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its accompaniment, as we now have it, instantly flashed upon him and was
written down upon some staves hastily drawn across the back of a bill
of fare. In like manner, in the course of the same evening, he set to
music the drinking song in Antony and Cleopatra, and clothed with fresh
immortality the verses "Who is Sylvia" in the Two Gentlemen of Verona. In
its matchless perfection the Sylvia song would of itself suffice for a
composer's reputation. In such wise would Schubert often look through a
book, and come from its hasty perusal with a dozen or more new songs.

[Illustration: SCHUBERT'S BIRTHPLACE IN VIENNA. - From a photograph.]

It is in this astonishing spontaneity that Schubert's greatness largely
consists. In some elements of artistic perfection he is lacking, and
the want may be traced to some of the circumstances of his education.
His early teachers were simply overwhelmed by his genius and let him go
unguided. Holzer, as we have seen, whenever he wished to teach the boy
anything, found that the boy could teach him. So Ruzicka, instructor
in thorough-bass at the _Convict_, simply protested that Schubert must
have learned music directly from heaven, and he could do nothing for
him. Sir George Grove very properly asks, "If all masters adopted this
attitude toward their pupils, what would have become of some of the
greatest geniuses?" Schubert certainly suffered from defective knowledge
of counterpoint; after coming to maturity he recognized this defect
in his education and sought to remedy it by study. Herein he was at a
disadvantage compared with his younger contemporary Mendelssohn. Himself
a musician of extraordinary precocity and spontaneity, Mendelssohn became
thoroughly grounded in counterpoint under one of the best of teachers,
Zelter; and in all his works Mendelssohn shows that absolute mastery of
form, the lack of which is often noticeable in Schubert, especially in
his instrumental works. Upon this point we shall have occasion to make
some further comment. There can be little doubt that the worthy Ruzicka
would have done well had he given his wonderful pupil a careful training
in counterpoint. The heaven-sent music would have lost nothing of its
heavenly quality by enlarging its means of expression.

About the first of November, 1813, Schubert left the _Convict_ and studied
for awhile in the Normal School of St. Anna, in order to qualify himself
for a school-teacher. He escaped conscription by entering his father's
parish school, where he served three years as teacher and discharged the
monotonous and irksome duties of that position with scrupulous fidelity.
He still, however, found time for music. The compositions of the year
1814 show a marked advance in maturity. The most important is the first
mass, in F, a work that has been pronounced superior to the first mass of
any other composer except Beethoven's mass in C. Then we have the second
symphony, in B flat, the overture in Italian style for full orchestra,
five string quartets, eleven dances for strings and horns, and twenty-two
songs, more than half of them to Matthisson's words. Among the songs
"Gretchen am Spinnrade," to Goethe's words, is especially to be noted.

The record for the year 1815 is marvellous: - the third symphony, in D, the
second mass, in G, and the third, in B flat, one opera and six operettas,
a stabat mater, a salve regina, the string quartet in G minor, four piano
sonatas, thirty miscellaneous pieces for the piano, and one hundred and
thirty-seven songs! Among the larger of these works the mass in G merits
especial notice for its beauty. Among the songs are some of Schubert's
most famous, - "Heidenröslein," "Rastlose Liebe," the "Wanderer's
Nachtlied," the exquisite "Nähe des Geliebten," the Ossian songs, and
the magnificent Erl King. This most dramatic and descriptive of songs
was thrown off instantaneously in a fit of wild inspiration. Schubert
had just come upon Goethe's ballad, which he had not seen before; he had
read it two or three times and was dashing the music upon paper when his
friend Spaun came in and found him. It was all done in a few moments, the
rushing accompaniment and all; and that same evening it was sung at the
_Convict_ before Schubert's friends and devoted admirers, his old teachers
and fellow pupils. It was quite customary for Schubert to carry his new
compositions there to be tried, and he was wont to find warm sympathy and
appreciation. But the Erl King was received rather coldly, as will be
hereafter explained.

This year 1816 saw one hundred and thirty-one new compositions by
Schubert. Among these were the fourth or "Tragic" symphony, in C minor,
the fifth symphony, in B flat, an overture for full orchestra, a concerto
for violin and orchestra, a rondo for violin and string orchestra, one
string quartet, one string trio, seven pieces of dance music for piano,
three sonatinas for piano and violin, and other piano music. There was
an unfinished opera, "Die Bürgschaft," followed by four cantatas; one,
called "Prometheus," was the first work composed by Schubert for money;
it was written in a single day and the honorarium was one hundred florins
in Viennese currency; the occasion was the name-day of a certain Herr
Heinrich Watteroth, of Vienna. Another similar but slighter work was
composed in honor of Herr Joseph Spendon, chief inspector of schools;
a third was for Schubert's father; the fourth was for the occasion of
Salieri's jubilee hereafter to be mentioned. Among the sacred compositions
was a magnificat for solo and mixed voices with accompaniment of violin,
viola, hautboy, bassoon, trumpet, drum, and organ; the duetto "Auguste
jam Cœlestium" for soprano and tenor voices, accompanied by violins and
violoncello, double-bass, bassoon, and hautboy; the "Tantum ergo" for four
voices and orchestra; the fragment of a requiem in E flat; the "Salve
regina" for four voices and orchestra; and especially the noble "Stabat
mater" in F minor, one of the finest of Schubert's earlier contributions
to church music. Of this year's songs ninety-nine have been preserved,
including the Wanderer, the three songs of the Harper in "Wilhelm
Meister," Mignon's "Sehnsucht," and "Kennst du das Land," "Der König in
Thule," and "Jäger's Abendlied." These songs are remarkable for strength,
originality, and exquisite beauty. In the Wanderer, and "Wer nie sein Brod
mit Thränen ass," we find Schubert at an elevation which he afterward
scarcely surpassed.

It was Schubert's custom, from an early age, to have quartet parties at
his father's house on Sunday afternoons. When at the _Convict_ he used
to go home on Sundays for this purpose. As first arranged, the elder
Schubert used to play the 'cello, Ferdinand first violin, Ignaz second,
and Franz the viola. In those early days, if a wrong note was heard from
the 'cello, young Franz would modestly say, "Father, there must be a
mistake somewhere," and the hint was always well received. These Sunday
quartets were often joined by friends and neighbors. By degrees the number
of violins was increased, a double-bass and sundry wind instruments were
added, and the affair grew into an orchestra which could perform Haydn's
and Mozart's symphonies. Presently it became necessary to have the
performances in a larger house, and in this way two or three moves were
made, and the Orchestral Society of Amateurs was organized. Overtures
by Cherubini, Spontini, Boieldieu, and Méhul, and the first and second
symphonies of Beethoven were performed. It was for this Society that
Schubert wrote his fourth and fifth symphonies and other orchestral works.
In the autumn of 1820 the society broke down, as such societies are apt to
do, under its own weight. It became necessary to have a large public hall
for the meetings, and the expense thus entailed put an end to the pleasant
and instructive enterprise. There can be little doubt that it was of much
use to Schubert in giving him a chance to hear his own instrumental works
performed and criticised. To a young man of his extremely modest and
retiring disposition, moreover, the friendships thus formed were of much

Schubert was a man to whom friends became devotedly attached. He was
faithful and true, a man of thoroughly sound character, disinterested
and unselfish, without a particle of envy or jealousy about him. He won
affection without demanding it or seeming to need it. He was one of
those men whom one naturally and instinctively loves. Among his special
friends we have already mentioned Spaun. Toward the end of 1814 he became
acquainted with the poet Johann Mayrhofer, about ten years his senior,
and the acquaintance ripened into a life-long intimacy. Mayrhofer was
a man of eccentric nature, with a tinge of melancholy, possibly an
incipient symptom of the insanity which many years afterward drove him
to suicide. Perhaps the most interesting feature of his intimacy with
Schubert was the powerful influence which the latter's music exercised
upon the development of his poetical genius. It was under the spell of
Schubert's charm that Mayrhofer's best poems came to blossom; and many of
them were set to music by Schubert, among which "Erlasse," "Sehnsucht,"
"Nachtstück," "Die zürnende Diana," "Der Alpenjäger," "Der Schiffer," "Am
Strome," and "Schlummerlied" deserve especial mention.

Another of Schubert's friends, and the one who probably exerted the most
influence upon him, was Franz von Schober. Their acquaintance began at
a critical moment. After three years of faithful and conscientious work
in school-teaching, Schubert began to find the drudgery of his position
intolerable, and in 1816, as a public school of music was about to be
opened as an appendage to the normal school at Laybach, near Trieste,
he applied for the post of director. To appreciate the situation, we
must not fail to note the amount of the director's salary, five hundred
Viennese florins, or about one hundred dollars, a year! Such was the
coveted income to which the _alternative_ seemed to be for Schubert, in
Herr Kreissle's phrase, "an impecunious future." From Salieri and from
Spendon recommendations were obtained, such as they were. There was
nothing cordial in them, nothing to indicate that Schubert was a person
of greater calibre than a certain commonplace Jacob Schaufl who obtained
the appointment instead of him. Perhaps, however, they may only have
doubted Schubert's capacity for a position of executive responsibility.
It was at this juncture that young Schober came upon the scene, a student
in comfortable circumstances, about eighteen years of age, who came to
Vienna to continue his studies. He had fallen in with some of Schubert's
songs a year or two before, and had conceived an enthusiastic admiration
for the composer. When he found that the wonderful genius was a boy of
about his own age, wearing out his nerves in a school room, and yet
turning off divine music by the ream, he made up his mind to interpose. He
could at least offer a home, and he persuaded Schubert to come and occupy
his rooms with him. There Schubert began to give music lessons, but his
earnings do not seem to have been considerable or constant. With Schober
he remained a chum for some time, until the need of room for Schober's
brother, a captain of hussars, led to a temporary change. From 1819 to
1821 Schubert had rooms with his friend Mayrhofer. After 1821 he lived
nearly all the time with Schober until within a few weeks of his death.
Their acquaintances were in the main a set of fine, cultivated young men
who felt strong affection and respect for the inspired musician. Among
Schubert's songs we find several set to Schober's words, among which we
may mention "Pax vobiscum" and "Du holde Kunst, in wieviel grauen Stunden."

The third of the friends whose names are inseparably associated with
Schubert was not one of the circle of young men just referred to, but a
much older person. Johann Michael Vogl was nearly thirty years older than
Schubert. In his youth he had had some monastic training and had afterward
studied law and practised at the bar, but his rich baritone voice and
his love for music led him in time to become a public singer, and for
eight-and-twenty years he was a member of the German Opera Company. In
an epoch notable for its great dramatic singers he was rated high, not
so much for his vocal method as for the native quality of his voice and
his intelligent and sympathetic rendering of his parts. He was a learned
man, widely read in philosophy and theology, with a deeply religious
nature and an intense feeling for music, - not a bad sort of man to sing
Schubert's songs. It was in 1817 that Vogl first became aware of these
treasures. Schober pestered him to come and see his wonderful friend and
try some of his songs, but it was not the first time that this veteran
had heard of wonderful young men, and he did not want to be bored. After
a while, however, he called one evening, hummed through half a dozen
songs - among them "Ganymed" and "Des Schäfer's Klage" - and became more
and more interested. "Well, young man," he observed, on taking his leave,
"there is stuff in you, but you squander your fine thoughts instead of
making the most of them." But the more Vogl thought about the songs the
more they loomed up in his memory as strangely and wondrously beautiful.
He called again at the young composer's room, uninvited, found more
and more music which riveted his attention, and it was not long before
that house became one of his haunts. It was this intelligent and highly
cultivated singer who first made Schubert known beyond the limited circle
of his early friends and school-mates. People in the fashionable society
of Vienna made their first acquaintance with the Wanderer and the Erl
King as sung by Vogl's rich voice and in his noble style, with Schubert
himself at the piano. Presently this furnished a new career for Vogl. In
1821 circumstances led to the discontinuance of his work at the Opera
House, and he then began giving concerts, in which German _Lieder_ were
sung, and those of Schubert occupied a foremost place. In 1825 the two
friends made a little concert tour together in the Salzburg country and
Upper Austria. By that time the new songs were becoming famous, though
one serious obstacle to the wide diffusion of their popularity was the
want of singers able to grapple with their technical difficulties and to
express their poetical sentiment in an artistic manner. Operatic quips
and cranks and wanton flourishes would by no means answer the purpose.
Old conventional methods were of no use. A passage from Vogl's diary is
worth quoting in this connection for the glimpse it gives us of his fine
artistic intelligence: - "Nothing shows so plainly the want of a good
school of singing as Schubert's songs. Otherwise, what an enormous and
universal effect must have been produced throughout the world, wherever
the German language is understood, by these truly divine inspirations,
these utterances of a musical _clairvoyance!_ How many would have
comprehended, probably for the first time, the meaning of such expressions
as 'speech and poetry in music,' 'words in harmony,' 'ideas clothed in
music,' etc., and would have learned that the finest poems of our greatest
poets may be enhanced and even transcended when translated into musical
language! Numberless examples may be named, but I will mention only the
Erl King, Gretchen am Spinnrade, Schwager Kronos, the Mignon and Harper's
songs, Schiller's Sehnsucht, Der Pilgrim, and Die Bürgschaft."

[Illustration: Bauernfeld. Schubert. Kupelwieser. Beethoven. Betty
Fröhlich. Mayrhofer. Schwind. Spaun. Vogl. Grillparzer. Josephine
Fröhlich. Kathi Fröhlich.


_Reproduced from photograph of painting which does not represent
any historical scene, as Beethoven and Schubert never met amid such
surroundings. This grouping of Schubert's friends is made by poetical

No subsequent year of Schubert's life witnessed so great a number of
compositions as 1816. For the next year eighty-six compositions are given
in Sir George Grove's list. Of these fifty-two are songs, including many
of those set to Mayrhofer's words. The two songs to Schober's words, above
mentioned, came in this year. Special mention should also be made of the
"Gruppe aus dem Tartarus," to Schiller's words, and of "Lob der Thränen"
and "Die Forelle." "The Pilgrim" and "Ganymede" also belong to this time.
Of large compositions for piano there were the sonatas in E minor; B, Op.
147; A minor, Op. 164; F minor; and A flat; besides the sonata in A, Op.
162, for piano and violin. There were also the variations for piano on a
theme of Hüttenbrenner's; an adagio and rondo; two scherzos, and seventeen
dances for piano; a set of polonaises for violin; and a string trio. The
sixth symphony, in C, was written or finished in November, 1817, and
performed by the amateur orchestral company above described. There were
also three overtures, of which two, written in the Italian style, remind
us that 1817 was the year in which Rossini's operas, newly introduced to
Vienna, were received with wild enthusiasm. Schubert was altogether too
far above Rossini's plane of thought to feel such interest in his work as
he felt for the masterpieces of polyphonic composition. But he appreciated
highly the Italian's gift of melody, and with the assimilative power which
is wont to characterize great genius, he took hints from him which are
apparent not only in the two Italian overtures, but perhaps also in the
sixth symphony. Or in other words, as all creative work is influenced by
its environment, there was a discernible Rossini tinge in the atmosphere
which Schubert was for the moment breathing, and it has left its slight
traces upon a few of his compositions for that year, as upon the work of
less potent creators it left many and deep impressions.

The year 1818 witnessed the beginning of an episode in Schubert's life,
quite different in many respects from what had preceded. He was engaged by
Count Esterhazy to teach music in his family. There were two daughters,
Marie, aged thirteen, and Caroline, aged eleven, and a son aged five.
All were musically gifted, and their friend, Baron von Schönstein, was
a very accomplished singer. The engagement took Schubert to the Count's
country home in Hungary for the summer, while the winter season was
passed in Vienna. Schubert's intercourse with this amiable and cultivated
family was very pleasant, and in the course of it seems to have occurred
the nearest approach to a love affair that can be detected in his life.
Little Caroline Esterhazy was at the outset not at an age likely to evoke
the tender passion. But as time elapsed and she came to be seventeen or
eighteen years of age, it has been supposed that Schubert manifested
symptoms of having fallen in love with her. The evidence is slight, as
evidence is apt to be in such matters, in the absence of anything like
an overt declaration. The nearest that Schubert seems ever to have come
to such a declaration was once when Caroline in an innocent moment of
girlish coquetry asked him why, when he was dedicating so many delightful
works to other persons, he had never dedicated anything to her. Schubert
is said to have replied, "Why should I? Is not everything that I have
ever done dedicated to you already?" This anecdote does not go far as
proof. Question and answer might alike have been merely pleasant jesting.
Contemporary rumor, in the case of a man so shy and reserved on all
matters of deep feeling as Schubert, cannot be expected to tell us much.
The general impression about him was that he was almost insensible to
the charms of fair women. If this impression is to be taken as true, an
interesting question is suggested. How could a man who was never in love
have written that immortal Serenade in which all that is sweetest and most
sacred in the love of man for woman comes forth like a fresh breath from
heaven? Never was voice of love so passionate and so pure. Nowhere has
human art ever found more consummate and faultless expression than in this
song of songs. It could no more have come from a soul insensible to the
passion of love than figs can grow upon thistles. Probably therefore the
general impression about Schubert was due in the main to his reticence.
We have also to bear in mind that such a nature as his can find in
artistic creation a vent for emotional excitement strong enough to craze
the ordinary mind. We know how it was with Goethe, how the worst pains
of life were healed for him by being thrown off in passionate poetry.
This is quite intelligible. It is a special illustration of Shakespeare's
injunction: -

"Give sorrow words; the grief that cannot speak
Whispers the o'erfraught heart and bids it break."

This need for expression, felt by every human creature, appears in men
of profound and intense interior life as a creative impulse; it is
so not only with artists and poets, but in many cases with scholars,
philosophers, and scientific discoverers; the relief is found in giving
objective form to the thoughts that come welling up from the depths of the
spirit. But it is in art that creative expression most becomes in itself
an overmastering end, and especially in the two arts that give swiftest
and readiest outlet to emotion, in poetry and in music. Hence one of the
noblest functions of art, to be the consoler of the troubled soul, to
sink its individual sorrows in the contemplation of eternal beauty, to
bring weary and doubting humanity into restful communion with the divine
source of all its yearnings, in the faith that they have not been given
us for naught. If there ever was a soul thus sustained and comforted, it
was the pure and earnest soul of Schubert; the stream of song that flowed
from him was like the ecstatic but soothing and strengthening prayer of
the mediæval saint. One can see that this shy and sensitive young man,
somewhat inclined withal to self-depreciation, would not be quick to avow
a love which social conditions at any rate scarcely favored. He was son of
a peasant, Caroline Esterhazy was daughter of a count. Such a passion was
likely to seek relief in strains of music, as Dante's worship of Beatrice
found expression in verse. As the thought of Beatrice was in all that
Dante wrote, so the story of Schubert's momentary confession to Caroline
that all that he had sung was dedicated to her is in nowise improbable
in itself. There is a circumstance which invests it with a considerable
degree of probability. Shortly after Schubert's death his beautiful
Fantasia in F minor, Op. 103, was published with the inscription,
"Dedicated to the Countess Caroline Esterhazy by Franz Schubert," and Sir
George Grove rightly infers that the publishers would hardly have ventured
upon such a step "unless the manuscript - probably handed to them before
his death - had been so inscribed by himself." This is perhaps all that is
known concerning the question as to Schubert's love.

At the Esterhazy country-house Schubert seems at first to have felt more
at home in the kitchen than in the drawing-room. A letter to Schober,
written in September, 1818, says: - "The cook is a pleasant fellow; the
ladies' maid is thirty; the housemaid very pretty, and often pays me a
visit; the nurse is somewhat ancient; the butler is my rival; the two
grooms get on better with the horses than with us. The Count is a little
rough; the Countess proud, but not without heart; the young ladies good
children." It was not long before Schubert found himself a great favorite
with the whole household, from the count down to the grooms. From this
time until his death he was always welcome whenever he chose to come,
Baron von Schönstein, the singer already mentioned, had hitherto sung
nothing but Italian music, but he was now converted to the German Lied,
and for the rest of his life devoted himself to Schubert's songs, until
for his magnificent rendering of them he acquired a fame scarcely second
to Vogl.

During the winter seasons in Vienna, Schubert continued to give music
lessons in the Esterhazy family, but his home was apt to be in the
humble room with Mayrhofer, or afterwards again with Schober. He was
as regular with his work of composing music as Anthony Trollope with
his novel-writing or Sainte-Beuve with his "Causeries du Lundi." When
Ferdinand Hiller was about sixteen years old he made a visit to Vienna
and called upon Schubert. "Do you write much?" asked Hiller, - a question
which now sounds odd enough, and shows how little knowledge of the great

Online LibraryVariousFamous Composers and their Works, Vol. 2 → online text (page 15 of 32)