The German word “Lied” has entered common usage in both French and English; for this, the credit goes to Viennese-born Franz Schubert. While his operas and Singspiele are still largely waiting to be revived, his Lieder exerted a great influence on composers from the 19th century up to the present, from Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms to Helmut Lachenmann, to name only three.
Schubert’s oeuvre encompasses to perfection all the forms, themes, and moods of the “modern” lyrical self, whether in the string quartet, piano music, or the symphony. Though Schubert’s lack of artistic success is often emphasized, he was recognized and celebrated as a composer of genius by a small circle of friends that included the poet Franz Grillparzer. He became more widely known thanks to the efforts of another member of the circle, baritone Johann Michael Vogl, who helped spread Schubert’s Lieder as an interpreter.
1797 Franz Peter Schubert is born on January 31 in Vienna
1814 His first premiere, the Mass No. 1 in F Major, takes place on September 25, 1814 at the Lichtental Parish Church
1815 In spite of his job helping his father as an assistant teacher, Schubert writes nearly 150 Lieder, including Der Erlkönig, completes two symphonies, two masses, two operas, the String Quartet in G Minor, four sonatas, and several other compositions for piano
1818 His first work is premiered in Vienna, the Overture in the Italian Style
1819 Schubert lives with his friend, the poet Mayrhofer, until 1821. “Trout” Quintet
1823 Syphilis causes him such difficulties that he moves back to his parents’ house
1827 At last a number of Schubert’s other works are published. On March 29 Schubert participates in Beethoven’s funeral as one of the torchbearers. Song cycle Die Winterreise
1828 During the last year of his life, Schubert composes several of his best-known works, including the C-Major Symphony, C-Major String Quintet, and song cycle Schwanengesang. On March 26 he organizes his first and only concert, though it is ignored by the press. On November 19 Schubert dies of typhoid fever
Did you know?
“I do think something could become of me . . . But who can do anything after Beethoven?”
“I write for a few hours every morning; after finishing one piece, I begin another.”
In 1826 Franz von Hartmann wrote in his diary: “I’m going to Spaun’s house, where there’s going to be a great Schubertiade…”
“For many and many a year I sang songs. Whenever I attempted to sing of love, it turned to pain. And again, when I tried to sing of pain, it turned to love.”
From “My dream,” written by Franz Schubert on July 3, 1822.
Eduard von Bauernfeld wrote about Schubert’s continual money shortages: “On the question of ownership, it was the communist view that prevailed. Whoever happened to have money paid for one or two of the others. But it also sometimes occurred that two of us had no money, and the third - none at all!
When the singer Michael Vogl had a Schubert Lied transposed (the composer didn’t like it when people made changes to his works), Schubert asked him sardonically: “Very nice, this little Lied. Tell me now, who wrote it?”
Strangely, Theodor Fechner recommends, in an 1866 issue of the Zeitschrift für Bildende Kunst, that the planned Schubert monument in the Vienna City Park be limited to a small bust, so the music world would not be affronted too severely.