Franz Schubert


Born: Jan 31, 1797; Austria   Died: Nov 19, 1828; Austria   Period: Romantic
Franz Peter Schubert was among the first of the Romantics, and the composer who, more than any other, brought the art song (lied) to artistic maturity. During his short but prolific career, he produced masterpieces in nearly every genre, all characterized by rich harmonies, an expansive treatment of classical forms, and a seemingly endless gift for melody. Schubert began his earliest musical training studying with his father and brothers. Having Read more passed an audition, Schubert enrolled at the Convict school that trained young vocalists to eventually sing at the chapel of The Imperial Court. Schubert began to explore composition and wrote a song that came to the attention of the institution's director, Antonio Salieri, who along with the school's professor of harmony, hailed young Schubert as a genius. In 1813, after Schubert's voice broke, he returned to live with his father, who directed him to follow in his footsteps and become a schoolteacher. Schubert begrudgingly complied and worked miserably in that capacity by day, while composing prolifically by night. He had written more than 100 songs as well as numerous symphonic, operatic, and chamber music scores, before he reached the age of 20.
Schubert finally left his teaching position to dedicate himself completely to musical pursuits. During the summer of 1818, the young composer worked as a private music teacher to the aristocratic Esterházy family. When he left that post in the fall, Schubert lived a somewhat bohemian lifestyle, composing and spending time with a group of friends that acted as his personal support system. In 1820, Schubert was commissioned by two opera houses, the Karthnerthor Theatre and Theatre-an-der-Wein, to compose a pair of operas. He wrote Zwillingsbruden, and Zauberharfe, both of which were unenthusiastically received. Schubert failed to secure a contract with a publisher, as none were willing to take a chance on a relatively unknown composer who wrote (harmonically) untraditional music. Schubert, along with the support of his artistic friends, published his own work for a collection of roughly 100 subscribers. These efforts, however, were financially unrewarding, and Schubert struggled to sustain himself. His work garnered little attention and contemporary composers dismissed his music as presumptuous and immature.
In 1823, Schubert was elected to the Musikverein of Graz, as an honorary member. Though this brought no financial reward and was an inconsequential appointment, Schubert relished its slight recognition, and to show his gratitude, composed his famous Unfinished Symphony. Five years later, Schubert's music was featured at a concert at Vienna's Musikverein. His work was received quite enthusiastically, and to much critical acclaim. This marked the only time during the composer's life that he enjoyed such success. This seemed to provide Schubert with a renewed sense of optimism, and despite illness, the composer continued to produce at an incredible rate. He began to organize a scheme to increase his artistic popularity, by continuing to evaluate his work and progress as a musician, perhaps even planning to study harmony privately. Schubert's health did not improve, and he soon found himself at death's door. During the composer's last moments, he instructed his brother Ferdinand to ensure that he would be buried alongside Ludwig van Beethoven's grave. Schubert revered the legendary composer, and was grateful to him, as Beethoven had praised his work after hearing a selection of songs. Schubert also highly regarded the work of both Franz Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Franz Schubert died of syphilis.
Despite his short life, Schubert produced a wealth of symphonies, operas, masses, chamber music pieces, and piano sonatas, most of which are considered standard repertoire. He is known primarily for composing hundreds of songs including Gretchen am Spinnrade, and Erlkonig. He pioneered the song cycle with such works as Die Schöne Müllerin, and Die Winterreise, and greatly affected the vocal writing of both Robert Schumann and Gustav Mahler. Read less
Soprano's Schubertiade / Sampson, Middleton
Release Date: 05/11/2018   Label: Bis  
Catalog: 2343   Number of Discs: 1
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Schubert: Death And The Maiden, Etc / The Lydian Quartet
Release Date: 03/17/1995   Label: Centaur Records  
Catalog: 2186   Number of Discs: 1
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Schubert: Piano Trio Op 100, Etc / Kungsbacka Piano Trio
Release Date: 08/29/2006   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8555700   Number of Discs: 1
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Mozart: Divertimento K 563; Schubert: String Trio / Trio Zimmermann
Release Date: 12/21/2010   Label: Bis  
Catalog: 1817   Number of Discs: 1
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Schubert: 3 Sonatas for Violin & Piano / Chung, Lee
Release Date: 06/10/2016   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8573579   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Symphony no 5 in B flat major, D 485


1. Allegro
2. Andante con moto
3. Menuetto (Allegro molto)
4. Allegro vivace
About This Work
As a 19 year old in Vienna in 1816, Franz Schubert found his life something of a bore. His employment as an assistant master at his father's school could not have provided much fulfillment to one so talented and ambitious; further, his already Read more plentiful compositions remained virtually unknown outside his immediate circle. Still, any personal dissatisfaction Schubert might have felt apparently had little effect on his productivity, for in that year he put to paper some 125 songs and over 50 other works for chorus, orchestra, piano, and various chamber ensembles. One of the brightest spots in this virtual avalanche of music is the Symphony No. 5 in B flat major, completed on October 3.

In the Fifth Symphony, Schubert takes a step back from the dramatic affect of his "Tragic" Symphony of a few months earlier, instead producing a work that sparkles with the clarity and ease of its obvious models, the symphonies of Haydn and especially Mozart. The distance between Schubert's early instrumental music and later works like the "Great" Symphony in C major (1825-1828) or the String Quintet in C major (1828), finished just a few weeks before he died, is great; in most ways, the non-vocal works composed before 1820 are the products of an imagination still searching for the answers to questions it has posed to itself. Perhaps because it addresses a different set of challenges, the Fifth Symphony represents the composer's closest approach to complete mastery in the works of this period.

The usual four movements are all in place in the Fifth Symphony, played by an orchestra that, in keeping with the work's Classical tendencies, is rather smaller than the one called for in Schubert's previous symphony. There are no clarinets in the Fifth, no trumpets or timpani, and Schubert writes for just one flute rather than the then-customary pair. The symphony opens with an Allegro that is as lovely and streamlined a sonata-allegro as one might hope for. The first theme is preceded by a quaint, graceful four-measure introduction that reappears prominently in the development. The theme itself is a delightful notion affectionately tossed back and forth between the first violins and cellos and basses. Schubert indulges in one of his favorite sonata-form modifications in the movement: bringing the first theme back in the subdominant in the recapitulation, rather than in the expected tonic. The Andante con moto, in E flat major, grows from two contrasting (though not sharply contrasting) ideas whose back-and-forth results in a kind of rondo. The third movement is a Minuetto in G minor; its major-mode trio section is marked by an attractive lilt. The scampering main theme of the brilliant finale needs a true leggiero touch from the violins. The second theme is pure string quartet writing, a characteristic no amount of commentary from the winds can obscure.

-- Blair Johnston Read less

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