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Josef von Spaun

born: 1788
died: 1865
country: Germany

Josef von Spaun came from a well-to-do and semi-noble Linz family. He was a good nine years older than Schubert and had been a student at the Imperial Seminary in Vienna two years before the young composer won a scholarship there on the strength of his singing. From the very beginning the older boy took an interest in the younger's talent, ensuring that Schubert had enough music paper on which to write his increasingly adventurous compositions. When Schubert was in his teens, Spaun introduced him to the poet Mayrhofer, to the fun-loving dilettante Schober, and to the opera singer Vogl; all three men were to have a crucial influence on Schubert's lif. Spaun also made every effort, albeit unsuccessful, to interest Goethe in Schubert's songs. Goethe's failure to answer his letter on Schubert's behalf may have had something to do with the fact that the lion of Weimar knew that Spaun's uncle Franz Seraphicus, who lived in Munich, was a virulent opponent of his work. Spaun returned to his home town when he was appointed to a magistracy in Linz. There is a grain of truth in the comic exaggeration of forsaken comradeship in Herrn Josef von Spaun (Volume 4) for his absence from Vienna must have been keenly felt: this was in the very period (1821-26) when Schubert most needed good advice and comfort in times of illness and tribulation. It is generally agreed that the composer never had a better friend than the generous and stable Spaun who went on to become a distinguished civil servant. If he lacked the fantasy and daredevil freedom of some of Schubert's other friends, notably Schober, his written memories of the composer have proved the most reliable, and his judicious ability to see the events and persona of the epoch in perspective show him to have been a man of tolerance, insight and loyalty.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1989


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