Franz Peter Schubert (1797 – 1828)

Franz Schubert was born in Vienna. He began music lessons with his father and later studied with Antonio Salieri. Some of his earliest compositions were string quartets, which he performed with his brothers and father. He also sang in the renowned Vienna Boys’ Choir in his youth, which enabled him to further his musical education. Schubert wrote some of the world’s most famous melodies, including his Ave Maria, Marche Militaire No. 1, and Serenade. He composed in almost all genres, including piano music, symphonies, opera, and chamber music, but is especially remembered as one of the first and finest composers of art songs.

Schubert set to music poetry by some of the greatest German language poets, including Goethe, Heine, and especially Wilhelm Müller in his two great song cycles “Die Schöne Müllerin” and “Winterreise”. He also used some of his art songs as the basis of larger chamber music works, such as the “Trout” Quintet for piano and strings, the String Quartet No. 14, “Death and the Maiden”, and his demanding piano masterpiece, the “Wanderer Fantasy”.

Schubert’s orchestral works include the incidental music to the play Rosamunde, as well as nine symphonies. The best known of these are No. 8, the “Unfinished Symphony” and No. 9, the “Great Symphony“. He also composed a great deal for the piano, especially several piano duets, including the famous “Marche Militaires”.

Schubert was raised in a very devout family and he retained this spiritual foundation throughout his life, which resulted in several sacred works, including an oratorio, Lazarus, as well as several masses and liturgical works, of which the “Ave Maria” is the most popular.

Schubert led a short and difficult life, never securing financial security, good publishing, or much concert success. He died just a few years after his hero, Beethoven, and was buried next to him. However, his music was championed by the next generation of composers, including Mendelssohn, Liszt, and Brahms, and he is regarded as one of the most gifted composers of the early Romantic period.

“Truly in Schubert dwells a divine spark.” – Beethoven

Suggested Listening:

Suggested Viewing:

Schubert: Greatest Love and Greatest Sorrow

Suggested Reading:

Christopher Gibbs. The Life of Schubert.