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haps the best description is that of Sir Julius Benedict,
who met Beethoven in 1823. Sir Julius writes : " Who
could ever forget those striking features ? The lofty
vaulted forehead, with thick grey and white hair en-
circling it in the most picturesque disorder ; that square
lion's nose, that broad chin, that noble and soft mouth.
Over the cheeks, seamed with scars from the smallpox,
was spread high colour. From under the bushy, closely-
compressed eyebrows flashed a pair of piercing eyes.
His thick-set Cyclopean figure told of a powerful frame."
But who does not know that rugged-looking figure,
which reminded Weber of King Lear ? Truly a noble
face, with " a certain severe integrity and passionate
power and lofty sadness about it, seeming in its eleva-
tion and wideness of expression to claim kindred with
a world of ideas out of all proportion to our own." In
the world's portraiture of great men there is nothing
exactly like it



FRANZ SCHUBERT:
THE MASTER OF THE LIED

Schubert, too, wrote for silence ; half his work
Lay like a frozen Rhine till summers came
That warmed the grass above him. Even so
His music lives now with a mighty youth.

GEORGE ELIOT.

LlSZT called Schubert " the most poetical musician
that ever was." Schumann was equally complimentary.
He said that " Schubert's pencil was dipped in moon-
beams and in the flame of the sun." Further, that
" Schubert has tones for the most delicate shades of
feeling, thoughts, even accidents and occurrences of life.
Manifold though the passions and acts of men may be,
manifold is Schubert's music. That which his eye sees,
his hand touches, becomes transformed to music."
These tributes are the more significant that musicians
are so seldom complimentary to each other.

The tributes are not exaggerated either. And that
makes us think the more how pitiful it is that Schubert,
like Mozart, should have such a pathetic biography.
" My music," he once said, " is the product of my genius
and my poverty, and that which I have written in my
greatest distress is what the world seems to like the



ii2 MASTER MUSICIANS

best." Alas ! that is too often the case. As the poet
has said, " the anguish of the singer makes the beauty
of the strain." No doubt if Schubert had ordered his
life more regularly, if he had not been the incorrigible
Bohemian that he was, he would have fared better in
every way. But in that case we might not have had all
that glorious music from him.

It is not without meaning that he is put into this
book after Beethoven. When Schubert was in his
teens, he sighed and said : " Who can do anything
after Beethoven ? " Beethoven is usually spoken of as
Schubert's contemporary, but he was Schubert's senior
by twenty-seven years. Beethoven had achieved fame
before Schubert began to compose at all. It would have
been no wonder, then, if a mere lad, however gifted,
had felt somewhat despairing, especially as he lived in
the same town with the great master, and was always
hearinghis praises sounded. Butto Schubert Beethoven
really acted as a stimulus. A sight of him at a concert
seems to have made a great and lasting impression on
the younger man, who not long after dedicated a set
of pianoforte variations to his hero. It is said that, shy
as he was, he took this piece to Beethoven's lodgings,
hoping for an interview, but whether he saw Beethoven
at that time is uncertain. We know at any rate that
during Beethoven's last illness a collection of Schubert's
songs was placed in his hands, and that Beethoven,
after examining them, exclaimed : " Truly, Schubert
possesses the divine fire. Some day he will make a
noise in the world." When Beethoven's death was just



FRANZ SCHUBERT 113

at hand, Schubert stood with others for a long while
round his bed. The invalid was told the names of his
visitors, and made feeble signs to them with his hands.
Of Schubert he said : " Franz has my soul." At this
Schubert left the room overcome with emotion, for his
veneration of Beethoven amounted to something like
worship. Then, at the funeral, Schubert was one of the
thirty-eight torchbearers who stood around the grave.
After the interment, he adjourned with friends to a
tavern, where he filled two glasses of wine, drinking the
first to the memory of Beethoven, and the second to the
memory of him who should soonest follow Beethoven
to the grave. " Heaven from all creatures hides the
book of Fate," says the poet. It was to the departure
of his own spirit, little as he can have suspected it, that
Schubert thus drank, for in less than two years he was
laid in that same cemetery with Beethoven, the two
separated by only three graves.

It is almost superfluous to say that Franz Schubert
came of a lowly stock, for genius seldom flowers in high
places. His grandfather was a Moravian peasant, and
his father was an assistant in a village school when he
married at nineteen. He married a cook, as the fathers
of Haydn and Beethoven had done. There were four-
teen children of the marriage, but nine of them died,
leaving four sons and one daughter. The sons all
became teachers, like their father, and the daughter
married a teacher.

Franz Schubert, the fourth son who survived, was
born on January 31, 1797. His father was then parish

I



114 MASTER MUSICIANS

schoolmaster at Lichtenthal, a suburb of Vienna. He
was a poor man, and could give his boy nothing more
than a good education. " When Franz was five years
old," he wrote, " I prepared him for elementary instruc-
tion, and at six I sent him to school. He was always
the first among his fellow-students." Franz showed the
ruling passion very early, and his father was able to help
him here too. He ground him in the elements of music
and taught him the violin so well that at eight he could
take his part in easy duets.

But Franz Schubert was one of those rare and lucky
individuals who seem to attain without any effort what
costs others much toil and trouble. No instructor could
keep pace with him. Holzer, the parish choirmaster,
to whom he was sent for singing lessons, declared many
times, with tears in his eyes, that he never before had
such a pupil. When he prepared to teach him anything,
he found that he had already mastered it. " He has
harmony in his little finger," he said. " I cannot claim
to have given him any lessons. I simply talked with
him and looked at him in silent amazement." One of
his brothers started to teach him the piano, and was
himself outstripped within a month. All the same,
Schubert was never a good pianist, any more than
Wagner. His short, stubby fingers were not made for
great dexterity on the keyboard. He once attempted
to play his own Fantaisie (Op. 15) to some friends.
After breaking down twice, he jumped from the piano
in a towering rage, exclaiming : " The devil himself
couldn't play such stuff." When he did play, however,



FRANZ SCHUBERT 115

he played with wonderful expression made the piano
sing like a bird, as some one said.

There could be only one future for such a boy. He
had a lovely treble voice, and so gained an easy entry
into the parish church choir, where, at the age of eleven,
he was both solo singer and solo violin. Then, in 1808,
his father got him a place in the choir school of the
Imperial Chapel, where he received a general as well as
a musical education. The other boy candidates, seeing
the fat, awkward little fellow, in his light-grey homespun
suit, took him for a miller's son and made fun of him.
But they repented of their impertinence when the
examiners called him up, and his clear pure voice rang
out in the well-known tunes.

Schubert's musical opportunities were now im-
mensely improved. There was a small orchestra in
the choir school, and by its performances he gradually
became acquainted with the works of the great masters.
At the very first practice he attracted the notice of the
leader, Von Spaun. Spaun heard behind him a violin
being played with unusual distinction, and on turning
round saw a little chap in spectacles. The two had a
talk at the end of the rehearsal. " I sometimes compose
music, but I cannot afford to buy paper ; do you think
you could help me ? " said Schubert to Spaun. Spaun
brought him some paper next day, and promised him
more. He little thought what he was letting himself
in for. At this time, and indeed all through his brief
career, Schubert's consumption of music paper was
something perfectly phenomenal.



u6 MASTER MUSICIANS

Just now he badly needed other things besides
music paper. A boys' school was not a paradise in
those days, even if the uniform was decorated with
gold lace. The youths were poorly fed, and Schubert
had a hearty appetite, with no money to supplement
the school fare. It is pathetically amusing to read his
plaints. Look, for instance, at the following letter to
his brother Ferdinand : " You know by experience
that a fellow would like at times a roll and an apple or
two, especially if, after a frugal dinner, he has to wait
for a meagre supper for eight hours and a half. The
few groschen that I receive from my father are always
gone to the devil the first day, and what am I to do
afterwards ? ' Those who hope will not be confounded,'
says the Bible, and I firmly believe it. Suppose, for
instance, you send me a couple of kreutzer a month ;
I don't think you would notice the difference in your
own purse, and I should live quite content and happy
in my cloister. St. Matthew says also that, ' Whoso-
ever hath two coats shall give one to the poor.' In the
meantime I trust you will lend your ear to the voice
crying to you incessantly to remember your poor
brother Franz, who loves and confides in you." Let
us hope that Ferdinand, who was a good fellow, gave
him what he asked for.

If Schubert was suffering physical hunger, he was
at least getting his musical hunger fairly appeased.
Very soon the school concert programmes were being
made up almost entirely of his works. Recitals of his
music were frequently given in his home, too, for



FRANZ SCHUBERT 117

brothers and father all played. His ear was quick to
detect an error, and he would say, with a modest
smile : " Herr Vater, you must be making a mistake
there." He was sent for harmony lessons to a musician
named Rucziszka. But here again the old story was
repeated. Rucziszka soon discovered that his pupil
knew more than himself. " God has been his teacher,"
he said. Then he went to Salieri, an Italian musician
who conducted the Imperial choir. Salieri had been
intimate with Mozart, and was falsely accused of
poisoning him. Schubert continued his lessons with
Salieri for a long time. But Salieri, too, was astounded
at his natural cleverness. " Schubert can do every-
thing," he exclaimed. " He is a genius. He composes
songs, masses, operas, string quartets, in fact anything
you like." And so he did.

At the choir school he neglected his general educa-
tion altogether in favour of music. His voice broke in
1813, and then, refusing an offer of further instruction
in the higher branches of learning, he left the school,
and faced the world, a youth of sixteen, with an income
to make for himself. Music was not to be thought
of as a profession just yet, for Schubert wanted to be
a composer, and publishers would not pay for works
by an untried hand. So Schubert went back to his
father's house and became his father's assistant
another Schubert schoolmaster. Perhaps in taking
this course he desired to escape service in the army,
from which the teaching profession was exempt. In
any case, three years of school work sufficed for



u8 MASTER MUSICIANS

Schubert. He performed his duties regularly and con-
scientiously, but the drudgery was unspeakably irk-
some to him. He was a nervous, irritable teacher, and
dull or obstinate children suffered severely at his hands.
Even for teaching music he was not suited by either
temperament or training, but at least he did not break
up the chairs as Beethoven did, or, like Chopin, when
things went wrong, start up and ask if a dog had been
barking.

Circumstances like those we have been considering
would not seem highly favourable for the fertilising
of musical inspiration. But it is a fact that as a com-
poser Schubert was as prolific when he was toiling
away in his father's school as at any period of his life.
It was then that he wrote some of his finest songs, and
there were also dramatic works, masses, symphonies,
and miscellaneous pieces in sufficient number to have
served as the life work of any ordinary artist. It was
now that he composed the song which first made his
name famous the " Erl King." Schubert had a per-
fect passion for German poetry, and set Schiller and
Goethe with a prodigality truly marvellous. Somebody
once said of him that if he had lived longer he would
have set the whole of German literature to music.

The story of the " Erl King " is worth telling.
Seated one afternoon in his little room, Schubert found
himself deep in the study of a volume of Goethe. He
came to the " Erl King," and as he read, every line
of the words seemed to flow into strange unearthly
music. The rushing sound of the wind and the terrors



FRANZ SCHUBERT 119

of the enchanted forest were instantly changed for
him into realities, and seizing a pen he dashed down
the song, as we have it now, in less time than an
expert would take to make a " fair " copy of it. And
here is as fitting a place as any other to say that
Schubert was prodigiously quick at composition.
Handel, Bach, Mozart, and Haydn wrote with ex-
treme rapidity, but nothing like Schubert. His ideas
flowed faster than he could set them down. He had
to read a poem only once or twice and its appropriate
musical expression came to him without further effort.
The biographers cite his record for 1815 in illustration.
That year he wrote half a dozen dramatic works, two
masses, two symphonies, a quantity of church and
chamber music, and nearly 150 songs. In one day
alone he composed seven songs. Think of the mere
labour of transferring all that to music paper. No
wonder Schubert sometimes failed to recognise his
own work. There is a story about a vocalist who once
tried over a Schubert song in the composer's presence.
" H'm ! pretty good song ; who wrote it ? " he asked.
And he wrote anywhere, too. Thus, he wrote his
beautiful morning song, " Hark ! hark ! the lark," on
the back of a bill of fare, amid all the stir and clatter
of a Viennese outdoor restaurant.

The " Erl King " was sung for the first time in
public in February 1819. Schubert had been trying
to get a publisher for it, but the publishers would not
look at it. The accompaniment was too difficult, they
said, and the composer was almost unknown. At



120 MASTER MUSICIANS

length the song was printed by subscription and pub-
lished on commission. A hundred copies were sub-
scribed for beforehand, and in nine months 800 copies
were sold.

This success proved the "entering wedge" for
Schubert. Publishers now began to have some faith
in the composer. He went on writing, and several of
his songs sold well. Had he been wise, he might now
have laid in a little fortune for himself. But he foolishly
parted with his compositions for the most trivial sums.
He gave one publisher over seventy songs, including
" The Wanderer," for 800 florins, and the firm, between
1822 and 1861, realised over 2700 florins from "The
Wanderer" alone. Some of the glorious songs in the
" Winterreise," composed in 1826, were actually thrown
away for less than a shilling apiece. In 1828 he got
only thirty florins for a piano quintet, and only twenty-
one florins for his splendid Trio in E flat.

There is a well-known anecdote bearing on this
Mozart-like helplessness and carelessness in business
matters. One of Schubert's boon companions was
Franz Lachner, afterwards music director at the Court
of Munich. Lachner took advantage of a fine summer
morning to ask Schubert to join a party of friends who
were going to make a trip into the country. Schubert
wished very much to accept, but having no money,
had to refuse. Lachner being also hard up, it made
the case very embarrassing. So Schubert gave Lachner
a portfolio of manuscript songs, asking him to sell
them ; for, he added, he had been so often to the pub-




SCHUBERT



HANKSTABNGL COLLECTION



FRANZ SCHUBERT 121

lisher that he dared not go again. The publisher proved
very angry, exclaiming, "More of Schubert's stuff!"
and stating very seriously that no one would buy
Schubert's songs. Finally, however, he gave way, and
bought all the manuscripts for five florins ! Very
happy, the two friends went on their trip, and finding
a spinet at the inn at which they stopped, Schubert
improvised some more songs, of which he received
the inspiration on the road. This was Franz Schubert
all over.

But we must get back to our narrative. We are to
consider Schubert liberated from school drudgery. This
he owed directly to a young Swede of some means,
Franz von Schober, who invited Schubert to come and
live with him, and pursue his art freely and uninter-
ruptedly. Schober was the best and most useful patron
he ever had. How happy he felt himself now may be
gathered from a letter he addressed to his brother
Ignaz, who was chafing under his toils as a teacher.
Ignaz wrote in reply : " You fortunate man ! How
you are to be envied ! You live in a sweet golden
freedom ; can give your musical genius free rein, can
express your thoughts as you please ; are loved, ad-
mired, idolized, while the rest of us are devoted, like
so many wretched beasts of burden, to all the brutalities
of a pack of wild youth, and, moreover, must be sub-
servient to a thankless public, and under the thumb
of a stupid priest."

Schober was able to introduce Schubert to several
influential artists, who were likely to be of use to him



122 MASTER MUSICIANS

in bringing his compositions before the world. Most
notable among them was the baritone singer Vogl,
who did much to popularise his lieder. Another help-
ful friend was the poet Mayrhofer, who wrote the words
of several of his songs. Mayrhofer and Schubert lived
together for two years, and it is the poet (who, by the
way, became insane, and committed suicide) who tells
us how they lived. " It was in a gloomy street. House
and room had suffered from the tooth of time ; the
roof was somewhat sunken, the light cut off by a great
building opposite ; a played-out piano, a small book-
case such was the room which, with the hours we
spent there, can never pass from my memory."

Schubert was quite happy, even under these seem-
ingly uncongenial conditions. Still, he was not making
money; so when, in 1818, he was offered the post of
music-master in the house of Count John Esterhazy,
of the family whom Haydn had served, he eagerly
accepted it. This meant a winter home in Vienna and
a summer home in Hungary. But Schubert was a town
man, and he liked being away from Vienna as little
as Dr. Johnson liked being away from Fleet Street.
However, he found compensations even in the country.
Thus he writes of the household in which he is en-
gaged : "The cook is rather jolly; the ladies'-maid
is thirty ; the housemaid very pretty, often quite social ;
the nurse a good old soul ; the butler my rival. The
Count is rather rough ; the Countess haughty, yet with
a kind heart ; the Countesses nice girls." The Count-
esses were his young pupils. It is said that he cherished



FRANZ SCHUBERT 123

a hidden passion for the youngest, Caroline, a girl of
eleven when he first knew her.

Schubert was never a ladies' man, and this is the
only affair of the heart in which he was concerned. It
is rather curious, considering that he had the poetic and
imaginative qualities so profusely developed. But then
he was so awkward and so shy ; and, besides that, he
was not personally attractive. His leading biographer
says he was under the average height, round-backed
and round-shouldered, with plump arms and hands.
He had a round and puffy face, low forehead, thick
lips, bushy eyebrows, and a short, turned -up nose.
His eyes were fine, but they were hidden by spectacles,
which he wore even in bed. What hope could such a
man have of winning fair lady, and a Countess, too,
no less ? Of course Caroline Esterhazy could not marry
a poor musician in any case. But it is clear that, as
she grew up, she came to realise something of Schu-
bert's feelings toward her. She once asked him why
he did not dedicate one of his compositions to her.
" What would be the use ? " he said. " All that I do is
dedicated to you." The old flame kept burning in his
heart to the last, but Caroline Esterhazy soon forgot.

Schubert's connection with the Esterhazys continued
intermittently for several years. His material needs
were fairly satisfied ; but his professional prospects
somehow refused to brighten. True, his songs were
making an impression ; but he wanted to do bigger
things operas, and symphonies, and the like and mer-
cenary managers and publishers would venture nothing



124 MASTER MUSICIANS

unless assured of a substantial profit. Naturally jovial
and optimistic, Schubert was not easily cast down, but
ill-luck, combined with a monotonous existence, at
length weighed on his spirits and hurt his health. " I
feel myself the most unhappy, the most miserable man
on earth," he writes ; " a man whose most brilliant
hopes have come to nothing ; whose enthusiasm for
the beautiful threatens to vanish altogether." He de-
clares that he goes to sleep every night, hoping never
to waken again. In one letter he says : " Picture to
yourself a man whose health can never be re-established,
who from sheer despair makes matters worse instead
of better ; picture to yourself, I say, a man whose most
brilliant hopes have come to nothing, to whom the happi-
ness of proffered love and friendship is but anguish,
whose enthusiasm for the beautiful (an inspired feel-
ing at least) threatens to vanish altogether, and then
ask yourself if such a condition does not represent a
miserable and unhappy man?" Beethoven used to
write like that, too, but though his condition was more
pitiable, he bore his misfortunes with more dignity. He
still retained faith in his art, and that sustained him.

Nothing occurred for a time to mark the course of
Schubert's life beyond the appearance of fresh com-
positions. He made applications for several fixed
appointments, but was always defeated. Even if he had
been successful, it is doubtful if his inherent love of
change, his independent spirit, and his free untutored
manner would have allowed him to keep a routine post
for any length of time. In any case, it mattered little



FRANZ SCHUBERT 125

now, for the end was approaching. The old experience
was about to be repeated. Publishers were becoming
more pleasant and encouraging, and money was com-
ing in a little more freely. But it was too late.

In 1827 Beethoven died, and we have seen what
was Schubert's part in that connection. One evening
in the October of 1828, when supping with some friends
at a tavern, he suddenly threw down his knife and fork,
protesting that the food tasted like poison. His nerves
had become overstrained, the constitution was under-
mined. They got him home, and he took to his bed,
feeling, as he said, no actual pain, but great weakness
and depression. Shortly after, he wrote to his kind
friend Schober : " I am ill. I have neither eaten nor
drunk anything for eleven days, and shift, weak and
weary, from my chair to my bed and back again."
This could not last. The illness assumed a graver
form, and there was a consultation of doctors. " What
is going to happen to me ? " he plaintively asked his
brother Ferdinand. Delirium set in. He imagined that
Beethoven was in the room ; then he imagined that his
quarters were changed, and he was miserable because
Beethoven was not there. Then, temporarily recover-
ing his senses, he turned to the doctor and said, slowly
and earnestly, " Here is my end." With that he shifted
in bed, turning his face to the wall. And so, on the ipth
of November 1828, this greatest of lyric geniuses went
out into the Eternal Silence, dead at the early age of
thirty-one.

What followed is almost too sad to tell. It is cal-



iz6 MASTER MUSICIANS

culated that Schubert had never made more than 100
a year. At any rate, he died leaving not enough to pay
the expenses of his funeral. His father and the rest of
the family were poor enough too. It cost seventy florins
to remove the body to Wahring cemetery "a large
sum, a very large sum," said brother Ferdinand, " but


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Online LibraryJ. Cuthbert (James Cuthbert) HaddenMaster musicians; a book for players, singers and listeners → online text (page 8 of 17)