About this Recording

Chill with Schubert

Schubert’s story is one of the most poignant and touching of all composers. He embodied the Romantic ideal. He was a brilliant prodigy entirely consumed by his art. He lived a hand-to-mouth existence in Vienna (home of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven) and died at the tender age of 31 in poverty, his genius unrecognised. He was a prolific composer, penning almost 1000 works in his short life including 600 songs and nine symphonies. He had a phenomenal gift for melody, exemplified in this selection of music for Chill with Schubert.

Franz Schubert, born in 1797, was the fourth surviving child of 14. His musical abilities were fostered as a chorister in the Imperial Chapel, a position that brought with it the chance of a good education at the Staatskonvikt and also an association with the old Court Kapellmeister Antonio Salieri, whose influence on him was considerable. In 1812 his voice broke. He was faced with a choice between music and academic study, and he chose to leave. In 1814 he entered a school for the training of teachers. His father's school was, after all, the customary family business, demanding the assistance of his sons. In 1815 he began work as an assistant to Franz Theodor, only to abandon both home and career the following year.

Schubert’s childhood had been dominated by music. He played the piano and the violin, and there was a family string quartet. At school he had led the student orchestra and acquired close familiarity with contemporary repertoire. Above all, though, he wrote songs, settings of words by famous poets or by writers who had become his friends.

In 1816, at the age of 19, Schubert left home to live with his friend Franz von Schober. A year later he was home again at his father's new school. In 1818, after serving as music teacher to the daughters of Prince Esterházy in Hungary, he returned to Vienna to share rooms with another friend, the poet Mayrhofer, later moving back once more to his father's school-house. He was to return briefly to Hungary for part of the summer of 1824, at a time when his health had been seriously impaired by the venereal infection that was to cause his death in 1828.

During his brief life Schubert enjoyed the friendship of a circle of young poets, artists and musicians, many of them dependent on other employment for a living. He never held any official position in the musical establishment, nor was he a virtuoso performer, as Mozart and Beethoven had been. Schubert, by the time of his death, seemed only to have started to make an impression on a wider public. Much of what he had written had proved eminently suitable for intimate social gatherings. His larger scale works were often to be played by amateurs, since he never had at his disposal a professional orchestra, nor, in general, had he or his friends the means to hire one. The only public concert devoted to his work was given in Vienna nine months before his death. The venture, supported generously by members of Schubert's circle, was financially successful and in the same year publishers started to show a more active interest in music, much of which was to have a strong appeal in a period that saw a considerable development in domestic musicmaking.

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