The Father of Lieder Music, Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
- Posted by: Marren Vasquez
- Category: Famous Classical Musicians
Franz Schubert (1797-1828) was an Austrian composer of the early Romantic era, known for his lyrical melodies, harmonic innovations, and prolific output. Schubert composed over 600 vocal works, including art songs, or Lieder, as well as choral music, operas, and symphonies. He was a master of blending voice and piano to create a seamless and expressive musical texture, and his songs in particular are admired for their emotional depth and directness.
Franz Schubert was born on January 31, 1797, in Vienna, Austria, the fourth child of Franz Theodor and Elisabeth Schubert. His father was a schoolmaster and a talented amateur musician, and he encouraged his children to develop their musical skills. All of his siblings (Ignaz, Ferdinand, Karl, Heinrich, and Maria Theresa) were musically inclined and played various instruments, with Ignaz and Ferdinand both becoming professional musicians. Ignaz was a cellist and played in the orchestra of the Vienna Court Opera, while Ferdinand was a pianist and composer who taught music and wrote works for the piano.
- Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D. 759, “Unfinished”: Schubert’s eighth symphony is one of his most famous works, and is notable for its beautiful melodies, innovative use of harmony, and its uncompleted status (Schubert only finished two movements).
- Symphony No. 9 in C major, D. 944, “Great”: Schubert’s final completed symphony is a large, grand work that is often compared to the symphonies of Beethoven. It features intricate counterpoint, lush harmonies, and a soaring finale.
- “Winterreise”: This song cycle of 24 Lieder, set to poetry by Wilhelm Müller, is one of Schubert’s most profound and emotionally expressive works. It tells the story of a wanderer who is consumed by despair and loneliness as he journeys through a winter landscape.
- “Die schöne Müllerin”: Another song cycle set to poetry by Wilhelm Müller, this work tells the story of a young man who falls in love with a miller’s daughter. The music is marked by its emotional depth and beautiful melodies.
- String Quintet in C major, D. 956: Schubert’s final chamber work is considered by many to be one of his greatest masterpieces. It features a unique instrumentation of two violins, two violas, and a cello, and is notable for its hauntingly beautiful melodies and emotionally powerful harmonies.
- Piano Sonata in B-flat major, D. 960: This piano sonata is one of Schubert’s final works and is considered by many to be his greatest masterpiece for solo piano. It is marked by its lyricism, technical brilliance, and emotional depth.
- “Trout Quintet” in A major, D. 667: This chamber work for piano, violin, viola, cello, and double bass is named for the famous theme and variations movement based on Schubert’s earlier Lied, “Die Forelle”. It is a joyful and light-hearted work that is beloved for its charming melodies and inventive harmonies.
- Poverty and financial struggles: Schubert was born into a relatively poor family and struggled with financial insecurity for much of his life. He often had to rely on the support of his friends and family, and even when he achieved some level of success as a composer, he struggled to make a living from his music.
- Health problems: Schubert suffered from a number of serious health issues throughout his life, including syphilis and mercury poisoning. These illnesses caused him significant physical pain and mental anguish and likely contributed to his premature death at the age of 31.
- Social isolation: Schubert was known to be shy and reserved, and often struggled to connect with others. He had few close friends and romantic relationships and spent much of his time alone with his music.
- Lack of recognition during his lifetime: Despite his prodigious talent and prolific output, Schubert was largely unrecognized during his lifetime. His music was often dismissed by contemporary critics, and he struggled to gain the attention and support of wealthy patrons.
- Political turmoil in Austria: Schubert lived in Austria during a period of significant political and social upheaval, including the Napoleonic Wars and the rise of conservative political forces. This instability likely contributed to his sense of isolation and disconnection from society.
What can we learn from Schubert's Music?
- Experiment with New Forms: Schubert was a master of many different musical forms, from symphonies to operas to chamber music. He was always willing to experiment with new forms and
- Emphasize Melody: Schubert’s music is known for its beautiful, memorable melodies. As a musician, you can learn from his emphasis on melody and strive to create music that is not just technically impressive, but also emotionally engaging and memorable.
- Explore Harmony: Schubert was a master of harmony, using rich and complex chords to create a sense of emotional depth and complexity in his music. By studying his harmonic language, you can learn to create music that is both sophisticated and emotionally expressive.
- Use Textures to Create Interest: Schubert was skilled at using different musical textures to create interest and variety in his compositions. Whether he was writing for solo piano or a full orchestra, he would often layer different melodies or rhythms to create a lush, complex sound.
- Draw Inspiration from Literature: Schubert was inspired by the literature of his time, particularly the poetry of Goethe and Schiller, and he often set their works to music. As a musician, you can learn from his approach and look to other forms of art for inspiration.
What can we learn from Schubert as a person?
- Follow Your Passion: Despite the challenges he faced, Schubert remained committed to his passion for music throughout his life. He continued to write music even when he was struggling to make ends meet, and he persevered in the face of setbacks and obstacles.
- Embrace Collaboration: Schubert worked closely with his friends and fellow musicians throughout his life, collaborating on many of his most famous works. He recognized the value of working with others and was able to create some of his best music through these collaborations.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Take Risks: Schubert was not afraid to experiment with new forms and styles in his music, and he was not afraid to take risks in his personal life, such as when he fell in love with a woman who was engaged to someone else. He embraced the unknown and was willing to take chances in pursuit of his goals.
- Value Friendship and Community: Schubert was deeply committed to his friends and the artistic community of Vienna. He valued the support and camaraderie of his peers, and he frequently dedicated his work to his friends and colleagues.
- Leave a Legacy: Despite his short life, Schubert left behind an extraordinary legacy of music that continues to inspire and move people today. He serves as a reminder that we can all leave our mark on the world uniquely.
Now, let’s put your Schubert knowledge to the test! Take a look at these questions to see how much you know about the legendary composer and his works!
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