Franz Schubert

Biography

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

Schubert: Piano Sonatas in A Major & A Minor,
Release Date: 07/08/2014   Label: Dux Records  
Catalog: 930   Number of Discs: 1
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Schubert: Symphony No 8; Brahms: Symphony No 3 / Davis
Release Date: 04/26/2011   Label: Profil  
Catalog: 8043   Number of Discs: 1
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Schubert: Winterreise / Gerald Finley, Julius Drake
Release Date: 03/11/2014   Label: Hyperion  
Catalog: 68034   Number of Discs: 1
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Beethoven:
Release Date: 01/28/2014   Label: Idi  
Catalog: 6678   Number of Discs: 1
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Schubert / Bertrand Chamayou
Release Date: 02/25/2014   Label: Erato  
Catalog: 2564637078   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Ave Maria

 

About This Work
This song is a setting of text from near the closing of Canto III from Sir Walter Scott's The Lady of The Lake, in a translation by Adam Storck. It was composed in April, 1825, when Schubert also fashioned Ellens Gesang I and Ellens Gesang II. This Read more third effort is probably the most successful and most popular. Even the composer spoke of its immediate widespread appeal in a letter to his parents in July, 1825, shortly after its first performances. He also indicated that he felt a certain religious devotion when he wrote it, one that came to him naturally and effortlessly. Ellens Gesang III was first published in 1826.

The melody of Ellens Gesang III (Ellen's Song) is attractive and the mood has both a secular and religious feel, at times an even operatic one. The piano accompaniment is gentle and harp-like, quite typical of the composer in this kind of music. The text begins, "Ave Maria! Maiden mild! Listen to a maiden's prayer!" Ellen prays as the clansmen are encouraged to defend their soil from the oncoming royal armies.

In the end, this is one of the composer's most successful songs, written at a time when he was at the height of his powers. Even though his life was cut short when he died before his thirty-second birthday, probably of syphilis he had contracted some years before, he had already become one of the greatest masters of the lied and might have gone on, as his "Great" C major Symphony suggests, to become an equally great composer of orchestral music.

-- Robert Cummings Read less

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