Franz Schubert - Composer, Genius And Nerd
January 31 is the birthday of one of the most beloved composers of all time - Franz Schubert, the shy, modest , nerdy son of a Viennese school teacher who lived from 1797 - 1828. In his tragically short life of only 31 years, he wrote about 1,000 works, most of which were not published until years after his untimely death .
Unfortunately, Schubert never had much luck in life ; he survived with the help of family and friends , spent most of his time churning out an enormous amount of music but never found a permanent position anywhere or much recognition. He was one of many children of a humble Viennese schoolteacher, most of whom died in infancy, and was taught the rudiments of music by his father and learned to play the piano and violin, and sang in a boy's choir and was active in his family's musical soirees .
He studied with none other than Mozart's supposed enemy Antonio Salieri, who lived in Vienna, and was a highly respected figure in Viennese musical life,. and from his teenage years wrote an incessant stream of works, piano pieces, songs,for which he eventually became famous, chamber music, choral works, symphonies and even operas, but no concertos for some reason. Unlike Mozart and Beethoven, he was not a virtuoso pianist.
Schubert lived a sort of Bohemian life in Vienna among his cronies, and they would hold soirees where his music was heard called Schubertiaden. The hours were irregular and existence was chancy, but the modest young composer managed to survive.
He was a short, stocky young man with a round face and glasses, barely five feet tall, and his friends called him "Schwammerl" or little mushroom affectionately. Painfully shy around women, he never married, but is believed to have gotten syphilis from a prostitute, which led to his untimely demise.
Schubert tried to obtain recognition by writing a number of operas, none of which met with any success. Despite the beautiful music, the stories and librettos were not very good, although a few have been revived and recorded in our time. Some of his 600 or so songs became popular in his lifetime, but Schubert never made money. He died at the age of only 31, leaving his great potential unfulfilled, but he bequeathed the world some wonderful music.
Some of Schubert's most famous works are the symphony no 8 in B minor"Unfinished", which has only two out of the usual four movements, the so called "Trout" quintet for piano and strings, the quintet in C major for two violins,viola and two cellos, the massive 9th symphony, and songs with piano such as the"Erlkoenig", or king of the elves, and cycles of songs telling a story such as "The Beautiful Miller's Daughter", and "The Winter Journey", or DieWinterreise. Schubert is famous for his beautiful melodies, but he was much more than a mere tunesmith ; he knew how to spin out those melodies inventively into lengthy works. Not all his works are immortal masterpieces, particularly the early works written before he matured, but he left so much to enjoy.
His seven completed symphonies plus the unfinished have been recorded by such great conductors as Toscanini, Furtwangler, Karajan, Boehm, Haitink, Solti, Barenboim, Harnoncourt, Mehta, Mackerras, Marriner and many others, and such great singers as Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Bryn Terfel, Hermann Prey, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, and many others have recorded his many songs. There is so much to explore.