is not an original setting, as it is widely, though mistakenly, thought. The original only opens with the greeting "Ave Maria", which also recurs only in the refrain. [50] In 1825, Schubert also wrote the Piano Sonata in A minor (D 845, first published as op. 42), and began the Symphony in C major (Great C major, D. 944), which was completed the following year. [51]

Portrait of Franz Schubert by Franz Eybl (1827)

From 1826 to 1828, Schubert resided continuously in Vienna, except for a brief visit to Graz in 1827. The history of his life during these three years was comparatively uninteresting, and is little more than a record of his compositions. In 1826, he dedicated a symphony (D. 944, that later came to be known as the Great C major) to the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde and received an honorarium in return. [52] In the spring of 1828, he gave, for the only time in his career, a public concert of his own works, which was very well received. [53] The compositions themselves are a sufficient biography. The String Quartet No. 14 in D minor (D. 810), with the variations on Death and the Maiden, was written during the winter of 1825–1826, and first played on 25 January 1826. Later in the year came the String Quartet No. 15 in G major, (D 887, first published as op. 161), the Rondo in B minor for violin and piano (D. 895), Rondeau brillant, and the Piano Sonata in G major, (D 894, first published as Fantasie in G, op. 78). To these should be added the three Shakespearian songs, of which "Ständchen" (D. 889) and " An Sylvia" (D. 891) were allegedly written on the same day, the former at a tavern where he broke his afternoon's walk, the latter on his return to his lodging in the evening. [54]

In 1827, Schubert wrote the song cycle Winterreise (D. 911), a colossal peak in art song ("remarkable" was the way it was described at the Schubertiades), the Fantasy in C major for violin and piano (D. 934, first published as op. post. 159), the Impromptus for piano, and the two piano trios ( the first in B-flat major (D. 898), and the second in E-flat major, (D. 929); [55] in 1828 the cantata Mirjams Siegesgesang (Victory Song of Miriam, D 942) on a text by Franz Grillparzer, the Mass in E-flat major (D. 950), the Tantum Ergo (D. 962) in the same key, the String Quintet in C major (D. 956), the second "Benedictus" to the Mass in C major (D. 452), the three final piano sonatas (D. 958, D. 959, and D. 960), and the song cycle 13 Lieder nach Gedichten von Rellstab und Heine for voice and piano, also known as Schwanengesang (Swan-song, D. 957). [56] This collection, while not a true song cycle, retains a unity amongst the individual songs, touching depths of tragedy and of the morbidly supernatural, which had rarely been plumbed by any composer in the century preceding it. Six of these are set to words by Heinrich Heine, whose Buch der Lieder appeared in the autumn. The Symphony in C major (D. 944) is dated 1828, but Schubert scholars believe that this symphony was largely written in 1825–1826 (being referred to while he was on holiday at Gastein in 1825 – that work, once considered lost, is now generally seen as an early stage of his C major symphony) and was revised for prospective performance in 1828. This was a fairly unusual practice for Schubert, for whom publication, let alone performance, was rarely contemplated for most of his larger-scale works during his lifetime. The huge, Beethovenian work was declared "unplayable" by a Viennese orchestra. [57] In the last weeks of his life, he began to sketch three movements for a new Symphony in D major (D 936A). [58]

Schubert's glasses

The works of his last two years reveal a composer increasingly meditating on the darker side of the human psyche and human relationships, and with a deeper sense of spiritual awareness and conception of the 'beyond'. He reaches extraordinary depths in several chillingly dark songs of this period, especially in the larger cycles. For example, the song " Der Doppelgänger" (D 957, No. 13, "The double") reaching an extraordinary climax, conveying madness at the realization of rejection and imminent death – a stark and visionary picture in sound and words that had been prefigured a year before by "Der Leiermann" (D 911, No. 24, "The Hurdy-Gurdy Man") at the end of Winterreise – and yet the composer is able to touch repose and communion with the infinite in the almost timeless ebb and flow of the string quintet and his last three piano sonatas, moving between joyful, vibrant poetry and remote introspection. Even in large-scale works he was sometimes using increasingly sparse textures; Newbould cites his writing in the fragmentary Symphony in D major (D 936A), probably the work of his very last two months. In this work, he anticipates Mahler's use of folksong-like harmonics and bare soundscapes. [59] Schubert expressed the wish, were he to survive his final illness, to further develop his knowledge of harmony and counterpoint, and had actually made appointments for lessons with the counterpoint master Simon Sechter. [60]

Final illness and death

Memorial at the Kalvarienberg Church, Hernals
The site of Schubert's first tomb at Währing

In the midst of this creative activity, his health deteriorated. The cause of his death was officially diagnosed as typhoid fever, though other theories have been proposed, including the tertiary stage of syphilis. [61] By the late 1820s, Schubert's health was failing and he confided to some friends that he feared that he was near death. [62][ page needed] In the late summer of 1828, the composer saw court physician Ernst Rinna, who may have confirmed Schubert's suspicions that he was ill beyond cure and likely to die soon. [63][ page needed] Some of his symptoms matched those of mercury poisoning ( mercury was then a common treatment for syphilis, again suggesting that Schubert suffered from it). [64] At the beginning of November, he again fell ill, experiencing headaches, fever, swollen joints, and vomiting. He was generally unable to retain solid food and his condition worsened. Schubert died in Vienna, at age 31, on 19 November 1828, at the apartment of his brother Ferdinand. The last musical work he had wished to hear was Beethoven's String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 131; his friend, violinist Karl Holz, who was present at the gathering, five days before Schubert's death, commented: "The King of Harmony has sent the King of Song a friendly bidding to the crossing". [65] It was next to Beethoven, whom he had admired all his life, that Schubert was buried by his own request, in the village cemetery of Währing, Vienna. [66]

In 1872, a memorial to Franz Schubert was erected in Vienna's Stadtpark. [66] In 1888, both Schubert's and Beethoven's graves were moved to the Zentralfriedhof where they can now be found next to those of Johann Strauss II and Johannes Brahms. [67] The cemetery in Währing was converted into a park in 1925, called the Schubert Park, and his former grave site was marked by a bust.

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Franz Schubert
Alemannisch: Franz Schubert
العربية: فرانز شوبرت
aragonés: Franz Schubert
armãneashti: Franz Schubert
asturianu: Franz Schubert
Aymar aru: Franz Schubert
azərbaycanca: Frans Şubert
Bân-lâm-gú: Franz Schubert
беларуская: Франц Шуберт
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Франц Шубэрт
български: Франц Шуберт
Boarisch: Schubert Franzl
bosanski: Franz Schubert
brezhoneg: Franz Schubert
čeština: Franz Schubert
español: Franz Schubert
Esperanto: Franz Schubert
Fiji Hindi: Franz Schubert
français: Franz Schubert
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Franz Schubert
hrvatski: Franz Schubert
Bahasa Indonesia: Franz Schubert
interlingua: Franz Schubert
íslenska: Franz Schubert
italiano: Franz Schubert
Basa Jawa: Franz Schubert
қазақша: Франц Шуберт
Kiswahili: Franz Schubert
Lëtzebuergesch: Franz Schubert
lietuvių: Franz Schubert
Livvinkarjala: Franz Schubert
македонски: Франц Шуберт
Malagasy: Franz Schubert
მარგალური: ფრანც შუბერტი
Bahasa Melayu: Franz Schubert
Mìng-dĕ̤ng-ngṳ̄: Franz Schubert
Nederlands: Franz Schubert
нохчийн: Шуберт, Франц
norsk bokmål: Franz Schubert
norsk nynorsk: Franz Schubert
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Frans Shubert
پنجابی: فرانز شوبرت
Piemontèis: Franz Schubert
Plattdüütsch: Franz Schubert
português: Franz Schubert
română: Franz Schubert
Runa Simi: Franz Schubert
русиньскый: Франц Шуберт
русский: Шуберт, Франц
Simple English: Franz Schubert
slovenčina: Franz Schubert
slovenščina: Franz Schubert
کوردیی ناوەندی: فرانتس شووبێرت
српски / srpski: Франц Шуберт
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Franz Schubert
татарча/tatarça: Frants Şubert
Türkçe: Franz Schubert
Tiếng Việt: Franz Schubert
Volapük: Franz Schubert
粵語: 舒伯特
žemaitėška: Francos Šūberts