FRANZ PETER SCHUBERT
Born: January 31, 1797. Vienna,
Died: November 19, 1828. Vienna, Austria
In his own words...
"No one understands another's grief, no one understands another's joy... My music is the product of my talent and my misery. And that which I have written in my greatest distress is what the world seems to like best."Austrian composer, one of the earliest of the Romantic movement. Schubert wrote prolifically in all genres, but is best remembered for his songs.
Schubert died at the age of thirty-one. One of his last wishes was to be buried near the composer he had most admired: Ludwig van Beethoven. The similarities of their lives are easy to see. Both struggled in many ways to create; both expressed in their music qualities that we identify with both the Classical and Romantic styles.
Schubert was the son of a middle-class schoolteacher who expected that his son would follow in his career. Franz's musical gift was recognized early and as a boy he sang in the Imperial Court. As a young man, however, he followed the wishes of his father and accepted a teaching post. His musical activities continued in his spare time and he surrounded himself with educated and like-minded members of the middle class. Here he found an immediate outlet for his music. By 1818, he resigned his teaching duties and turned to full-time composition. He continued to have the support of his friends, even while his success with publishers was limited. Before long, however, Schubert had another battle to fight -- illness. As early as 1822 the debilitating effects of syphilis began to take their toll, and along with his health, his financial condition declined. Nonetheless, he continued to compose to the end, producing some of his most profoundly beautiful music in his final years.
Schubert is most clearly identified with his more than 600 songs. Such a large output is, in and of itself, remarkable. What is more remarkable is the quality of these works. Some are simple strophic pieces, almost like folk songs, while others are complex through-composed settings that create miniature dramas. All, however, aimed toward the Romantic ideal of poetic expression. Along with this, Schubert often allowed the accompaniment to take an equal role with the singer in setting a mood or evoking an image. His "Erlkönig" is a perfect example of this, with the thundering of the piano imitating the galloping of a horse. Schubert perfected these techniques and put them to use in more ambitious works, his song cycles. Here each song possesses its own identity, and yet they are dramatically and musically linked. His were some of the earliest song cycles, and still stand as some of the finest.
Schubert wrote more than songs, however, even if these pieces were not
fully appreciated during his lifetime. His symphonies are relatively conservative
in their approach to form, but Schubert infused them with a lyrical content
that seemed to overflow these bounds. The same is true of his chamber music,
especially his string quartets and the famous "Trout" quintet. One of his
last works, the "Great" C major Symphony (so-called by Robert Schumann,
who rescued it from oblivion), represents this side of Schubert. Schumann
talked about its "heavenly length" -- perhaps not so much a measure of
time, but a description of the way Schubert's melody flows onward, sometimes
with surprising harmonic twists.
moderato" (14 min. 19 sec.) from Symphony No. 8 in B minor "Unfinished"
"Ave Maria," arranged for cello (1826)
"Gretchen am Spinnrade"
"Trout" Quintet, IV
Symphony No.9 in C major "The Great"
In the history of music, no composer ever displayed true genius for melodic writing in quite the same way as Franz Schubert, whose remarkable gifts are most widely remembered today through his prolific composition of songs for voice and piano. These masterpieces poured freely from his mind so quickly and with such a degree of perfection that his ability to produce many musical works in a short time has become legendary. Although he composed for every available medium, he was least successful when writing operas or duos for solo instrument with piano. Among his one thousand compositions that survive, his art songs or lieder comprise the largest portion of his works. This is not really surprising since some of the greatest singers of his native Vienna were among his closest friends.
Early in his adult life, Schubert chose to follow an unconventional lifestyle in which he totally devoted himself to his friends and his music, largely abandoning the materialistic life for the pursuit of his art. He once said, "I have come into the world for no purpose but to compose." Schubert never played a particular part in public life; he went on just a few short journeys; and he lived basically an inconspicuous life which has caused many to speculate on the nature of his personal activities. Whatever these obscure details may have been, they matter little to those who cherish his glorious music and his noble spirit.
Schubert's was truly a Romantic spirit that pointed the way for many composers who followed him. Schubert's brief life was not one of comfort and ease, certainly, but it was a miraculous span of years in which music of unparalleled beauty and imagination poured forth in the form of his lieder, piano works, chamber music, and symphonies. In such a short lifetime, Schubert achieved immortality as one of the greatest composers of all time, and thus, he not only achieved his own definition of success, but he may have even exceeded his own expectations in earning a permanent place in the hearts of successive generations of music lovers. Unfortunately, Schubert's personal poverty and his many failed attempts at gaining recognition for his music persisted throughout most of life, and he never knew himself the exalted place his music would occupy in music history.
Franz Peter Schubert was born into a musical family on January 31, 1797 in Vienna as twelfth child of a schoolmaster, Franz Theodor Schubert (1763-1839), and his wife, Maria Elisabeth Vietz (1756-1812). The composer's father had moved in 1783 from Moravian Silesia to Vienna, and Schubert's mother came from Bohemia. Only five of the couple's fourteen children lived beyond infancy, and among them, Franz was the second youngest. On February 1, 1797 Franz was baptized at the Parish Church in the Viennese suburb of Lichtenthal, known today as the Pfarrkirche Lichtenthal or the Schubert-Kirche. At that time the Schubert family lived in two rooms of a house that was subdivided into sixteen very small apartments, and these cramped quarters offered a very inhospitable environment to tenants. The first floor housed a modest school, where Schubert's father taught a few children from poor families.
In 1801, Herr Schubert acquired a mortgage on a nearby house. He established a school there, and he moved his family into their own house for the first time. Franz attended his father's elementary school, and he received his first music lessons in violin playing from his father as well. His brother Ignaz, his senior by twelve years, instructed him in piano playing. The Schubert family made music together regularly, and Herr Schubert was soon able to form a string quartet, in which the elder sons Ignaz and Ferdinand played violin, the father played cello, and Franz played viola. The family music making gave Franz very positive feelings toward chamber music at an early age.
Schubert's first teacher outside the family was Michael Holzer, the choirmaster of the Parish Church of Lichtenthal, who strove to accelerate the boy's musical development. "He seems to know the lessons perfectly before I begin to explain them to him," Holzer told Schubert`s father. Holzer initiated Schubert into the practices of church musicians, giving Schubert instruction in the practical applications of thorough-bass and the conventions of improvisational playing or "preludizing" on the organ. Schubert proved to be an extraordinarily talented student. And at the age of eight or nine, he first tried his hand at composition. Only a Singing Exercise in C Major for bass voice and piano without text (D1A) survives from these earliest works.
By the age of ten, Schubert took regular part in High Masses at the Parish Church of Lichtenthal as both a singer and a violinist. His father presented him to the Viennese Court orchestra conductor, Antonio Salieri, who also supervised the boy's choir of the Imperial Court Chapel. Salieri auditioned the boy and was impressed with his outstanding qualifications. Schubert was admitted to membership in the boy's choir. In return for his service in the boy's choir, Schubert gained an education at the Stadtkonvikt, the best boarding school in Vienna, where he received an excellent general education at the Akademische Gymnasium and a first class musical education as well.
As a singer and music student Schubert distinguished himself in the choir, but his academic achievements in Latin, Greek, and mathematics were only minimal. He served as a violinist in the orchestra of the school, which was founded by the art-loving principal, Father Innozenz Lang. They made music every evening and played complete symphonies among other works. Compositions by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven were the highlights of the orchestra's repertoire. Schubert also made some enduring friendships at the Konvikt, particularly with Joseph von Spaun, nine years his senior, who remained Schubert's devoted friend for the rest of his life. Von Spaun wrote about this time:
"Schubert played standing behind me from the same sheet of music. I noticed very soon that the little musician surpassed me in reliability of counting time. My attention having been drawn to him by it, I noticed how the otherwise quiet and indifferent looking boy abandoned himself lively to the impressions of the beautiful symphonies we performed."Supplied with manuscript paper by von Spaun, Schubert composed his first song, Hagars Klage, which came to the notice of Salieri, Director of the Konvikt. Salieri was so impressed with this achievement that he placed Schubert under the personal guidance of Wenzel Ruczizka, professor of harmony and Imperial Court organist. Ruczizka gave piano and thorough-bass lessons to the pupils of the Konvikt, and he soon noticed the extraordinary talent of Schubert. When Ruczizka confided to Salieri that Schubert "seems to have been taught by God himself, the lad knows everything," Salieri decided to take the boy under his own wing. Schubert's mother died at the end of 1812, and she did not see her youngest son anymore after becoming ill.
In the same year that his mother died, Schubert's voice broke, and he could not sing anymore with the boy's choir. His place at the Konvikt was preserved for another year, but since his grades in mathematics were unsatisfactory during this school year, he had to leave the boarding school in the autumn of 1813. By the time he left school, he had already composed a considerable number of works in different genres: approximately fifteen lieder, eight string quartets, one piano trio, five overtures, one symphony as well as numerous fantasias and dances for piano.
The length of time that Schubert had been Salieri's student prior to his leaving school is unknown. But his lessons with the famous opera composer were centered on the composition of Italian arias. Schubert composed for practice several arrangements of arias from the librettos of Pietro Metastasio. Also he wrote numerous canons and fugues from that time supposedly for his composition lessons with Maestro Salieri.
After Schubert returned to his father's house in 1813, he was eager to devote himself entirely to composition, but at his father's insistence, he entered a ten-month training course to become a "school assistant," a subordinate teacher, at an elementary school. He graduated from teacher training at the Normalhauptschule St. Anna with only mediocre grades, and he entered the teaching profession at his father's school. Schubert remained in this position for two years, hating every minute of the duty. While in the classroom, he was far removed from his pupils, troubling himself little with their attendance, work, or behavior. The four walls of his classroom were a prison for his spirit. But simultaneously, these same two years were, from the standpoint of his compositions, the most productive period of his life.
In his strict, regulated day, a regularly scheduled block of time was reserved exclusively for composition. Schubert so disliked his time spent at elementary teaching, that when he was finally free to compose at the end of the day, he made every minute count. He was able to escape the unhappy circumstances of his primary occupation by absorbing himself completely in his music. Schubert composed his first complete Mass setting, the Mass in F Major (D 105), for the centennial of the Parish Church of Lichtenthal. At the first performance of the Mass on September 25th, 1814, his childhood friend, Therese Grob, sang the soprano solo. Three days later, Schubert composed the art song (lied), Gretchen am Spinnrade, an event which marked the beginning of what was to become a standard repertoire of modern German lieder, originating first with Schubert and contributed to by successive generations of composers.
Schubert's nights were spent in the production of an incredible amount of music. In 1815 alone, he composed two symphonies, two masses, five operas, four sonatas, several smaller choral works, and one hundred and forty-six lieder. It was in 1815 that Schubert created the first of his undisputed masterpieces. His friend, Spaun, burst in upon him one day to find him in a fervor of composition. Schubert had just stumbled across a ballad by Goethe, the Erlkönig, which inflamed his imagination. And, in only a few short hours, Schubert set the great poem to music. When the song was completed, Spaun and Schubert hurried to the Konvikt school to perform it before several friends. But it was not warmly received by its first audience. The Erlkönig was one of Schubert`s most brilliant works, an amazingly mature piece to have come from a boy of eighteen. Goethe heard it sung to him two years before his death, and with tears in his eyes he acknowledged it to be a true masterpiece.
Through Joseph von Spaun, Schubert was introduced to the young poet, Johann Mayrhofer, and he composed lieder to several of his poems. Schubert's acquaintance with Franz von Schober was also made possible through von Spaun. Both Mayrhofer and Schober soon belonged to the circle of Schubert's closest friends. The composer also maintained close ties with Johann Senn and Anton Holzapfel, his childhood friends from the Konvikt school. This circle later included Vogl, a singer, and Hüttenbrenner, who were two fervent admirers of Schubert's music who called themselves "Schubertians." For the rest of his life, these friends brought Schubert encouragement, advice and material assistance. They held frequent social evenings devoted to music and entertainment called "Schubertiaden." These events furnished Schubert the few precious moments of contentment and happiness that he knew.
In April 1816, Schubert experienced a major professional disappointment. He had applied for the position of music teacher in Laibach, and his application for the job was rejected in spite of Salieri's recommendation. Following this event, Schubert resigned his job at his father's school, and he moved with Joseph von Spaun to the home of Professor Heinrich Joseph Watteroth (1759-1819) in the heart of Vienna. From this point onward, Schubert's friends functioned as his extended family, since he became estranged from his father and siblings by leaving employment at the school. For the first time Schubert received a sum of money for one of his compositions when students of the professor commissioned him to compose the (now missing) Cantata Prometheus. It was first performed on the professor's name-day of July 12, 1816 with Schubert conducting.
In autumn of that year, Schubert moved to the Schober family home at Tuchlauben, in central Vienna, where he stayed as a guest of the family until August of 1817. By this time, he had already composed more than five hundred musical works: a wealth of lieder, several string quartets, and five symphonies. However, his compositions were known only to a relatively small circle of friends and music lovers, and he had achieved no measure of wide-spread notoriety or fame as a composer.
This situation slowly began to change while he lived with the Schober family because in their house, Schubert first met the well-known Court opera singer, Johann Michael Vogl (1768-1840), who often was the first interpreter of Schubert's songs and who championed his music in the following years, paving the way for public acceptance of Schubert's lieder and other works by the artistic community of Vienna.
In February of 1818, Schubert publicly performed an orchestral work, one of his two overtures in the Italian style. The overture was performed in a concert at the tavern "Zum Römischen Kaiser." These two Overtures (D 590 and 591) were a response to the "Rossini fever" that had been raging in Vienna since 1816, and the performance was not only a success with the public, but it gained for Schubert highly favorable reviews from the critic of the Wiener Allgemeine Theater-Zeitung, and his first measure of public notoriety.
Among Viennese musicians, Schubert was held in high esteem, and so he was proposed as the music teacher to the noble Esterházy family. From July to October 1818, he was hired as the family music teacher at the country estate of Count Johann Karl Esterhazy of Galantha at Castle Zelesz on the Gran, then a part of Hungary, now known as Zeliezovce in Slovakia. The work there was pleasant, and his young pupils were agreeable. He had abundant leisure time, as he gave piano lessons to the two daughters. Later (1828), he dedicated his piano Fantasia for Four Hands in F minor to one of the sisters. However, Schubert did not remain in the employ of the family longer than one summer, and his reasons for leaving the post have never been known. It has been commonly supposed that the remote location of the Esterházy estate caused Schubert to miss his friends and the convivial environment in Vienna. So again Schubert gave up a situation of secure employment, this time a music teaching position, to embrace poverty and want, gaining the freedom (and perhaps the emotional support of friends) he desperately needed to create music.
Upon returning to Vienna, Schubert and his friend, Mayrhofer, (who had been an official of the state since 1814) were roommates. Schubert devoted the mornings to intense composition. "He would sit down at the table clad only in his shirt and pants and compose the most beautiful things," wrote Spaun. In the afternoon, the two friends, often supplemented by Spaun, Vogl, and Schober, would go to the coffee house for relaxation. Schubert came in contact with a culturally-minded circle around Ignaz von Sonnleithner (1770-1831). This group of friends performed a series of important private concerts at Sonnleithner's apartment, and these events allowed Schubert the opportunity to have his music played before a very sympathetic audience of well-wishers.
In the summer of 1819, Schubert traveled to Steyr in Upper Austria, the home town of his friend, Vogl. At one of the numerous "lieder evenings," that he performed there with Vogl, Schubert met Sylvester Paumgartner, an art patron and amateur cellist, who commissioned Schubert to compose a Piano Quintet which later became well known as his Trout Quintet, being based on one of Schubert's lieder melodies, Die Forelle (The Trout). In this year, Schubert's circle of friends grew to include the painter, Moritz von Schwind, whose landscape pictures and portraits represent an important pictorial documentation of Schubert's life.
In Schubertís output, piano music ranks second only to his art songs. He composed at least twenty-three piano sonatas, some of which have missing movements. But as a whole, the sonatas display much the same type of lyricism as that found in the lieder. They vary in length from the exquisitely concise to the expansive proportions of the last sonatas. Most of these works lack the boldness that Beethoven displayed. Rather, Schubert often chose to open his sonatas with the quiet statement of a lyrical theme in question-and-answer form. When Schubert thought that he had reached his mature style, he published his Première Grande Sonate pour le Piano-Forte, Op. 42 (D 845) which he labeled as his "first" piano sonata. But, in truth, he had already composed nearly twenty works of this genre before this time. It was perhaps true that he did not achieve greatness in the sonata genre until the production of his late works from 1825 onward. Only in the last Sonatas did Schubert compose for the virtuoso.
Primarily, the piano sonatas were intended for students and amateur pianists, and they do not often contain profoundly difficult passages. However, Schubertís piano music has much to offer anyone who loves melody. The Moments Musicaux are part of the standard repertoire of every serious pianist, and in his Impromptus, such as the Impromptu in A-Flat, Op.90, No.4 and the famous Impromptu in G-Flat, No.3, the composer displayed considerable brilliance, foreshadowing the similar works of Chopin. These compositions have been neglected unjustly by modern-day pianists because they supposedly lack the flare of similar works by his contemporaries, but many lovers of piano music would argue that this is not so. Perhaps the most widely performed of his piano compositons are the many German Dances and Waltzes that Schubert was so fond of writing. These numerous works have been studied by generations of developing pianists for their melodic charm, considerable rhythmic interest, and moderate level of difficulty.
In the autumn of 1819, a period of personal and artistic insecurity began for Schubert. He moved in circles of students who were kept under surveillance by the police. Schubert's friend, Johann Senn, was arrested in his presence, and Schubert himself received a warning for "maliciously reviling the authorities". Many fragments of musical works, some never completed, and relatively long creative processes on the few works the composer did manage to finish offer substantial evidence of Schubert's creative crisis.
The minimal success of two of his major works in 1820 contributed significantly to his frustrations. At the Kärntnertortheater the singspiel, Die Zwillingsbrüder, was performed for the first time in June, and the melodrama, Die Zauberharfe, composed in only a few weeks, was performed at the Theater-an-der-Wien, the overture of this same work now widely known as the Rosamunde Overture. It is evident even in this brief overture that Schubert was a genius at orchestration, creating a synthesis of his own beautiful melodic style in combination with "Rossini-esque" dramatic qualities that together form a completely delightful, unique music.
It is true that the critics appreciated Schubert's "beautiful music," but the weak plots of the plays were responsible for their withdrawal after only a few performances. The breakthrough for which Schubert had hoped simply failed to materialize, and Schubert's works still remained unpublished. Finally, his friends raised the necessary funds to cover the initial costs for the printing of the first books of songs, published by Cappi & Diabelli. None of these publications, however, succeeded in alleviating Schubert`s distressing poverty, his royalties from them amounting to only a few coins.
In the summer of 1820, Schubert visited Atzenbrugg Castle in Lower Austria with his friends for the first time. The castle was managed by Josef Derffel, who was Franz Schober's uncle, and he invited the circle of friends to stay there several times in the summers of 1821 and 1822. The Schubertiads were performed at the castle when Schubert and his entourage visited there.
In 1821, Schubert made several short journeys with Schober. In late autumn, they lodged for a long time in St. Pölten, where they worked jointly on an opera, Alfonso und Estrella, and where several Schubertiads were performed. From the end of 1821 to the beginning of 1823, Schubert lived mainly with Schober at the Göttweiger Hof. In February 1822, he met the German composer Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826), who came to Vienna to conduct a performance of his opera Der Freischütz at the Kärntnertortheater. Weber is supposed to have made promises to Schubert regarding the performance of Alfonso und Estrella, but it was not to be. After many futile and heartbreaking attempts to procure a production of the opera, Schubert was ultimately forced to discard it into his bulging trunk.
"Picture to yourself," he wrote broken-heartedly to a friend at this time, "a man whose health can never be reestablished, who from sheer despair makes matters worse instead of better; picture to yourself, I say, a man whose most brilliant hopes have come to nothing, to whom proffered love and friendship are but anguish, whose enthusiasm for the beautiful -an inspired feeling, at least- threatens to vanquish entirely; and then ask yourself if such a condition does not represent a miserable and unhappy man....Each night, when I go to sleep, I hope never again to waken, and every morning reopens the wounds of yesterday."In 1823, the Musikverein of Graz elected Franz Schubert an honorary member. This was no great honor, nor did it carry with it any remuneration. But, to Schubert, starved as he was for recognition, it brought great happiness. Overflowing with gratitude, Schubert decided to compose a symphony in honor of the Musikverein. The work that Schubert composed was the world-famous Unfinished Symphony, so called because it is comprised of only two, instead of the standard four movements. Why Schubert never completed this work (the third movement, as a matter of fact, is abruptly halted after a few measures) has been the subject of much speculation. In this same year, Schubert sought medical treatment for the first time, admitting to a friend via letter that he had contracted a disease for which there was no real cure. He entered a hospital and stayed there for a prolonged period. While undergoing treatment, he managed to gather the strength to compose the lieder cycle, Die schöne Müllerin, a celebrated masterpiece that in no way reflects the pathetic circumstances of the composer's life at the time it was written.
Throughout the remaining years of Schubert`s life, there was continued and uninterrupted creation of new music, which neither despair nor futility could smother. Schubert continued to live with one friend after another, moving from place to place. He even returned to his father's home for short while. There were occasional excursions into the country. One particularly delightful holiday took place in 1825 when Schubert tramped the Tyrols with Vogl.
While in the mountains with Vogl, Schubert created the lied least understood by the general public, but which today is the most popular of all his compositions, the so-called Ave Maria. Although this song is widely performed all over the world, the text most commonly used with Schubert's music is not the poem the composer originally set to music. The Latin "Ave Maria" prayer text is commonly forced to fit Schubert's notes, and it almost succeeds with a few awkward places here and there. However, the text of the "Hail Mary" prayer bears little resemblance to the original poem of this lied. It is unknown who first forced this setting, but it is a fact that the song with its "adapted" Latin words is now the version most commonly performed. What Schubert actually wrote, he called Ellens dritter Gesang (Ellen's third song). The words are from a German translation of a work by Sir Walter Scott, The Lady of the Lake, and Schubert set six or seven songs from this work. In this particular scene Ellen Douglas, in hiding, prays to the Virgin Mary. Schubert's setting was a simple lied for voice with piano accompaniment.
Ellens Gesang III (Ellen's Song III [Ave Maria]) Sir Walter Scott
Translated by Adam Storck D 839 (Spring 1825) First Published in 1826 as Op. 52, No. 6.
as set by Schubert
from "The Lady of the Lake"
|Ave Maria! Jungfrau mild,
Erhöre einer Jungfrau Flehen,
Aus diesem Felsen starr und wild
Soll mein Gebet zu dir hinwehen.
Wir schlafen sicher bis zum Morgen,
Ob Menschen noch so grausam sind.
O Jungfrau, sieh der Jungfrau Sorgen,
O Mutter, hör ein bittend Kind!
|Ave Maria! maiden mild!
Listen to a maiden's prayer!
Thou canst hear though from the wild,
Thou canst save amid despair.
Safe may we sleep beneath thy care,
Though banish'd, outcast and reviled -
Maiden! hear a maiden's prayer;
Mother, hear a suppliant child!
|Ave Maria! Unbefleckt!
Wenn wir auf diesen Fels hinsinken
Zum Schlaf, und uns dein Schutz bedeckt
Wird weich der harte Fels uns dünken.
Du lächelst, Rosendüfte wehen
In dieser dumpfen Felsenkluft,
O Mutter, höre Kindes Flehen,
O Jungfrau, eine Jungfrau ruft!
|Ave Maria! undefiled!
The flinty couch we now must share
Shall seem this down of eider piled,
If thy protection hover there.
The murky cavern's heavy air
Shall breathe of balm if thou hast smiled;
Then, Maiden! hear a maiden's prayer;
Mother, list a suppliant child!
|Ave Maria! Reine Magd!
Der Erde und der Luft Dämonen,
Von deines Auges Huld verjagt,
Sie können hier nicht bei uns wohnen,
Wir woll'n uns still dem Schicksal beugen,
Da uns dein heil'ger Trost anweht;
Der Jungfrau wolle hold dich neigen,
Dem Kind, das für den Vater fleht.
|Ave Maria! stainless styled!
Foul demons of the earth and air,
From this their wonted haunt exiled,
Shall flee before thy presence fair.
We bow us to our lot of care,
Beneath thy guidence reconciled;
Hear for a maid a maiden's prayer,
And for a father hear a child!
The German text that Schubert set to music is not a perfect translation, but a fairly close one. The lied may have first been performed at the home of Sophie Weissenwolff, who made it clear that she would like the dedication, and she received it. Countess Weissenwolff subsequently became known as "the lady of the lake."
A very important event for Schubert was his visit to Beethoven's death-bed in 1827. Schubert worshiped Beethoven with an almost blind adoration. When he heard that the master had seen a few of his songs and had praised them, he summoned his courage and visited the sick-bed of the great composer, standing there in silent veneration for several hours. At Beethoven's funeral, Schubert was one of the torch-bearers in the procession. When the ceremonies were over, Schubert and his friends went to a tavern in the city to drink to the memory of their departed hero. At that time, Schubert raised a toast to the one who would be first among them to follow Beethoven to the grave. Then, as though in a prophetic vision, Schubert begged his friends that, should he die soon, they would bury him next to Beethoven.
In the last two years of his life, Schubert composed some of his greatest works: The Great Symphony in C Major, the emotionally intense, harmonically rich, and brilliantly orchestrated Mass in E-Flat Major, the masterfully written Last Three Piano Sonatas, and some of his most poignant songs, including his finest song cycle, Die Winterreise. Until the end of his life, however, he remained a failure as an opera composer, comparatively obscure and unknown in this regard. But on March 26, 1828, a public concert devoted entirely to Schubert`s music was given in Vienna. The concert was overwhelmingly successful, and it was the first and only taste of fame that Schubert experienced in his lifetime.
In autumn of 1828, Schubert's health quickly began to deteriorate with advanced symptoms of a chronic disease he had contracted several years previously. His physician recommended the country, and fortunately his brother, Ferdinand, had rented a house in the Neue-Wieden suburb of Vienna, and he offered to take care of his brother. Within a few weeks, Schubert's illness developed acutely, and the physicians despaired completely of his recovery. Schubert did not know that he was dying. He divided his time between correcting the proofs of his Winterreise and making important plans for the future. He planned to study counterpoint under Sechter, the court organist, when he recovered fully. He was making elaborate plans for his future compositions, and for the first time he had reason to hope that his works would gain recognition.
On the night of November 16th, delirium set in. For three days, Schubert
lingered on, half-crazed with pain. Finally, on the evening before his
death, he called his brother, Ferdinand, to his side. Late the next morning,
he asked, "Ferdinand, am I lying next to Beethoven?" Ferdinand assured
him that he was. "Then, Ferdinand, I am so happy!" Late that afternoon,
November 19, 1828, Franz Schubert passed away. Two days later, he was buried
in the Währing cemetery, near Beethoven, as he had requested. Franz
Schober, his devoted friend, read a poetic farewell:
|"May peace at last be with you!
In the full bloom of Youth,
The stroke of Death has seized you
And extinguished the pure light within you!"
Shortly after Schubert`s death, a concert was held in his honor. With the proceeds from this concert, a monument was erected at the grave site. This monument was inscribed with a portion of a poem by Grillparzer reading, "Here lies buried a rich treasure, and yet more glorious hopes."
Schubert's greatness as a composer rests principally upon his amazing lyrical gift. Whether he composed a symphony, a string quartet, or a song, he expressed himself through lyricism. His sudden characteristic shifts between the major and minor modes in his instrumental music are a stamp of his personal style. His compositions offer a seemingly inexhaustible variety of moods, which evoke strong emotional responses from listeners. The criticism that he did not succeed as a composer in large-scale forms is only partially true, because he was at times quite profound as a symphonist and composer of choral music. His Mass in G Major (D 167) remains the most widely performed Mass setting from the Nineteenth Century. In his church music, Schubert remained a Classicist primarily, emulating the style of Haydn's Masses, while inserting his own beautiful solos among the Ordinaries. However, lyricism was his greatest gift, and Schubert expressed his genius most profoundly in the lied, imbued with Romanticism, creating a permanent place for his music through his 600 art songs.
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Last Updated: Saturday, November 17, 2001 10:19:34