FRANZ SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Franz Schubert was born close to Vienna/Austria (in „Himmelpfortgrund”) on the 31st of January 1797. His father was an elementary school teacher who taught him music. From 1808 onwards, Schubert sang as one of the choir boys of the Vienna Court Orchestra, where the Italian composer Antonio Salieri became his teacher and promoter. Schubert’s first compositions date back to as early as 1811. In the year 1814, Schubert started to assist his father with the teaching in the elementary school, but turned down his position of an assistant teacher („Schulgehilfe”) after only a few years. Schubert then became immensely productive as a composer: Within only 15 years, he created an impressive oeuvre of close to 1000 works (as indexed by Otto Erich Deutsch), well comparable to the life works of other composers. Schubert’s compositions include several symphonies (7 of them finished, 5 unfinished), 7 masses, many partially unfinished operas which were mostly not premiered until after Schubert’s death, extensive piano and chamber music as well as roughly 600 songs. Schubert’s most famous song cycles, of course, are „Die schöne Müllerin“ (the fair miller-maid), „Die Winterreise“ (winter journey) and „Schwanengesang“ (swansong). 

Despite his many compositions, Schubert did not have a break-through until after his death, and throughout his life time gave only one public performance. While Schubert’s works were well known in the circle of his closer friends, and also nationwide by some experts and music lovers, the broad Austrian public did not seem to understand his works, especially not his orchestral compositions. Schubert‘s songs, however, became increasingly appreciated towards the end of his life, and started attracting the interest of some. The legend of Schubert being a completely misjudged genius therefore belongs into the roam of romantic legends, despite the fact that the sheer enthusiasm for Schubert’s work, as we experience today, did not begin until after his death.

Franz Schubert died on the 19th of november 1828 in Vienna. He was only 31 years old. During his short life time, Schubert suffered from several diseases, and most prominently known is his syphilis infection, which started affecting Schubert in his mid-twenties, and accounted for at least one hospitalization. The cause of Schubert’s death, presumably, was an acute infection, perhaps typhus, which was at that time known as „Nervenfieber“ (nervous fever). Nevertheless, Schubert’s pathobiography has nourished speculations well through nowadays.

Author: Stefan Fuchs (Translation: Manfred Hecking)