Tag Archives: Schubert’s great song cycles

Franz Schubert, lithograph by Josef Kriehuber (1800-1876)

The death of Schubert by Ralph Bates (1934)

It was Bauernfeld who persuaded Franz to give his only public concert of his works.  It was a difficult task to convince him of the possibility of profit or esteem, yet the concert, given upon the first anniversary of Beethoven’s death, produced £32 for the composer.  It is perfectly clear that public taste was ahead of official criticism, for the salon of the Hedgehog next door to the Blue, red in colour, was packed.  With an earnest request to repeat the event Schubert characteristically failed to comply.

He made unsatisfactory efforts to sell works to the firm of Schotts in February.  It is a little staggering to think that one could have secured the manuscript and copyright of the Death and the Maiden Quartet for about one hundred florins at this time.  Probst, also approached by Schubert, capably demonstrated the truth of the law of supply and demand by beating him down to 17s. 6d. for the E flat Trio, Opus 100.  Rather than inflict his poverty upon Schober any longer he left the Blue Hedgehog, and in October his correspondence was addressed from the Town of Ronsperg.  The Mainz publisher, however, refused to pay more than thirty florins for a fine four-part choral work, and returned the famous Impromptus as too difficult and unlikely to sell in France.

Many times he had sworn to compose no more unprofitable songs, but at the mercy of inexorable genius he wrote the first thirteen of the Schwanengesang in August, a mass and numerous other works engaging his leisure.  With care, comfort and reasonable health such exhaustion of impetus as this must imply might have no serious consequences.  But as things were, some serious prostration was almost certain to ensue.

In October Schubert began to sicken, and upon the advice of his physician went to live in the rural suburb of Neue Wiedern, at the house of brother Ferdinand, with whom he shortly went upon a three-day  walking tour.  Amongst other things they visited the grave of Haydn.  Upon his return Franz complained of excessive fatigue, but nothing in his behaviour awakened alarm until one night, while supping at a tavern and having begun a plate of fish, he flung down his knife and fork with the cry that he had been poisoned.  The following day, however, he walked to Hernals to hear one of his brother’ Continue reading