October 22, 2021 update on live performances and events at the NAC.
Franz Schubert |

Franz Schubert


Franz Schubert (1797–1828)

During his remarkably short life, Austrian composer Franz Peter Schubert was enormously prolific, and made important contributions to vocal music (most notably, the German lied), piano music, chamber music, and orchestral music. For his instrumental music in particular, he drew on the techniques of Haydn, Mozart, and later, Beethoven, while shaping them to convey new depths of emotional expression. Among the hallmarks of his idiosyncratic compositional style are unexpected key changes and novel harmonic juxtapositions, looser formal structures, and lyrically expansive melodies.

Born in Vienna on January 31, 1797, Schubert took his first lessons in piano, violin, singing, and organ during his childhood. His talent for composing was already evident in his earliest surviving works—including string quartets and his first symphony—written at age 13. However, given the precariousness of a career as an independent composer, he became certified as a teacher and took a position at his father’s school. Even with the full-time demands of the job, he continued to compose, and was startingly productive; by 1816, not yet 20 years of age, he had written over 300 solo songs, five symphonies, four Singspiele (a type of German opera), seven string quartets, and numerous smaller works. Yet, public recognition of his work by way of performances and publications did not develop until after 1817.

By 1822, Schubert was thriving as a professional composer. His extraordinary output, achieved through a demanding work schedule, was matched by a hedonistic and likely promiscuous social life that he pursued with equal intensity. In early 1823, he began showing symptoms of syphilis, the physical manifestations of which led him to become increasingly reclusive. His musical work, however, continued unabated, and in what would be the last four years of his life, he completed several significant masterpieces, including the String Quartet in D minor (“Death and the Maiden”), the Ninth Symphony (“the Great”), the Piano Sonata in D Major, and the song cycle Die Winterreise. Schubert died in Vienna on November 19, 1828. Most of his vast catalogue of compositions only came to light after his death.


Link(s) to composer portrait/headshot: