Like Beethoven, Schubert stands at the threshold of the Romantic era and is considered to one of the first great Romantics.
Schubert’s father Franz, was a school teacher in Vienna (Austria) and with his wife Elizabeth fathered 14 children, nine of which died in infancy. Franz senior played the cello and taught his son the elements of music from the age of five.
Born twenty years after Constable, Franz Schubert (junior) was a leading exponent of early Romantic music and remains one of the most frequently performed composers to this day. He he had a flair for melodies and lyricism and left an enormous legacy of musical wealth behind. He wrote
- symphonies, sonatas, string quartets, operas and other work, the most famous being the Trout Quintet which most people recognise the moment they hear it, although they may not know Schubert is its composer.
- sacred music – one very beautiful example is his setting for Psalm 23, the Lord is my Shepherd.
With over 600 songs to his name, Schubert’s great original contribution to European music was his development of the German lied (pronounced “leet”) or “art song” for voice and piano. Lieder (plural) represented one of the many ways in which Romantic composers tried to blend the arts together, making a new creation out of poetry and music – the poetry often drawn from pastoral themes or themes of romantic love. Schubert set an example for many other composers by setting to music poems by Goethe, beginning with Gretchen am Spinnrade (“Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel”) in 1814.
End of Life
Having composed over 1000 works, Schubert’s health deteriorated and he died at the very early age of 31. Officially diagnosed as typhoid fever, he probably died of tertiary stage of syphilis leaving behind his famous Unfinished Symphony.
At his own request, Schubert was interred next to Ludwig van Beethoven, whom he had revered all his life.
Click the tab marked ‘video’ above Franz Schubert’s portrait at the top of this page to hear:
- Gretchen am Spinnrade – soprano Barbara Bonney
- Trout Quintet with Julian Rachlin, Mischa Maisky, Mihaela Ursuleasa, Nobuko Imai and Stacey Watton
- The Lord is my Shepherd (Psalm 23) sung by Vokalensemble Viererlei
- The Unfinished Symphony