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Schubert, Franz (1797-1828)

Franz Schubert

born: 31 January 1797
died: 19 November 1828
country: Austria

In childhood, Schubert was taught violin by his schoolmaster father and piano by his eldest brother. He rapidly became more proficient than his teachers, and showed considerable musical talent, so much so that in 1808 he became a member of Vienna’s famous Imperial court chapel choir. He was educated at the Imperial City College, where he received lessons from the composer Salieri. His father, eager that Franz should qualify as a teacher and work in the family’s schoolhouse, encouraged the boy to return home in 1814. Compositions soon began to flow, although teaching duties interrupted progress. Despite his daily classroom routine, Schubert managed to compose 145 songs in 1815, together with four stage works, two symphonies, two masses and a large number of chamber pieces.

Though the quantity of Schubert’s output is astonishing enough, it is the quality of his melodic invention and the richness of his harmonic conception that are the most remarkable features of his work. He was able to convey dramatic images and deal with powerful emotions within the space of a few bars, as he so often did in his songs and chamber works. The public failure of his stage works and the reactionary attitudes to his music of conservative Viennese critics did not restrict his creativity, nor his enjoyment of composition; illness, however, did affect his work and outlook.

In 1823 Schubert was admitted to Vienna’s General Hospital for treatment for syphilis. Although his condition improved, he suffered side-effects from his medication, including severe depression. During the final four years of his life, Schubert’s health declined; meanwhile, he created some of his finest compositions, chief among which are the song-cycles Winterreise and Schwanengesang, and the last piano sonatas.

from notes by LSO Live © 2015


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