Growing up (1797-1813)
Franz Schubert was born on January 31, 1797, in
Vienna. His father taught him the violin, one brother the keyboard, and he played the viola in the family string quartet. He wrote his first music for this group.
When Franz was seven, Antonio Salieri discovered his beautiful voice. Antonio enabled him to become a choirboy at the imperial chapel and to attend the state school of music beginning in 1808. There his studies included the music of Wolfgang Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven. A friend bought him the paper he couldn't afford but needed to write his compositions on. While at music school, Franz composed a variety of chamber music, liturgical music, and even his first symphony.
Writing music while teaching elementary school (1813-1818)
In 1813 he left music school, attended a school for teachers, then, in 1814, started teaching the youngest students at his father’s school. There he and his pupils endured two dull and frustrating years because his heart remained in writing music. Antonio Salieri, impressed by him, continued to give him private lessons in music theory until 1817.
He wrote his first successful romantic song, "Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel," inspired by his reading of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust. In 1815 alone Franz wrote over 140 other romantic songs (lieder) in addition to liturgical and orchestral music. During his lifetime he would compose over 600 romantic songs with over 50 of them based on the poetry of Goethe. In 1816 a friend of Franz sent 30 of his songs based on Goethe’s poetry to the poet in
In 1816 he applied for work as music director in another city but didn't get it. Rather than continue teaching for another academic year, he went to live in the household of a friend. This allowed him to write music all day, including one of his most famous songs, "The Trouth," and his Symphony No. 5. While working on that symphony, he praised Mozart in his diary as “immortal.”
Early in 1817 Franz met Johann Michael Vogl, one of
In the fall of 1817 Franz reluctantly returned to teaching with his father. In the winter of 1818 leaders of the important Music Association of Vienna turned down his application for membership.
Working as a composer (1818-1828)
Happily, once the school year ended, Franz found work at one of the summer homes of the fabulously wealthy Esterházy family. Pleasant surroundings, good pay, and a light workload allowed him to continue writing music, including March Militaire No. 1. Once autumn came and the Esterházy family returned to
Vienna, Franz continued to teach their children while writing, always writing, music.
In 1820 Viennese police suspected Franz and four friends of having revolutionary sympathies and arrested them. Franz and others were released while one friend was sent to prison for a year and then banned from
In 1822 Franz wrote some music, dedicated it to Ludwig van Beethoven whom he wildly admired, and then relished the opportunity of visiting with him. Franz also completed the first two movements of what became known as his “Unfinished” Symphony No.8. No one knows why he never wrote the third movement. (It was first performed only in 1865.) Finally, that year Franz discovered he had syphilis. He moved back home with his father, spent time in the hospital, and fell into a deep depression. While he continued to compose, he never recovered his earlier optimism.
During a relaxing summer holiday in the country in 1825, Franz created a set of songs based on a German translation of Walter Scott’s romantic hymn, “The Lady of the
In 1826 he completed his last “Great” symphony. It also was never performed in his lifetime.
In 1827 Beethoven died. Franz got to visit with him again shortly before his death and carried one of the torches in his funeral procession. He continued to compose while suffering headaches, dizziness, nausea, and changes in mood.
On March 26, 1828, the first concert dedicated solely to Franz’s music sold out. Soon even short walks exhausted him but he continued to compose. Franz wrote the six Moments musicaux at various times during the 1820s but the last in 1828. He died at the home of his brother Ferdinand on November 19, 1828. In fulfillment of his request, he was buried next to Beethoven.
At the time of his death, much of Franz’s music remained unknown, unfamiliar, or unpublished. In 1838 composer and music critic Robert Schumann found a manuscript of Franz’s “Great” symphony and returned to
Copyright © 2013 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.