Schubert, Franz (Seraph Peter)

views updated May 21 2018

Schubert, Franz (Seraph Peter) (b Vienna, 1797; d Vienna, 1828). Austrian composer. Son of impoverished schoolmaster, who was his first teacher. In 1808 admitted as boy sop. to imperial chapel, living in the Konvikt. Played vn. in sch. orch., for which he wrote his 1st Sym. (1813). Became pupil of Salieri for theory, 1812. Left Konvikt when v. broke 1813, and worked as ass. schoolmaster to father, but continued to compose prolifically. Frequently attended opera in Vienna and wrote his first opera, Des Teufels Lustschloss in 1814, the first of many stage works, none of which was successful. On 19 Oct. 1814 set Goethe's Gretchen am Spinnrade, his first masterpiece and the song that, it is inaccurately but understandably said, gave birth to the Lied. This released a flood of inspiration. In 1815 Schubert comp. 144 songs, incl. 8 in one day in Oct. In addition, comp. a sym., 2 Masses, and other works. Altogether wrote over 600 songs, of which about 200 are different settings of poems he had already set—he set some poems (particularly those by Goethe and Schiller) up to 6 times.

In 1817 he abandoned teaching and lived in Vienna with one or other of his friends, among whom the poet Mayrhofer was the closest. They talked, drank, discussed the questions of the day, and made mus. in coffee-houses and at their homes. Schubert also met at this time the bar. Michael Vogl, one of the outstanding opera singers of the day, who became the foremost interpreter of his songs, often acc. by the composer. Apart from church mus., the first public concert of Schubert's mus. was in Mar. 1818, at which were perf. (on 2 pf.) the ovs. he had written in imitation of Rossini, whose operas were all the rage in Vienna from 1816. In 1818 spent summer as teacher to the 2 daughters of Count Johann Esterházy at summer estate at Zseliz, where he heard Slav and gipsy folk-mus. On return to Vienna, Schubert lived with Mayrhofer and Hültenbrenner, latter acting as factotum, assembling Schubert's MSS. His Singspiel, Die Zwillingsbrüder, received 6 perfs. in Vienna in June 1820, with Vogl singing the roles of the twin brothers; and in Aug. his incidental mus. for Die Zauberharfe was used at the Theater an der Wien. Other works comp. in this period were the ‘Trout’ Quintet, written at Steyr, Upper Austria, during holiday in 1819 with Vogl, the oratorio Lazarus, setting of Psalm 23, Wanderer Fantasy, and the Quartettsatz. In 1821 Diabelli pubd. song Erlkönig, the first mus. by Schubert to appear in print. Others followed. In 1820–1, the Schubert circle of friends changed as some members left Vienna. Among new associates were painters Leopold Kupelweiser and Moriz von Schwind, and musician Franz Lachner.

In 1821 sketched his 7th Sym., in E major, but left it unorch. (several musicians have ‘completed’ it, among them J. F. Barnett, 1884, Felix Weingartner, 1935, and Brian Newbould, 1977). The following year, comp. an 8th Sym. in B minor, but completed only 2 movts. in full and 130 bars of a scherzo. However, the ‘Unfinished’ Sym. is a complete work of art in itself as it stands. Schubert heard Weber conduct Der Freischütz and Euryanthe in Vienna and himself wrote several stage works between 1821 and 1823, the operas Alfonso und Estrella and Der häusliche Krieg, and incidental mus. for Rosamunde, Fürstin von Cypern, a play by Helmina von Chézy (librettist of Euryanthe) which ran for 2 perfs.

Ill-health began to trouble Schubert in 1823; while in hospital that year comp. some of the songs of the song-cycle Die schöne Müllerin. At Zseliz in 1824 with the Esterházy family, wrote A minor str. qt. and Grand Duo for pf. duet. In the summer of 1825, joined Vogl for a 5-month tour of Austria, composing all the time. At Gmunden and Gastein said to have comp. a sym. of which no trace has been found, but modern scholarship tends to take the view that this is the ‘Great’ C major Sym. (No.9), usually ascribed to 1828 but now thought to date from 1825. Scholarship is equally divided over what personal contact there was between Schubert and Beethoven, but incontrovertibly Schubert was a torchbearer at Beethoven's funeral in 1827 and had earlier visited him on his deathbed.

The last 2 years of Schubert's short life are fully documented in Schubert: The Final Years by John Reed (1972). To them belong the song-cycle Winterreise, the E♭ pf. trio, Moments musicaux and 3 pf. sonatas, many songs, and Str. Quintet in C major. All Schubert's mus., even the happiest, has a tinge of sadness; the works of his last years, when illness increasingly afflicted him, are at an extreme of poignancy. In Mar. 1828 gave a public concert of his works in Vienna. It made a profit for him, but none of the city's mus. critics attended. Died on 19 Nov. 1828 and was buried near to Beethoven at Währing. Both composers were later exhumed and reburied in the Central Cemetery of Vienna.

Many of the works by Schubert which we hold most dear were not perf. until several years after his death. As a composer of songs he has no equal in fertility of melodic invention, but all his work is so graced with melody of the most seraphic kind that there was at one time a tendency to regard him as an ‘undisciplined’ composer for whom form meant little. How wrong a judgement this was can be realized simply by studying the great chamber works and late pf. sonatas alone. He ranks among the very greatest of composers in all forms except opera, and concs. (of which he wrote none), and the listener has a lifetime of discoveries among his vast output. His works were catalogued by O. E. Deutsch and are now given Deutsch (D) nos. Prin. comps.:

OPERAS: Des Teufels Lustschloss (1813–14, D84); Die Bürgschaft (fragment, 1816, D435); Alfonso und Estrella (1821–22, D732); Der häusliche Krieg (1823, D787; orig. title Die Verschworenen (The Conspirators)); Fierrabras (1823, D796).OPERETTAS: Claudine von Villa Bella (1815, D239); Die Freunde von Salamanka (1815, D326); Fernando (1815, D220); Der vierjährige Posten (1815, D190); Die Zwillingsbrüder (1818–19, D647).STAGE MUSIC: Die Zauberharfe (The Magic Harp), melodrama (1820, D644); Rosamunde, Fürstin von Cypern (1823, entr'actes, ballet mus., Romanza for sop., Shepherd's Song, and choruses, D797).ORCH.: syms.: No.1 in D (1813, D82), No.2 in B♭ (1814–15, D125), No.3 in D (1815, D200), No.4 in C minor (‘Tragic’, 1816, D417), No.5 in B♭ (1816, D485), No.6 in C major (1818, D589), No.7 in E major (1821, unscored by Schubert), No.8 in B minor (‘Unfinished’, 2 movts. only, 1822, D759), No.9 in C major (‘Great’, 1825, D944); ovs.: in B♭ (1812, D11), in C major (D591) and D major (D590) (both ‘in Italian style’, 1817), in D (1817, D556), in E minor (1819, D648); 5 German Dances (1813, D90); 5 Minuets with 6 Trios (1813, D89); Rondo in A major, vn. and orch. (1816, D438).CHURCH MUSIC: Masses: F major (1814, D105 with 2nd Dona nobis 1815, D185), G major (1815, D167), C major (1816, D452), A♭ (1819–22, D678), B♭ (1815, D324), E♭ (1828, D950), Deutsche Messe (1826–7, D872); Lazarus, oratorio (1820, D689); Hymn to the Holy Spirit, male vv. and wind (1828, D964); Kyrie in D minor (1812, D31), B♭ (1813, D45), D minor (1813, D49), F major (1813, D66); Salve Regina, sop., orch., organ (1812, D27); Psalm 23, women's vv. (1820, D706); Tantum ergo in C (1822, D739), in D (1822, D750).VOICES & ORCH.: Cantata in honour of Spendou (1816, D472); Prometheus (1816, lost, D451); Namensfeier (1813, D80).VOICES (unacc. or with pf./gui.): An die Sonne (1816, D439); Die Advokaten (1812, D37); Begräbnislied (1815, D168); Cantata for Vogl's birthday (1819, D666); Cantata for Salieri's jubilee (1816, D441); Christ ist erstanden (1816, D440); Coronach (1825, D836); Das Leben ist ein Traum (1815, D269); Der Entfernten (c.1816, D331); Der Geistertanz (1816, D494); Der Tanz (1825, D826); Frühlingsgesang (1822, D740); Gebet (1824, D815); Geist der Liebe (1822, D747); Gesang der Geister über den Wassern (Song of the Spirit over the Waters) (1817, 2 versions, D538, 1821 with orch. D714); Gondelfahrer (1824, D809); Gott der Weltschöpfer (c.1815, D986); Gott im Ungewitter (c.1815, D985); Gott in der Natur (1822, D757); Grab und Mond (1826, D893); Hymne an den heiligen Geist (1828, D964); Hymne an den Unendlichen (1815, D232); Im Gegenwärtigen Vergangenes (c.1821, D710); Jünglingswonne (?1822, D983); Lebenslust (1818, D609); Mondenschein (1826, D875); Nachthelle (1826, D892); Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt (1819, D877/4); Punschlied (1815, D277); Ständchen (1827, D920); Trinklied (1815, D148); Verschwunden sind die Schmerzen (1813, D88).CHAMBER MUSIC: str. qts.: No.1 in B♭ (1812, D18), No.2 in C (1812, D32), No.3 in B♭ (1813, D36), No.4 in C (1813, D46), No.5 in B♭ (1813, D68), No.6 in D (1813, D74), No.7 in D (1814, D94), No.8 in B♭ (1814, D112), No.9 in G minor (1815, D173), No.10 in E♭ (1813, D87), No.11 in E (1816, D353), No.12 in C minor (Quartettsatz) (1820, D703), No.13 in A minor (1824, D804), No.14 in D minor (Death and the Maiden, 1824, D810), No.15 in G (1826, D887); String Quintet (2 vn., va., 2 vc.), C major (1828, D956); pf. quintet, A major (Die Forelle (Trout), 1819, D667); qt. for guitar, fl., va., vc. (arr. of Notturno by Matiegka) (1814 D96); pf. trios: No.1 in B♭ (1827, D898), No.2 in E♭ (1827, D929), Notturno in E♭ for pf. trio (1825, D897), sonata for pf. trio in B♭ (1812, D28); sonatas: vn. and pf. in A (1817, D574), arpeggione (or vc.) and pf. in A minor (1824, D821); sonatinas: vn. and pf., No.1 in D (1816, D384), No.2 in A minor (1816, D385), No.3 in G minor (1816, D408); Octet in F (2 vn., va., vc., db., cl., bn., hn.) (1824, D803). Miscellaneous: Adagio and Rondo Concertante, pf., vn., va., vc. (1816, D487), Fantasia on Sie mir gegrüsst in C, vn., pf. (1827, D934); Rondo brillant in B minor, vn. and pf. (1826, D895); Introduction and Variations on Trock'ne Blumen, fl. and pf. (1824, D802); Minuet and Finale in F for wind octet (1813, D72).2 PIANOS: Divertissement à la hongroise (1824?, D818), Fantasia in F minor (1828, D940), sonata in B♭ (1818, D617), sonata in C (Grand Duo) (1824, D813), Introduction and Variations on an Original Theme in B♭ (c.1818, D603), 2 Marches caractéristiques in C (1826, D886), 3 Marches militaires (No.1 in D, No.2 in G, No.3 in E♭, 1822, D733, also for orch.); also polonaises, rondos, ovs., and sets of variations.PIANO: sonatas: No.1 in E (1815, D157, unfinished), No.2 in C (1815, D279, unfinished), No.3 in E (1816, D459), No.4 in A minor (1817, D537), No.5 in A♭ (1817, D557), No.6 in E minor (1817, D566), No.7 in D♭ (1817, D567), No.8 in B (1817, D575), No.9 in C (1818, D613, unfinished), No.10 in F minor (1818, D625, unfinished), No.11 in A (1819, D664), No.12 in A minor (1823, D784), No.13 in C (1825, D840, unfinished), No.14 in A minor (1825, D845), No.15 in D (1825, D850, rev. of No.7), No.16 in G (1826, D894), No.17 in C minor (1828, D.958), No.18 in A (1828, D959), No.19 in B♭ (1828, D960); Allegretto in C minor (1827, D915); Fantasia in C (Wanderer, 1822, D760; version for pf. and orch. by Liszt); 11 Impromptus (1828): No.1 in C minor, No.2 in E♭, No.3 in G♭, No.4 in A♭ (D899), No.5 in F minor, No.6 in A♭, No.7 in B♭, No.8 in F minor (D935), No.9 in E♭ minor, No.10 in E♭, No.11 in C (D946); Klavierstück in A (1818, D604); 12 Ländler (1823, D790); 6 Moments musicaux (1823–8, D780): No.1 in C, No.2 in A♭, No.3 in F minor, No.4 in C♯ minor, No.5 in F minor, No.6 in A♭; 3 Klavierstücke (1828, D946): No.1 in E♭ minor, No.2 in E♭, No.3 in C; Rondo in D (1818, D608); 2 Scherzos (1817, D593); Hungarian Melody (1824, D817); Valses nobles (1827, D969); 13 Variations in A minor on a theme of Anselm Hüttenbrenner (1817, D576); 12 Waltzes (1815–21, D145); 36 Waltzes (1816–21, D365).SONG-CYCLES: Die schöne Müllerin (1823, D795); Winterreise (1827, D911); Schwanengesang (1827–8, D957, publisher's coll., not conceived as cycle). See individual entries for names of component songs.SONGS: It is impracticable to list here all Schubert's songs. A selection of the best known is given here, with poet's name:

Abendstern (Mayrhofer, 1824, D806), Die abgeblühte Linde ( Széchényi, 1817, D514), Alinde ( Rochlitz, 1827, D904), Allein, nachdenklich wie gelähmt ( Petrarch, 1818, D629), Die Allmacht ( Pyrker, 1825, D852), Am Bach im Frühling ( Schober, 1816, D361), Am Grabe Anselmos ( Claudius, 1816, D504), Am See ( Bruchmann, 1823, D746), An den Frühling (Schiller, 1815, D245), An den Mond (Goethe, 1815, D296), An die Entfernte (Goethe, 1822, D765), An die Freude (Schiller, 1815, D189), An mein Klavier ( Schubart, c.1816, D342), An die Laute (Rochlitz, 1827, D905), An die Leier (Bruchmann, 1822, D737), An die Musik (Schober, 1817, D547), An die Nachtigall (Holty, 1815, D196), An die untergehende Sonne (Kosegarten, 1816, D457), An eine Quelle (Claudius, 1817, D530), An schwager Kronos (Goethe, 1816, D369), An Sylvia ( Shakespeare, 1826, D891), Auf dem Wasser zu singen ( Stolberg, 1823, D774), Auf der Bruck ( Schulze, 1825, D853), Auf der Donau (Mayrhofer, 1817, D553), Auflösung (Mayrhofer, 1824, D807), Ave Maria ( Ellen's Song, W. Scott, trans. Storck, 1825, D839), Bei dir Allein ( Seidl, 1826, D866/2), Beim Winde (Mayrhofer, 1819, D669), Berthas Lied in der Nacht ( Grillparzer, 1819, D653), Der blinde Knabe ( Cibber, 1825, D833, 2nd version), Die Bürgschaft (Schiller, 1815, D246), Cronnan ( Ossian, 1815, D282), Delphine ( Schütz, 1825, D857), Des Fischers Liebesglück ( Leitner, 1827, D933), Du bist die Ruh’ ( Rückert, 1823, D776), Der Einsame ( Lappe, 1825, D800), Epistel ( Collin, 1822, D749), Erlkönig (Goethe, 1815, D328), Die erste Liebe ( Fellinger, 1815, D182), Der Fischer (Goethe, 1815, D225), Fischerweise ( Schlechta, 1826, D881), Die Forelle (Schubart, 1817, D550), Frühlingsglaube ( Uhland, 1820, D686), Frühlingslied ( Anon, 1816, D398), Ganymed (Goethe, 1817, D544), Geheimes (Goethe, 1821, D719), Geheimnis (Mayrhofer, 1816, D491), Die Götter Griechenlands (Schiller, 1819, D677), Grablied ( Kenner, 1815, D218), Gretchen am Spinnrade (Goethe, 1814, D118), Gruppe aus dem Tartarus (Schiller, 1817, D583), Harfenspieler I—Wer sich der Einsamkeit ergibt (Goethe, 1816, D478); II—An die Türen will ich schleichen (Goethe, 1816, D479); III—Wer nie sein Brot (Goethe, 1816, D480), Heidenröslein (Goethe, 1815, D257), Heimliches Lieben ( Klenke, 1827, D922), Heiss’ mich nicht reden (Goethe, Mignon Song, 1826, 2nd version D877/2), Hektors Abschied (Schiller, 1815, D312), Hermann und Thurnelda ( Klopstock, 1815, D322), Herrn Josef Spaun (Collin, 1822, D749), Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (The Shepherd on the Rock) with cl. obbl. ( Müller and von Chézy, 1828, D965), Horch, horch, die Lerch (Shakespeare, 1826, D889), Im Abendrot (Lappe, 1824, D799), Im Frühling (Schulze, 1826, D882), Im Haine (Bruchmann, 1822, D738), Iphigenia (Mayrhofer, 1817, D573), Jäger, ruhe von der Jagd ( W. Scott, 1815, D838), Die junge Nonne ( Craigher, 1825, D828), Der Jüngling am Bache (Schiller, 3 versions, 3rd, 1819, D638), Der Jüngling an der Quelle (1821, D300), Der Jüngling und der Tod ( Spaun, 1817, D545), Kennst du das Land? (Goethe, 1815, D321), Der König in Thule (Goethe, 1816, D367), Lachen und Weinen (Rückert, 1823, D777), Licht und Liebe (Collin, 1816, D352), Die Liebende schreibt (Goethe, 1819, D673), Liebhaber in allen Gestalten (Goethe, 1817, D558), Lied eines Schiffers an die Dioskuren (Mayrhofer, 1816, D360), Das Mädchen ( Schlegel, 1819, D652), Das Mädchen aus der Fremde (Schiller, 1814, D117), Meeresstille (Goethe, 1815, D216), Mignon und der Harfer (Goethe, 1826, D877/1), Minnelied ( Holty, 1816, D429), Miriams Siegesgesang for sop. and ch. (Grillparzer, 1828, D942), Morgenlied ( Werner, 1820, D685), Der Musensohn (Goethe, 1822, D764), Nacht und Träume (Collin, 1822, D827), Nachtgesang ( Kosegarten, 1815, D314), Nachtviolen (Mayrhofer, 1822, D752), Nähe des Geliebten (Goethe, 1816, D162), Normans Gesang ( W. Scott, trans. Storck, 1825, D846), Nunmehr, da Himmel, Erde (Petrarch, 1818, D630), Nur wer die Sehnsucht Kennt (Goethe, Mignon song, 5 versions. 5th, 1826, D877/4), La pastorella ( Goldoni, 1817, D528), Der Pilgrim (Schiller, 1823, D794), Prometheus (Goethe, 1819, D674), Rastlose Liebe (Goethe, 1815, D138), Raste, Krieger ( Scott, 1825, D837), Die Rose (Schlegel, 1822, D745), Das Rosenband (Klopstock, 1815, D280), Der Sänger (Goethe, 1815, D149), Schäfers Klagelied (Goethe, 1814, D121), Der Schiffer (Mayrhofer, 1817, D536), Schlummerlied (Mayrhofer, 1817, D527), Der Schmetterling ( Schiegel, 1815, D633), Schwestergruss (Bruchmann, 1822, D762), Sehnsucht (Schiller, 1813, D52), Sei mir gegrüsst (Rückert, 1822, D741), Seligkeit (Holty, 1816, D433), So lasst mich scheinen (Goethe, Mignon song, 2 versions, 2nd, 1826, D877/3), Sprache der Liebe (Schlegel, 1816, D410), Ständchen (Horch, horch, die Lerche) (Grillparzer, 1827, D921), Die Sterne (Leitner, 1828, D939), Suleika's Songs I—Was bedeutet die Bewegung ( Willemer, 1821, D720), II—Ach, um deine feuchten Schwingen (Willemer, 1821, D717), Der Tod und das Mädchen (Death and the Maiden) (Claudius, 1817, D531), Totengräbers Heimweh (Craigher, 1825, D842), Trost im Liede (Schober, 1817, D546), Über Wildemann (Schulze, 1826, D884), Dem Unendlichen (Klopstock, 1815, D291), Der Vater mit dem Kind ( Bauernfeld, 1827, D906), Versunken (Goethe, 1821, D715), Die Vögel (Schlegel, 1820, D691), Der Wanderer ( Lübeck, 1816, D493), Der Wanderer an den Mond ( Solde, 1826, D870), Wanderers Nachtlied (Goethe, 2 settings, 2nd 1822, D768), Wehmut (Collin, 1823, D772), Wiegenlied (Anon., 1815, D498), Wiegenlied (Seidl, 1826, D867), Der zürnende Barde ( Bruckmann, 1823, D785), Der Zwerg (Collin, 1822, D771).

Schubert, Franz

views updated Jun 11 2018

Franz Schubert

Born: January 31, 1797 Vienna, Austria Died: November 19, 1828 Vienna, Austria Austrian composer

Franz Schubert, an early romantic Austrian composer, is best known for his lieder (German art songs for voice and piano) during the nineteenth century. A new profusion of lyric poetry and the evolution of the piano into a highly complex mechanism allowed the gifted Schubert to compose exceptional lyrics.

Childhood and training

Franz Peter Schubert was born in Vienna, Austria, on January 31, 1797, the fourth son of Franz Theodor Schubert, a schoolmaster, and Elizabeth Vietz, a domestic servant in Vienna. Encouraged to pursue his talents in music, Franz received instruction in the violin from his father, his older brother Ignaz, and Michael Holzer, the organist at the Liechtenthal parish church.

In 1808, through a competitive examination, the eleven-year-old Schubert was accepted into the choir of the Imperial Court Chapel as well as the Royal Seminary. Although he was homesick, he was an outstanding student. Besides singing in the choir, he played in the orchestra. He became familiar at this time with the music of Franz Joseph Haydn (17321809), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (17561791), and Ludwig von Beethoven (17701827).

Schubert was a shy youth, and spent most of his spare time practicing and composing by himself. He left the choir at age fifteen when his voice changed, but continued to study at the seminary. Antonio Salieri, the emperor's music director, heard about Schubert's talents and took him in as a student.

Early period

In 1814 the genius of Schubert was first made evident in his work Gretchen am Spinnrade, inspired by his reading of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's (17491832) Faust. His first Mass and his first symphony appeared about this time and showed the influence of Haydn. Schubert set five other Goethe songs to music that year. By the end of 1814 Schubert was an assistant at his father's school and had begun to make the acquaintance of numerous poets, lawyers, singers, and actors, who soon would be the principal performers of his works at private concerts in their homes or in those of their wealthier friends.

Other eighteenth-century lyric poets whose works Schubert set to music include J. G. von Herder, the collector and translator of folk songs, F. G. Klopstock, and Friedrich von Schiller (17591805). None can compare, however, with the remarkable Goethe songs. Even the uninitiated (not educated on a particular subject) must respond to the excitement of the Erlkönig (1815), where by means of changing accompaniment figures, sharp dissonance (an arrangement of clashing chords), and effective modulations (the shifting of one musical tone to another) Schubert makes a distinction between the four characters of the balladnarrator, father, son, and Erlkingand creates one of the masterpieces of romantic music.

While still a schoolmaster, Schubert composed Symphonies No. 2 through No. 5. At this time he also wrote many of the delightful dances, waltzes, and Ländler (a type of Austrian waltz for which he was known during his lifetime).

By 1817 Schubert was living in the home of his friend Franz von Schober, where he wrote several piano sonatas (instrumental music composed of four contrasting movements). In his father's house there had been no piano. Examination of the sonatas proves Schubert to have been rather daring in his juxtaposition (placing one next to another) of keys, particularly in development sections. In addition to instrumental compositions, Schubert wrote fifty songs in 1817. In July 1817 Schubert was appointed to the household of Count Esterhazy and his family, who spent winters in an estate slightly north of Schönbrunn and summers at Zseliz in Hungary. There Schubert composed many of his works for piano duets.

Middle period

Between 1820 and 1823 Schubert achieved his musical maturity. Two of his operettas and several of his songs were performed in public and amateurs and professional quartets sang his part-songs for male voices. Some of his works began to be published and performed in private concerts.

In September 1821 Schubert and Schober left Vienna for the country with the intention of writing Alfonso und Estrella, his only grand opera. Shortly after his return to the city, he met Edward Bauernfeld, who introduced him to William Shakespeare's (15641616) works. In the fall of 1822, having completed his Mass in A-flat, Schubert began work on the Symphony in B Minor, which became known as the Unfinished. Three movements were sketched; two were completed. It is not known why the work was left incomplete.

Schubert's health began to fail, and in May he spent time in the Vienna General Hospital. Rosamunde, a play for which Schubert had written incidental musiconly the overture and ballet music are heard todayfailed in 1823 and brought to a close his extended efforts to achieve a successful opera.

Schubert now turned to chamber music, producing an Octet for woodwinds and strings and his A Minor, D Minor, and G Major Quartets. In 1825 Schubert formed the mainstay of the Schubertiads, evenings at which Schubert's songs were sung.

Final years

In 1826 and 1827, despite the reappearance of his illness, Schubert wrote four masterpieces, each of which has remained a staple in his repertory (works commonly performed): the String Quartet in G, the Piano Sonata in G, the Piano Trio in B-flat, and the second Piano Trio in E-flat. Schubert was one of the torchbearers at Beethoven's funeral in 1827. Toward the end of that year Schubert completed his two series of piano pieces that he himself entitled Impromptus.

In 1828 Schubert composed several first-rate works: the magnificent F-Minor Fantasy for piano duet, the C-Major Symphony, the Eflat Mass, and nine songs to Ludwig Rellstab's poems. On March 26, 1828, Schubert participated in the only full-scale public concert devoted solely to his own works.

On November 11, Schubert began suffering from nausea and headache. Five days later the doctors diagnosed typhoid fever (a bacteria-caused disease marked with fever and the swelling of intestines). He died on November 19, 1828.

The impact of Schubert's work

In musical history Schubert stands with others at the beginning of the romantic movement, anticipating the highly personal approach to composition of later composers but lacking the forcefulness and the creative means to experiment with instrumental music that Beethoven displayed.

Many of Schubert's large-scale instrumental pieces were unknown until after the middle of the nineteenth century. Moreover, unlike many other romantic composers, Schubert did not try a literary career. He was never a conductor or virtuoso (extremely gifted and skillful) performer. He did not achieve considerable public recognition during his lifetime. However, there is a lasting quality to Schubert's work that reaches out over the ages which few composers have matched.

For More Information

Clive, Peter. Schubert and His World: A Biographical Dictionary. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

McKay, Elizabeth Norman. Franz Schubert: A Biography. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Newbould, Brian. Schubert: The Music and the Man. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

Reed, John. Schubert. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Schubert, Franz

views updated May 21 2018


Eminent composer of the classical school and master of the German lied; b. Vienna, Jan. 31, 1797; d. Vienna, Nov. 14, 1828. He was the 12th child of Franz, a suburban schoolteacher, and Elizabeth (Vitz) Schubert. His father was devoted to music, and gave the gifted boy the best possible instruction. At 12 young Franz entered the Imperial Chapel Royal choir and the Stadt-convict, where the then-famous composer Salieri was his principal teacher and where he created his first important works. For three years after finishing there he taught in his father's school, but at 20 ventured on a career as free-lance composer. He occasionally accompanied his lieder but otherwise neither conducted nor performed in public nor taught regularly; he lived entirely on the earnings from his published songs, which his large circle of personal friends helped to popularize. For years he was depressed and intermittently ailing; he died of typhoid fever shortly after a special Schubert concert without ever having heard his major works performed. While he shared the anticlericalism of his day, he died a Catholic; his body was buried next to that of beethoven in the Währing District cemetery.

Although he had composed music of high distinction for piano and for choral, chamber, and symphonic combinations, his fame rested on his lieder until attention was drawn to his other works by brahms, who anonymously edited the last Mass and piano music; by Sir George Grove, who wrote the first comprehensive Schubert essay; and by others who assessed his true importance. Today he is recognized as the last of the Viennese classicists. He mastered the classical language as a child and used it creatively without revolutionizing it. His leaning toward long movements, however, anticipates the future as does the use of "cyclic" motifs. Unlike that of Beethoven, Schubert's music rarely conveys one prevailing mood. His oscillation between major and minor is characteristic, as is his use of Viennese folk music and dance patterns.

Of the six completed Masses, four belong among his masterworks: the G major (D.167), written when he was 18; C major (D.452), with a Benedictus recomposed in 1828 (D.961); A-flat major (D.678); and E-flat major (D.950). Their serene beauty, heightened by occasional passages of almost mystical inspiration, rules out prominent vocal solos and orchestral dramatics. As he stated in a letter of July 25, 1825, with reference to his celebrated Ave Maria, "I have never forced devotion in myself and never compose hymns or prayers unless it overcomes me unawares; but then it is usually the right and true devotion." In all his Masses he omitted certain words (not always the same ones) from the text, but there is no evidence that this was caused by more than negligence. Their use in Catholic worship would require completion of the text, as well as the admissibility of orchestral accompaniment. Of his other spiritual works, the German Requiem (D.621), the completed portion of his Easter cantata, Lazarus (D.689), the Offertorio Intende Voci (D.963), the Ave Maria and other devotional songs are of the greatest beauty.

Bibliography: Franz Schuberts Werke: Kritisch durchgesehene Gesammtausgabe, ed. j. brahms et al., 43 v. in 41 (Leipzig 188497). o. e. deutsch, Schubert: Thematic Catalogue (London 1951); Schubert, A Documentary Biography, tr. e. blom (London 1947). a. einstein, Schubert: A Musical Portrait, tr. d. ascoli (New York 1951). m. j. e. brown, Schubert (London 1958). m. j. e. brown et al., Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. f. blume (Kassel-Basel 1949) 12:106185, extensive bibliog. o. wissig, Franz Schuberts Messen (Leipzig 1909). l. black, "Schubert and Fierrabras: A Mind in Ferment," The Opera Quarterly 14/4 (1998) 1739. r. bockholdt, "Die Kunst, heim zu finden: Über Schlüsse und Anschüsse in Schuberts Instrumentalmusik," Musiktheorie 13 (1998) 14556. k. haid, "The Sad Story Behind Schubert's Variations," Flute Talk 20/2 (2000) 2223. r. kramer, Distant Cycles: Schubert and the Conceiving of Song (Chicago 1994). a. lindmayr-brandl, "Johannes Brahms und Schuberts Drei Klavierstücke D. 946: Entstehungsgeschichte, Kompositions-prozess und Werkverständnis," Die Musikforschung 53 (2000) 13444. d. montgomery, "Modern Schubert Interpretation in the Light of the Pedagogical Sources of His Day," Early Music 25 (1997) 100118. r. steblin, "The Peacock's Tale: Schubert's Sexuality Reconsidered," 19th Century Music 17 (1993) 533. m. wessel, "Die Zyklusgestaltung in Franz Schuberts Instrumentalwerk: Eine Skizze zu Anlange und Ästhetik der Finalsätze," Die Musickforschung 49 (1996) 1935. s. youens, Schubert, Müller, and 'Die schöne Müllerin' (Cambridge 1997).

[k. wolff]

Schubert, Franz

views updated May 14 2018


SCHUBERT, FRANZ (1797–1828), Austrian composer.

Unlike most of the celebrated composers associated with Vienna, the city of music, Franz Peter Schubert was born there, in the Himmel-pfortgrund suburb not far from the city walls, on 31 January 1797. He was the thirteenth child of a successful educator who ran a school where Schubert and his brothers studied and eventually taught. Domestic music making and activities at the parish church in Lichtental provided his first musical experiences. At age eleven, Schubert won an audition to join the choir of the Imperial Court Chapel and with it a scholarship to an elite private school. It was there that he formed friendships that lasted for the rest of his life. He was also given the opportunity to study with Antonio Salieri (1750–1825), court Kapellmeister and a leading figure in the Viennese musical scene. Friends encouraged his interest in literature and his inclination to set poetry to music. Even as a teenager Schubert experimented writing a wide range of music, including keyboard, chamber, sacred, dramatic, and orchestral pieces, but he won his first fame with smaller domestic genres, especially songs, part-songs, dances, and four-hand piano works. This intimate music was often performed at private homes in events that came to be known as Schubertiades. The poetry of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) inspired Schubert's initial masterpieces at age seventeen and eighteen, specifically the songs "Gretchen am Spinnrade" and "Erlkönig." The public premiere of the latter in 1821, and its publication that year as Op. 1 (by which time Schubert had written hundreds of songs), marked a turning point in his career.

During the next seven years, before his death at age thirty-one, Schubert published more than a hundred lieder and became widely recognized for raising the stature of this nascent Romantic genre. In total, Schubert wrote more than six hundred lieder, setting to music the work of some one hundred different poets, ranging from friends to William Shakespeare (1564–1616), Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (1759–1805), and Goethe. His ambitions in large-scale works faced obstacles in a city dominated by the instrumental music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) and the operas of Gioachino Rossini (1792–1868). Schubert tried to succeed with German opera, with works such as Alfonso und Estrella (1822) and Fierrabras (1823), but these major efforts went unperformed. Focusing on instrumental music, he found greater success with piano sonatas and chamber music, which where performed and published by musicians and firms associated with Beethoven, the composer Schubert revered above all others. Some of his most famous instrumental works, such as the "Trout" Quintet, "Death and the Maiden" String Quartet, and "Wanderer" Fantasy are based in part on earlier songs.

Late in 1822, around the time of the "Unfinished Symphony," Schubert apparently contracted syphilis and was seriously ill for some time. (He is said to have written part of his song cycle Die schöne Müllerin while in the hospital in 1823.) Although he was better by 1825, Schubert feared he would never fully regain his health. The quantity of his song output significantly decreased as he spent more time working on formidable chamber music projects that he planned would "pave the way to a grand symphony." He wrote the so-called Great C Major Symphony in 1825, and probably revised it in 1828. That same year, on 26 March, the first anniversary of Beethoven's death, Schubert gave the lone public concert devoted entirely to his own music, which earned an enthusiastic response.

The twenty months that separate Schubert's death from Beethoven's saw a phenomenal outpouring of masterpieces. He wrote the "Drei Klavierstücke," the Mass in E-flat Major, the fourteen songs published as Schwanengesang, the String Quintet in C, three magnificent piano duets (including the Fantasy in F Minor), and the last three piano sonatas, as well as various brief sacred works, part-songs, dances, lieder, and some remarkable sketches for a "Tenth Symphony" (D936a). Many of these works, as well as significant earlier ones, were unknown for decades, which led the critic Eduard Hanslick to observe in his classic study of Viennese concert life (1869): "If Schubert's contemporaries rightly gazed astonished at his creative power, what shall we, who come after him, say, as we incessantly discover new works of his? For thirty years the master has been dead, and in spite of this it seems as if he goes on working invisibly—it is impossible to follow him" (Deutsch 1951, pp. 202–203).

Schubert, who traveled little, never married, and worked continuously, remains an elusive figure biographically. Less than a hundred of his letters survive, along with a few pages of an early diary. Information about his life comes primarily from his family and friends, most often from accounts written long after his premature death in November 1828 following a brief illness. The epitaph on his grave, written by Franz Grillparzer (1791–1872), Austria's leading writer and a friend of the composer, captures the sense of loss and expectation, as well as a limited understanding of what he had in fact accomplished: "The Art of Music Here Entombed a Rich Possession, but Even Far Fairer Hopes." As the true extent of that accomplishment gradually became known during the following decades, his achievement was recognized as extending well beyond the lied and profoundly influenced Robert Schumann (1810–1856), Johannes Brahms (1833–1897), Gustav Mahler (1860–1911), and other later Romantics.

See alsoMusic; Romanticism.


Deutsch, Otto Erich. "The Reception of Schubert's Works in England." Monthly Musical Record 81 (1951): 202–203.

Deutsch, Otto Erich, ed. Schubert: A Documentary Biography. Translated by Eric Blom. London, 1946.

——. Schubert: Memoirs by His Friends. Translated by Rosamond Ley and John Nowell. London, 1958.

Gibbs, Christopher H. The Life of Schubert. Cambridge, U.K., 2000.

Gibbs, Christopher H., ed. The Cambridge Companion to Schubert. Cambridge, U.K., 1997.

McKay, Elizabeth Norman. Franz Schubert: A Biography. New York, 1996.

Newbould, Brian. Schubert: The Music and the Man. Berkeley, Calif., 1997.

Christopher H. Gibbs

Schubert, Franz

views updated Jun 08 2018

Schubert, Franz (b Dresden, 1808; d Dresden, 1878). Ger. violinist and composer. Played in Dresden court orch. 1823–73 (leader from 1861). Comp. works for vn. and orch. and popular vn. piece L'Abeille (The Bee).