Franz Peter Schubert (1797 - 1828) MP

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Nicknames: "Schwammerl"
Birthdate:
Birthplace: Vienna, Vienna, Austria
Death: Died in Vienna, Wien, Austria
Cause of death: typhus & syphilis
Occupation: Composer
Managed by: Yigal Burstein / יגאל בורשטיין
Last Updated:

About Franz Peter Schubert

Franz Peter Schubert (31 January 1797 – 19 November 1828) was an Austrian composer.

Although he died at an early age, Schubert was a prolific composer, having written some 600 Lieder, nine symphonies (including the famous "Unfinished Symphony"), liturgical music, operas, some incidental music, and a large body of chamber and solo piano music. Appreciation of Schubert's music during his lifetime was limited, but interest in his work increased significantly in the decades following his death at the age of 31. Franz Liszt, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms and Felix Mendelssohn, among others, discovered and championed his works in the 19th century. Today, Schubert is seen as one of the leading exponents of the early Romantic era in music and he remains one of the most frequently performed composers.

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Schubert's life

Franz Schubert was born in Vienna in 1797. When he was very young his father and his older brother taught him to play the violin and the piano. In a couple of months he had learnt more about playing the piano than his brother knew. So when the family realized Franz's abilities they did everything they could with their little income to procure a good education for the boy. He was therefore sent to the Stadtkonvikt in Vienna. Here he met Antonio Salieri who was very impressed by him: "He must be taught by God himself", he said.

Schubert left the Stadtkonvikt in 1813 and studied to be a teacher for a year. During the three years that followed he taught in his father's school. But he did not forget the music he loved. At this time he wrote a great amount of music. He wrote music nobody ordered. He wrote just for fun! During a couple years he composed two symphonies and between 200 and 300 songs, including the masterpiece "Gretchen am Spinnrade", written at the age of 17. His songs first brought Schubert fame. He could virtually write songs without thinking.

Schubert was never good at earning money. In 1815 he met Franz von Schober, a law student of good family and free of economic worries. Schober liked Schubert's music. He persuaded Schubert to leave the teaching position, which was affecting his composing in a bad way, and come and live with him instead. Schubert left his old job and was now a free musician, without a secure income.

It was at the home of Schober where Schubert met the great singer Johann Michael Vogl. Together they started the Schubertiads, a group of friends who met for the sole purpose of having fun. They amused themselves, and together they listened to Schubert at the piano and Vogl singing Schubert's songs. Even if these were happy days for Schubert, he was anxious. He had no paid work and no home of his own. In the summer of 1818 he took a position as music tutor to the daughters of a Hungarian nobleman, Count Esterhazy. The only object in Hungary to inspire Schubert's own composing was one of the good-looking daughters he was teaching. Therefore much of the music we have from Schubert from this time is written for piano four hands. But he felt homesick and with summer's end, he returned to his friends in Vienna.

Picture of Franz Schubert

The next summer, 1819, was a happy time for Schubert. He made his first tour together with the singer Vogl. They played only Schubertworks and the concerts drew large audiences. In 1821 Schubert managed to publish his first works: 3 songs and 36 dances. Slowly things improved for Schubert although he wrote an opera which was never produced in his lifetime. Also the year 1823 began well. Schubert now declared that he was a full-grown composer and that he now had complete mastery of not only songwriting, but also the use of a full orchestra. This year he wrote perhaps his most famous work, the Rosamunde theme.

But before the year was at end he felt the first signs of a venereal infection, an infection which would take his life. He said: "My peace is gone [...] and I will never find it again." He continued writing music, as often as he could. It was the only meaning of his life now, he declared. The music from his last years sounds a bit more sad than before. It is often characterized by his thoughts of death, the thoughts that dominated his mind.

In October 1828 his health improved enough that he embarked upon a walking tour and visited Eisenstadt and Franz Joseph Haydn's grave. But the trip was too much for him. He died a month later, the 19th of November 1828.

Schubert's Music

Schubert is different from most other great composers. Unlike Mozart, Beethoven and especially Wagner, Schubert is not aware of his genius. It is only in the last years of his life he realizes the importance of writing down all that he has composed.

In his youth he had listened a lot to the famous composers, attempting, and often succeeding, to write in their styles. His early symphonies are made in the true spirit of Beethoven, the famous Fifth in the magic of Mozart, but here Schubert starts to use some of his own ideas making many key changes in the symphony. Schubert's Eighth symphony is written in his own genius style and is recognized by many people as the peak of his symphonic writing. This manner of making music is never seen before or after Schubert. He composed Romantic music in a Classical way.

The music of Schubert's early years is often very happy, whereas the music of his last years is often more melancholic. But if you listen carefully in these pieces you nearly always find something positive at the end. This was Schubert's feelings during his last five years. At that time he was suffering from a bad venereal disease. It took much of his strength. Schubert believed that he would meet something better after his death. This can, in my opinion, be seen in his music.

Schubert very seldom had the chance to hear his works by a full orchestra and by professional artists. Therefore, he wrote a lot of piano music, music for string quartets and of course all his songs, the german "lieder". Even if Schubert wasn't old when he died, he had written down an enormous treasure for future generations. I don't think his output would have been much greater had Schubert lived another ten years, because in his last years he produced an immense amount of work. He knew he was going to die soon and he wanted to have printed down everything he had composed. Just like Mozart, Schubert got his melodies right into his head and thought that it was very boring to print it. We should be very grateful that Schubert left behind this great work for us.

Wrote more than 600 songs.

His grave is located alongside the grave of Ludwig van Beethoven.

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Franz Schubert's Timeline

1797
January 31, 1797
Vienna, Vienna, Austria
1828
November 19, 1828
Age 31
Vienna, Wien, Austria
November 21, 1828
Age 31
Vienna, Austria