Despite living a paltry thirty one years, Franz Schubert proved himself as an important and prolific composer. His death sparked national interest in his music, which was played by musical legends, including Felix Mendelssohn, Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms and Robert Schumann.
Franz Schubert was born on January 31, 1797, in Himmelpfortgrund, Vienna. Schubert had his father, Theodor Schubert, to thank for much of his instruction in music. Theodor was schoolmaster in Lichtental, and he enrolled his son to his school when he was six. Around this time, Schubert received his first lessons in the violin from his father. His brother, Ignaz Schubert, also gave him lessons in the piano. Schubert then graduated to taking lessons from Michael Holzer, who was an organist at a church in Lichtental.
It was in 1804 when the young Schubert caught Antonio Salieri’s attention. Through Salieri’s interest, Schubert, aged seven at the time, received a choir scholarship at the Stadkonvikt (the Imperial Seminary). There, Schubert received instruction in composition and overture. He also studied the music of Johann Rudolf Zumsteeg, a Lieder composer whose works would go on to influence Schubert’s own compositions. During this time, Schubert also received private instruction from Salieri himself, under whom Schubert studied music theory and composition. Schubert’s progress at the Stadkonvikt began to show and he was sometimes permitted to lead its orchestra. Schubert also composed chamber music, Lieder music, and liturgical choral works for the Stadkonvikt. These included the “Salve Regina”, the “Kyrie”, and a special orchestra for his father’s birthday. Schubert composed his first symphony at the age of sixteen in 1813.
In 1815, Schubert was said to have composed over twenty thousand bars of music. These included about one hundred and forty Lieder songs, nine Church Works and a Symphony. However, it wasn’t until 1817 that Schubert started making true headway into Viennese Music Circles. He was helped by Johann Michael Vogl, who in 1821 premiered Schubert’s Lied for Goethe’s famous poem titled “Der Erlkonig”. The performance was extremely well received and it helped Schubert’s struggling financial situation. 1821 was also the year in which Schubert wrote the “Variation on a Waltz by Diabelli” for the collaborative musical publication of the works by Anton Diabelli. It was said that in 1822 Schubert met Ludwig van Beethoven, who, after examining his works, proclaimed in his deathbed “Truly, the spark of divine genius resides in this Schubert!”
In 1823, Schubert wrote a number of his most famous works, these included “Fierabras”, “Die Schone Mullerin”, and “Winterreise”. These works were later considered to be some of the best Lieder compositions of all time. His sonata in A minor for the ‘arpeggio née’ also helped his popularity. His other works, including “Divertissement a la hongroise” and “Rosamunde: String Quartet in A minor” were also received well. Other works that were extremely popular included his variations on “Death and the Maiden”, and his piano sonata in G Major.
All in all, Schubert composed over six hundred Lieder songs, seven symphonies, and a large collection of chamber and opera music. By 1828, his health severely deteriorated. It was said that he was suffering from a combination of typhoid fever, syphilis, and mercury poisoning.
Franz Schubert died on November 19, 1828 in Vienna. After his death, he was largely recognized as Vienna’s ‘Prince of Song’.