Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Overture in F major, Op. 34, D. 675 Fantasie in F minor,Op. 103, D. 940 Deutscher with Trios and Two Landler, D. 618 Variations onan Original Theme, Op. 82 No. 2, D. 968a
Trois Marches hero?»ques, Op. 27, D. 602
Franz Schubert was born in Vienna in 1797, the son of aschoolmaster, and spent the greater part of his short life in the city. Hisparents had settled in Vienna, his father moving there from Moravia in 1783 tojoin his schoolmaster brother at a school in the suburb of Leopoldstadt andmarrying in 1785 a woman who had her origins in Silesia and was to bear himfourteen children. Franz Schubert was the twelfth of these and the fourth tosurvive infancy. He began to learn the piano at the age of five, with the helpof his brother Ignaz, twelve years his senior, and three years later started tolearn the violin, while serving as a chorister at Liechtental church. Fromthere he applied, on the recommendation of Antonio Salieri, to join theImperial Chapel, into which he was accepted in October 1808, as a chorister nowallowed to study at the Akademisches Gymnasium, boarding at the Stadtkonvikt,his future education guaranteed.
During his schooldays Schubert formed friendships that hewas to maintain for the rest of his life. After his voice broke in 1812, he wasoffered, as expected, a scholarship to enable him to continue his generaleducation, but he chose instead to train as a primary school teacher, whiledevoting more time to music and, in particular, to composition, the art towhich he was already making a prolific contribution. In 1815 he joined hisfather as an assistant teacher, but showed no great aptitude or liking for thework. Instead he was able to continue the earlier friendships he had formed atschool and form new acquaintances. His meeting in 1816 with Franz von Schoberallowed him to accept an invitation to live in the latter's apartment, anarrangement that relieved him of the necessity of earning his keep in theschoolroom. In August 1817 he returned home again, when room was needed bySchober for his dying brother, and resumed his place, for the moment, in theclassroom. The following summer he spent in part at Zseliz in Hungary as musictutor to the two daughters of Count Johann Karl Esterhazy von Galanta, beforereturning to Vienna to lodge with a new friend, the poet Johann Mayrhofer, anarrangement that continued until near the end of 1820, after which Schubertspent some months living alone, now able to afford the necessary rent.
By this period of his life it seemed that Schubert was onthe verge of solid success as a composer and musician. Thanks to his friends,in particular the older singer Johann Michael Vogl, Leopold von Sonnleithnerand others, his music was winning an audience. There was collaboration withSchober on a new opera, later rejected by the Court Opera, but in otherrespects his name was becoming known as a composer, beyond his immediatecircle. He lodged once again with the Schobers in 1822 and 1823 and it was atthis time that his health began to deteriorate, through a venereal infectionthat was then incurable. This illness overshadowed the remaining years of hislife and was the cause of his early death. It has been thought a directconsequence of the dissolute way of life into which Schober introduced him andwhich for a time alienated him from some of his former friends. The followingyears brought intermittent returns to his father's house, and a continuation ofsocial life that often centred on his own musical accomplishments and of hisintense activity as a composer. In February 1828 the first public concert ofhis music was given in Vienna, an enterprise that proved financiallysuccessful, and he was able to spend the summer with friends, includingSchober, before moving, in September, to the suburb of Wieden to stay with hisbrother Ferdinand, in the hope that his health might improve. Social activitiescontinued, suggesting that he was unaware of the imminence of his death, but atthe end of October he was taken ill at dinner and in the following days hiscondition became worse. He died on 19th November.
In the summer of 1819 Schubert had accompanied Vogl on avisit to Steyr and to Linz, an excursion that had its direct musical result inthe Trout Quintet, written for friends in the former town. In Vienna again hebegan in November his fifth setting of the Mass and completed settings of poemsby Goethe and Schiller. It was the same period that probably saw thecomposition of the piano duet Overture in F major, D. 675, the only one of hisfour duet overtures that was not a transcription of an orchestral work. TheOverture starts in F minor with a strongly marked dramatic Adagio, before anAllegro that introduces the principal thematic material, leading to a rapidconcluding passage in a furious 6/8 metre. The work was published in 1825 asthe composer's opus 34.
The very much more substantial Fantasie in F minor, D. 940,was written between January and April in 1828, the last year of Schubert'slife, and published posthumously the following year as opus 103. It wasdedicated to Caroline, Countess Esterhazy, the younger of the two daughters ofJohann Karl Count Esterhazy of Galanta, a kinsman of Haydn's patrons, whomSchubert had taught during summer months at Zseliz in 1818 and 1824, remainingin contact with the family when they were in Vienna. The Fantasie marks theheight of his achievement in this genre. It opens in a poignant F minor, withthe opening melody soon briefly transformed into F major, before the reassertionof the original minor. There is a shaft of sunlight again before the secondsection, marked Largo and in F sharp minor, leading to a singing major keymelody. The stark dotted rhythms give way to an Allegro vivace, with a D majortrio. The final section brings a return of the poignant F minor melody of theopening and a contrapuntal continuation, before the work comes to an end.
The Deutscher were written in 1818, characteristic of musicthat had a defined social purpose. The dance frames two trios, the second in acontrasting C major, before the original key of G returns in the repeatedopening dance. The following Landler are not so designated but are clearly inthe form of that dance. These works were not published until 1909.
Schubert's Variations on an Original Theme, D. 968a, werepresumably written in 1818 or 1824, although some have doubted theirauthenticity. The work was presumably intended for his pupils at Zseliz, one ofa series of such compositions for the two Esterhazy girls. It was firstpublished in 1860. There is an Introduction, ending in a short cadenza for theupper player and followed by the simple theme. The first variation ischaracterized by triplet rhythms, with the second in more rapid figuration. Thethird variation is aptly marked Brillante and followed by a slower version ofthe material. The variations end with a lively Finale.
The Trois Marches hero?»ques, D. 602, were intended for asimilar purpose and may be dated either to 1818 or 1824. They were published inthe latter year. The first March, in B minor, uses material that had beenwritten in 1816 for an uncompleted setting for voices and piano of Schiller'sDie Schlacht. The three Marches follow the expected form and rhythm, each witha contrasting trio section.