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The first document is a letter from Schubert which is now lost. We are told that in early 1815 the eighteen-year-old composer wrote to his friend Anton Holzapfel, who was three years his senior, confiding his affection for Therese Grob, the daughter of a widow who ran a silk factory near the Liechtenthal church. Holzapfel described Therese as 'not by any means a beauty, but well shaped, fairly buxom, with a fresh, childlike little round face and a fine soprano voice extending to D in alt'. Holzapfel's reply to Schubert's letter is also lost, but he remembered responding in a tone of avuncular wisdom which attempted to dissuade the young composer from any unwise and premature commitment. Some time after, Schubert described Therese to Anselm Hüttenbrenner as'not particularly pretty, with pock marks on her face, but very good- hearted'. She had sung the soprano solos in a performance of Schubert's first Mass (in F, D105) in 1814, and the composer's attachment to her is said to have lasted until 1820 when she married a baker.
So much for lost letters. What of the surviving documentary evidence from 1815? From 15 February comes a title page written in defective French for the Ten Variations in F major (D156): the past participle 'composés' does not agree with its feminine plural noun, 'Variations', and in the line 'Ecolier de Salieri, prémier Maitre de la Chapelle imperiale' (sic), a vowel is denied its proper accent in one word at the end of the phrase as if to compensate for the spurious addition of one nearer the beginning. French grammar was never Schubert's strong point (his most famous mistake in this area was 'Momens Musicals' instead of 'Moments Musicaux') and it was not among his school subjects; nevertheless in the Vienna of the time it was customary to print title pages in rather high-flown French, and faute de mieux, a young composer denied a publisher will manufacture his own hand-written fantasies.
The next document is the entry in the family register of the birth, in April, of the composer's half-sister Josefa. Schubert's mother had died in 1812, and his father had remarried. Thirteen years later this little girl was to show touching devotion as Schubert's nurse in his final illness. There are brief hand-written additions to three dramatic works from this year. In June the manuscript of the Singspiel Fernando (libretto by Schubert's friend Albert Stadler) notes that the composer is 'Pupil of Herr v. Salieri', and in the following month exactly the same thing is marked on the manuscript of Claudine von Villa Bella (libretto by Goethe). By November, Schubert is no longer in such a deferential mood for we see that Salieri has temporarily lost the 'von' which conferred on him a noble status (purely honorary) on the composer's manuscripts: the score of Die Freunde von Salamanka (libretto by the anti-establishment Mayrhofer) is marked 'Pupil of Herr Salieri'. Nevertheless (pace Peter Shaffer's depiction of a tortured monster) Salieri was beloved of his pupils, and Schubert who had received twice-weekly lessons from Salieri in his schooldays, remained under his guidance throughout this crucial year of 1815 and only left him, at the earliest, in 1816.
In August 1815 Schubert's father made an unsuccessful attempt to change his employment. There was a vacant post for a teacher at the elementary school of the so-called Scottish monastery. Franz Theodor Schubert's petition for this job includes mention of his four sons, the youngest of whom, Karl, was studying drawing; a name-dropping reference to the 'kind guidance of Court Musical Director Herr von Salieri' is also made in connection with his promising musical son's progress. Apart from a brief appreciative reference to the Twelve Ecossaises (D299) from the mother of Schubert's close friend Josef von Spaun, this is the sum total of the actual Schubertian documentary evidence known to us for the year.
In terms of history and politics, 1815 was, of course, an epic year: Napoleon escaped from Elba and met his final defeat at Waterloo. In Schubert's home town the Congress of Vienna which had convened in 1814 was still busy carving up Europe. Austria's representative was the wily and manipulative Metternich, England fielded Lord Castlereagh, and Prussia and Russia sent their rulers, Frederick William III and the Tsar Alexander I. Talleyrand was the representative of Louis XVIII of France. The Congress agreed that the Hapsburgs should regain their domains of Lombardy, Venetia, Tuscany, Parma and Tyrol. Prussia gained parts of Saxony and the Rhineland. All in all, the powers and rights of hereditary rulers were reinforced in the name of legitimacy; it was the triumph of the conservative old guard. The result of this was over thirty years of despotic rule and the merciless suppression of liberal and nationalist sentiments, particularly in Austria and Italy. It is curious to think that as the young Schubert explored new and uncharted realms of music which glorified the freedom of the human spirit, the hollow men of Europe, a few streets away, were cynically engaged in an exercise designed to keep themselves in perpetual control at the cost of this spiritual freedom. In 1815 the German Confederation came into being and the persecution of students and other potentially dangerous liberals began in the German speaking world. There was student unrest in Vienna in 1815, and Schubert himself was to fall foul of the authorities five years later because of their mistrust of any student gathering, no matter how innocuous. The composer was to become much more politically aware as he got older, but in all probability in 1815 the import of politics on his own life was lost on him; a charivari of political chicanery orchestrated by the princes temporal was happening in close proximity to his self-appointed tasks, but these immortal musical devotions constituted a revolution of their own,and inaugurated a new age, in song at least. In 1815 he was simply too busy to give politics much thought at all. We do not even know what the young composer, still living at home, thought about the atmosphere in Vienna at the time. With important political visitors from all parts of Europe, the city was obviously en fête. There were endless parties and balls, and a great demand in consequence for dance music. Schubert of course was not invited to any of these 'gatherings', but he may have been aware (it was difficult not to see the flagrant evidence on the streets) that, in order to serve the needs of the congress delegates, there was a prostitution boom in Vienna which according to contemporary accounts was unmatched anywhere else in Europe. This fact would almost certainly not have been lost on Schubert's new friend Franz von Schober; 1815 sees his introduction into the composer's story. Born at Malm in Sweden, Schober came to Vienna as a law student via the seminary at Kremsmnster where he had gone to school. He was a year older than Schubert and already a man of the world. Theirs was a very special friendship which puzzled some of the composer's other friends, and continues somewhat to puzzle us. Schober's was so obviously a lightweight and flawed personality that it is difficult to see what Schubert saw in him; perhaps he was an earthy counterbalance to the side of the composer which was unworldly and unambitious. In terms of good looks, affluence and savoir faire Schober was everything which Schubert was not, and perhaps this was the key. We shall hear much more about Schober in later years.
If we turn aside from Deutsch's Documentary Biography and reach for his other masterpiece, the Thematic Catalogue of Schubert's works, there emerges a more detailed outline of 1815 —a picture of astonishing and unremitting industry, although 'industry' is an inadequate word to convey the fevered and exalted creativity that blazed within Schubert in these months. The boy had not yet begun to live, in the accepted sense perhaps; he was an idealistic teenager still sleeping under his strict father's roof. But how he lived through the music! At this age, some young men discover sex; Schubert discovered poetry. He did better than to take it to bed with him every night; he gave himself to it almost each and every day. In his father's house he conducted a torrid love affair with literature, coupling his genius with that of the poets, which had all the hall-marks of a young man's passion: the insatiable curiosity, the unselfconscious promiscuity, and the tender return to those areas which had given him the greatest pleasure.
The sober and ordered pages of the catalogue gradually unfold this drama. From D129 until D146 are ranged works which were not dated, but which Deutsch strongly believed belonged to this year, or thereabouts. There is a great amount of dance music for piano, Waltzes, Ländler and Ecossaises, and a number of vocal works. The composer's own serious dating of his works seems to begin in February with his first setting of his friend Schlechta (Auf einen Kirchhof) on the 2nd. On the 8th we have Minona, and on the 10th Als ich sie erröten sah. On the 11th he sketched a movement of an E major piano sonata (D154); a week later he started to write a complete sonata (D157) in the same key, and finished it soon after, but not before a set of piano variations in F (D156) was completed. On 27 February he composed Goethe's Am Flusse, An Mignon (in two versions) and the immortal Nähe des Geliebten (Volume 1), also in two versions. On the same day he went on to set Körner's Sängers Morgenlied, and two days later on 1 March wrote another version in a totally different mood (both in Volume 4). Between February and March Schubert also completed his Symphony No 2 in B flat which had been started in December 1814.
Körner's epic ballad Amphiaraos was set on 1 March, and between the 2nd and 7th of that month he wrote the Mass in G major (D167). This delightful work seems to have whetted Schubert's appetite for vocal part-writing and in the middle of March he was combining his enthusiasms for Körner's verse and choral singing in Trinklied vor der Schlacht and Schwertlied. The String Quartet in G minor (D173) was written in the last week of March, and more Körner songs thereafter, not forgetting three days in early April taken to write the G minor Stabat Mater (D175) and an Offertorium in A minor (D181) three days after that. Four days later, Schubert wrote a Graduale in C major (D184).
Early May marks the return of his enthusiasm, first kindled in 1814, for Matthisson's poetry; three settings of the poet—Die Sterbende, Stimme der Liebe and Naturgenuss (all on this recording) were written just before Schubert embarked on the first of three operettas written in 1815. This was Der vierjährige Posten. This work in eight numbers was completed in eleven days (8th to 19th May). It is obvious that the last four days of this period was given over to orchestration and Schubert was impatient to create new things as well. On the 15th he set Schiller's Des Mädchens Klage and Der Jüngling am Bache; on the 17th he wrote An den Mond (all three songs on this recording) and on the 19th Amalia (Volume 1). The 22nd of May was Hölty day: An die Nachtigall, An die Apfelbäume wo ich Julien erblickte, Seufzer and Mailied. More Hölty and Körner settings (four songs on the 26th May alone) were to follow a few days later, but in the meantime, on the 24th, he started work on his Symphony No 3 in D which was to occupy him on and off until the middle of July.
The Goethe setting Die Liebe dates from 3 June, and side by side with this exquisite miniature he started work on his longest song of all, in number of pages if not in terms of duration, Adelwold und Emma. This took him nine days to complete and he seems to have had two days off (June 15-16) although one can never be sure of this: it is quite possible that he worked on revision, orchestration or continued work on one of his more long term projects. For example, all we know about the dating of his opera Fernando was that it was completed on the 9th of July. How on earth he had time to slip in the composition of this substantial Singspiel into his schedule is a mystery. Hölty and Goethe (some of the really great settings like Meeres Stille) occupy the rest of June, alongside a large Ossian ballad and settings of his friend Josef Kenner.
The 5th of July was a day of miracles. As well as the Salve Regina in F (D223) he composed the first Wandrers Nachtlied, Der Fischer, and Erster Verlust (all Volume 1). A good many days in July were given over to the poems of Kosegarten (for example the Ida songs on this recording) but we can detect a sign here that summer was perhaps luring the composer out of doors to be with his friends. Nevertheless, a large Singspiel, Claudine von Villa Bella, was started on July 26th, and it is sad that only one complete act of it has survived.
August brought settings of poets who were, by now, old favourites—Hölty and Kosegarten, but there was also a return to Schiller ballads and lyrics. Schubert's work on Claudine von Villa Bella probably re-stimulated his admiration for its author, the poet whom he regarded as Castor to Schiller's Pollux, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. From this month comes the haunting tale of Die Spinnerin heard on this recording, as well as the immortal Heidenröslein, one of five Goethe settings composed on the 19th August. A few days later the composer came across the lyrics of Gabriele von Baumberg, as well as an almanac with various anonymous poems. The taste for choral music also reasserts itself in this month.
September has more settings of Schiller and Ossian (one of the finest, Cronnan) as well as a great deal more Klopstock including the magnificent Dem Unendlichen (Volume 5). A 'Gratulations-Kantate' for three-part chorus, wind and strings was written for his brother Ferdinand.
October has one of the beautiful early Mayrhofer settings (Liane, on this recording) as well as a set of twelve piano Ecossaises. Three poems by Ludwig Stoll are set in a wave of enthusiasm, and then it is back to Körner, Schiller and a number of obscure poets (again suggesting the influence of an anthology or almanac). There is a resurgence of interest in Kosegarten. On the 18th of October Schubert begins his tussles with the Mignon poems from Goethe's Wilhelm Meister; it was a fascination that would last almost all his life. We hear the first two attempts at Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt on this recording. A few days later he set Mignon's Kennst du das Land, leaving Schumann and Wolf to find further resonances in the poem at a much later date. It is thought that Erlkönig also dates from this month.
November begins in grand fashion with the Schiller ballad Klage der Ceres (Volume 5), followed two days later by the Mass in B flat major (D324). The Harper introduces himself (also from Wilhelm Meister) for the first time and yet another Singspiel is begun—a huge one this time in eighteen numbers—Mayrhofer's Die Freunde von Salamanka. The score was finished on 31 December, marking the end of a year which had been, to say the least, extremely eventful. What it had lacked in personal events was more than made up for in terms of musical creation. About 150 songs date from 1815. In the absence of much documentary evidence we need not wonder too hard what Schubert was up to from day to day in this year. The most likely answer was that he was at home, working. Beethoven was still very much alive, and the eighteen-year-old revered Mozart to such an extent that there was no question of trying on mantles for size. Instead he patiently cultivated his own garden with an array of flowers that the great composers before him had not bothered to plant. With this pioneering work in song, Schubert truly laid the foundations of his immortality.
Graham Johnson © 1989