Franz Peter Schubert was a composer during the late classical/early romantic period. He was born on the 31st January 1797 near Vienna in Austria. A prolific composer, he wrote more than 600 secular vocal pieces and many symphonies, operas, piano and chamber music, sacred music and incidental music.
Schubert was born into a large family. He was the 12th born child. 2 more children followed, however, out of the 14 children, 9 sadly died in infancy. He was musically gifted from when he was very young. He received his first music lesson from his father when he was 5 years old. He was also given piano lessons from his older brother. He soon became a better pianist than his brother! Violin lessons from his father followed when he was 8 years old. He could soon play duets. He then received further lessons from organist and choirmaster Michael Holzer, who was very impressed.
When he was 11 years old in 1808, he gained a choir scholarship and enrolled at the Stadkonvikt School. He was introduced to the works of Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn, who became influential to him. He was often allowed to lead the school orchestra and this was the initial one he composed for. He spent a lot of time while here composing piano pieces, songs, chamber music and choral works. He left in 1813 and went back to live with his father. He decided he wanted to follow his father’s footsteps and become a schoolteacher and started training at St Anna Normal-Hauptschule. Concurrently, he continued studying composition and writing pieces. After completing his studies, he gained a teaching post in 1814 at his father’s school.
1815 was a busy year composing-wise, mostly for orchestra, but also a symphony, songs and pieces for church. He continued to teach in school and earn extra money by giving private music lessons. However, he was discontented with his work as a teacher. The year after, he applied to be the kapellmeister at Laibach, now Ljubljana, Slovenia. He was unsuccessful and decided not to continue teaching at his father’s school. He continued to compose one piece after another and give private music lessons.
1817 saw Schubert’s father moving jobs to a school in Rossau. Schubert reluctantly took up a teaching post here too. It was early the next year when he first applied to attend Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. He thought it was a good way to have his compositions performed. However, his application was rejected because he was allegedly ‘no amateur.’ His works started to gain him more notice in the public eye and an overture that was performed in February 1818 was received highly positively.
In the summer of this year, he gained employment with the family of Count Johann Karl Esterházy as their music teacher. He was well paid and alongside teaching signing and piano to the children, he was able to continue to compose. He then managed to gain a place at the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in 1821. As a performing member, he managed to establish his name and his reputation grew. As a result, his works were included in 3 major concerts.
He continued to write into 1822. He completed Mass In A-flat major and later began his Symphony in B minor, which he left unfinished. 1825 was a happy year for Schubert. He was very prosperous and his works were being published. A notable composition this year was Ellens Dritter Gesang. This was part of his Op.52, which is a setting of a songs based on the poem The Lady of the Lake by Walter Scott. It often goes by the title Ave Maria and is one of Schubert’s most popular compositions. It was arranged for brass band by James McFadyen in 2007.
In 1826, Schubert composed his Great C major symphony and dedicated this to Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. In return, he received an honorarium. The following year, he wrote many songs, including Winterreise.
He gave his only concert of his own compositions on the 26th March 1828. This was very well received and he profited well from it. He was even able to buy himself a piano! However, his health was already failing by this point and he went to live with his brother. Franz Schubert died of typhoid fever on the 19th November 1828 at the young age of only 31. He was buried not far from Beethoven, in Währing village cemetery.
A memorial was put up in 1872 in Vienna’s city park. It was decided in 1888, to move his and Beethoven’s graves to Vienna Central Cemetery, where they lay next to composers Strauss and Brahms. The cemetery where Schubert was originally buried, was turned into a park in 1925 and named after him. A bust marks the location of his previous grave. He leaves a legacy of over 1500 compositions despite his short life. His music has been used in such films as Fantasia and Carrington.