At the time of writing there are sixty articles on this website, in no particular order, each concerning some aspect of Franz Schubert's life and work. Our jumps around this material may well be confusing or dispiriting for visitors with only a fleeting acquaintance with him.

This page presents a compact summary of Schubert's life, a thematic list of our articles about him and a list of our articles about Schubert's work. We hope this will be a useful orientation and starting point for those new to Schubert.

Overview

Franz Schubert was born on 31 January 1797 in Vienna and died there, aged 31, on 19 November 1828. Apart from two (1818, 1824) summer stays in the country house of the Esterházys in Zseliz, 230 km due east from Vienna (in present-day Slovakia), he never travelled outside Austria.

Schubert's mother Elisabeth Vietz (1756-1812) and his father Franz Theodor Schubert (1763-1830) both grew up in the rural lands of Moravia (now the Czech Republic) north-east of Vienna.

Franz Theodor's father, Carl Schubert (1723-1787), was a flax farmer, Elisabeth's father, Franz Johann Vietz (1720-1772?) was a tradesman (we believe). Independently, Franz Theodor and his older brother Karl (1755-1804) made their way to the imperial capital Vienna, as did the Vietz family.

Franz Theodor and Karl became teachers. The two brothers from Moravia ended up marrying the two Vietz sisters from Moravia, Elisabeth and Magdalena (1763-1829). Karl fades out of the story after his early death in 1804.

Franz Theodor took over a school in the Himmelpfortgrund district in the Liechtenthal suburb of Vienna. Elisabeth bore 15 children between 1783 and 1801, ten of whom died in infancy or childhood. Franz Peter Schubert was the 13th child in the series. He grew up in the cramped quarters above the Himmelpfortgrund schoolhouse with three older brothers Ignaz (1785-1844), Ferdinand (1794-1859) and Karl (1795-1855) and a younger sister Maria Theresia (1801-1878). Franz would not have been directly aware of the dead infants who had gone before him.

His mother died in 1812 when he was 15 years old of the same malady that would eventually kill him. His father married again a year later in 1813. Relations between Franz and his stepmother seem to have been good.

The family was musically inclined and Franz Peter's particular talents emerged at a young age.

His father devised a scheme to use his musical ability to get him a good, free education. With the help of his father's grooming, his exceptional voice and his musical skills in 1808 the 11 year-old Franz Peter won a place as one of the Austrian Emperor's ten Sängerknaben, boy choristers, in the court chapel. This entitled him to paid board in the Vienna Stadtkonvikt and a paid education in the Akademisches Gymnasium, the school run by the Piarist religious order.

He had an extensive musical education during his school years and after 1812 was tutored by the famed Antonio Salieri (1750-1825).

After his voice broke he might have been able to continue his studies, but he decided that he would rather make his own way in the world.

It is not so much what you know as who you know: a good school not only gives the child a good education but also supplies the child with the friends and acquaintances that will be helpful in later life. The people whom he met in the Stadtkonvikt, some of whom were university students boarding there, would form the basis for the so-called 'Circles of Friends' – educated and talented companions who would become an important feature of his life.

He left the school, 16 years-old, in September of 1813 and took a teaching certificate which qualified him as an assistant teacher. He had his board and earned a meagre crust working for his father. It was during this time, 1814-1817, that he composed many of his songs. In all, during the around one dozen years of his adult life, he composed more than 600 songs to a wide range of texts, some excellent, some terrible.

He is particularly renowned for the two ground-breaking song cycles he composed on the basis of poems by the German writer Wilhelm Müller (1794-1827), Die schöne Müllerin (1824) and Winterreise (1827).

He was also a versatile and prolific composer of works for the piano and instrumental combinations. His prodigious compositional output overwhelmed the Viennese music publishers, meaning that at his death much of his work was still unpublished. Much of his orchestral and chamber music never achieved a performance, much of his piano works ditto. His songs were mostly known through performances at private events, most notably the Schubertiaden, the evening entertainments for a particular circle of Viennese society.

His immense productivity continued throughout his short adult life, despite contracting syphilis in early 1823, recovering after a couple of years but then suffering lingering ill-health until his death at 31 year-old in 1828.

Schubert's rejection of a typical career in favour of the life of an independent composer, which so horrified his practical father, somehow paid off. He survived as a freelance artist in a feudal society which was based on job, position, family and status. He did this with great determination and fortitude. He was an exceptional composer and an exceptional character who made his own way swimming against the tide of an exceptional age.

He was born in insignificance and died almost in insignificance and remained insignificant for about thirty years after his death. Only then did he begin to receive the attention he deserves.

This website concentrates on two aspects of Schubert studies: 1) the historical and social background of Schubert's life and 2) the examination and interpretation of the texts behind some of Schubert's song compositions. With a few exceptions, we leave left Schubert's instrumental and operatic work untouched. Hence our content is shown in two separate lists.

Articles about Schubert's life and times

Biographical
Before Schubert: the ancestors who made him possible.
Franz Peter Schubert's family
Schubert: from child to musical genius
The Schubert trajectory: a broad-brush biography
Franz Schubert dodges the draft
Schubert's only concert
Rolling the bacterial dice in Old Vienna
Schubert's downward spiral, 1827
Gay days in Old Vienna?
The death of Franz Schubert
The social and historical context
The Jacobin Conspiracy
The other Spaun: Joseph's turbulent uncle
Franz's belljar
Schubert the insignificant
Chillin' with the Kinskys
Zseliz
Franz Schubert below stairs (Zseliz 1818)
Franz Schubert's 'Mensch' (a footnote to Zseliz 1818)
Franz Schubert in search of lost time (Zseliz 1824)
Friends and others
Who is Schober? what is he?
Schubert's friend Johann Senn
The Atzenbrugg enlightenment
Schubert's appearance
Will the real Schubert please stand up?
Not a portrait of Franz Schubert
Another Schubert portrait turns up
Schubert portrait Whac-A-Mole
Miscellaneous
How many people listen to Schubert's music these days?

Articles about Schubert's work

The articles are listed in the order of the number of the work in the Deutsch Werkverzeichnis, the catalogue of works created by the Schubert scholar Otto E. Deutsch. Generally speaking, these numbers also represent an approximate chronological order.

D-number Title Text author
99/162 Nähe des Geliebten Goethe
118 Gretchen am Spinnrade Goethe
225 Der Fischer Goethe
257 Heidenröslein Goethe
300 Der Jüngling an der Quelle Salis-Seewis
550 Die Forelle (inkblot) Schubart
550/667 Die Forelle, song and quintet Müller/—
759 Unfinished Symphony
768 Ueber allen Gipfeln Ist Ruh' Goethe
774 Lied auf dem Wasser zu singen Stolberg
775 Dass sie hier gewesen Rückert
776 Du bist die Ruh 1 Rückert
776 Du bist die Ruh 2 Rückert
795.1-20 Die schöne Müllerin Müller
795.2 Wohin Müller
839 Ave Maria Scott
881 Fischerweise Schlechta
904 Alinde Rochlitz
909 Jägers Liebeslied Schober
911.1-24 Winterreise Müller
911.23 Die Nebensonnen (Winterreise) Müller
920 Ständchen (Zögernd leise) Grillparzer
939 Die Sterne Leitner
940 Fantasy in F minor for four hands
952 Fugue at midnight
957.1-7 Schwanengesang Rellstab
957.8-13 Schwanengesang Heine
957.8-13 Die Heimkehr: the Heine poems that Schubert didn't set Heine

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