Franz Schubert (1797–1828) was an Austrian romantic composer and although he died at the age of 31, he was a prolific composer, having written some 600 lieder and nine symphonies. At age 10, the young Schubert won a place in the Vienna Imperial Court chapel choir and quickly gained a reputation as a budding composer with a set of facile string quartets.
After leaving chapel school and having completed the year’s mandatory training, Schubert followed his father into the teaching profession. This was at once a calamitous move and a blessing, for it was Schubert’s deep loathing of the school environment that finally lit the touchpaper of his creative genius. The same year he began teaching – 1814 – he produced his first indisputable masterpiece, ‘Gretchen am Spinnrade’ (‘Gretchen at her spinning wheel’).
While Schubert was still struggling to hold down his full-time teaching post, he not only composed 145 lieder (songs), the Second and Third Symphonies, two sonatas and a series of miniatures for solo piano, two mass settings and other shorter choral works, four stage works, and a string quartet, in addition to various other projects. This period of intense creative activity remains one of the most inexplicable feats of productivity in musical history.
Musical soirees known as Schubertiads became all the rage, during which Schubert might sing some of his own songs while accompanying himself at the piano.
With little money and nothing much more than his ‘groupies’ to support him, Schubert began to produce a seemingly endless stream of masterpieces that for the most part were left to prosperity to discover, including the two great song cycles, Die Schone Mullerin and Winterreise, the Eighth (‘Unfinished’) and Ninth (‘Great’) Symphonies, the Octet for Wind, the last three string quartets, the two piano trios, the String Quintet, the ‘Wanderer’ Fantasy and the last six sonatas for solo piano.
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