“ … [after breakfast] Gahy played us two wonderful Sonatas by Schubert and some of his German Dances…” (Franz von Hartmann, Diary, 6th January 1827)

As with any other composer, the details we know of Schubert’s life have influenced the way we think about his music. We know that Schubert was ill for the last six years of his life and died at the early age of 31, and perhaps because of this we appreciate particularly his more melancholic works, which seem to paint the story of his short life, unfulfilled in love, and unfulfilled in public recognition. But as well as being quite misleading, reliance on these clichés helps prolong the relative obscurity of much of his music, and restricts our appreciation of the incredible wealth of expression he was capable of, encompassing as it does the whole breadth of human experience.

It is scarcely comprehensible that so much music by a composer so hallowed and revered should remain outside the main concert repertoire, even now, 175 years after his death. Despite the efforts of many musicians, some of Schubert’s greatest works – his part songs, much of his chamber music, his operas, his dances and his sacred music – are still little known to the larger part of the concert-going public. But perhaps the reason for this lies in the fact that it was always so, even in Schubert’s lifetime. Schubert tended to write more for himself and his friends, and as he did not live long enough to experience real fame, never had to face the consequent necessity to organize his compositions for a wider public. Moreover, he was careless with his manuscripts, handing them out to friends without keeping track of them, leaving works half finished – in short, displaying all the signs of one working for himself, following the urge to compose and develop, but not being too concerned with the fate of much of the music he produced in the process.

Inspired by the informal gatherings of friends that were the main framework for most of Schubert’s compositions, many musicians today and in the past have organized Schubertiades, concerts in small venues, held semi-formally with groups of musicians performing a wide range of works from his oeuvre. The quotation chosen as a motto for this series describes one such model for later Schubertiades, a gathering one morning in 1827 of Schubert and several of his friends on which occasion one of them, Josef Gahy, a Hungarian pianist, performed two sonatas and some dances for the small audience.

It is this informal gathering of acquaintances, assembled to hear some new pieces their friend had written, that perhaps offers the best manner to enjoy Schubert’s music, and the programmes for the current series of concerts have been designed to match that of the 6th February 1827: two or three sonatas and some dances. In the process the audience will hopefully discover new aspects to Schubert’s creativity, enjoy some beautiful music and learn more about this most productive and fertile of all great composers.


Schubert, unlike the other great Viennese composers, was actually born in Vienna, albeit of immigrant parents. His father, Franz Theodor, a school teacher, had moved to Vienna from Moravia, now in the Czech Republic, and had there met Schubert’s mother, Elisabeth, who originated from Silesia. The fourth of five surviving children, Franz Peter was born on 31st January 1797. He received his first music lessons from his older brother Ignaz and the local choir master, learning basic counterpoint and harmony, and was exposed to frequent music-making. At the age of seven, Schubert had an audition, arranged by his father, with Antonio Salieri, the Court Music Director and one of Vienna’s leading composers. As a result, he was admitted to the Hofkapelle, the Imperial Choir, as a mezzo-soprano, and was later able to take up a scholarship to the Stadtkonvikt, the Imperial City College. This was the best quality education available to non-aristocrats; moreover, the principal was very interested in music, so Schubert’s gifts as a musician and composer were soon recognized.

Before long Schubert was a leading figure in the student orchestra, becoming acquainted with the orchestral works of most Viennese composers, he also forged strong friendships with some of his older colleagues, forming the core of the later literary and musical circle of friends that was to become so influential in his life. His composing was now guided by Salieri himself, who had a strong interest in vocal music, particularly opera in the Italian style. Schubert was also executing various technical exercises, and wrote the first compositions we know of – a Fantasy for piano duet and a lengthy ballad. Both are highly experimental in form and harmony, and foreshadow clearly what he was to achieve in these and other genres.

Although he was a good pupil in all subjects, the increasing amount of time spent composing began to affect Schubert’s progress in more academic subjects, and in October 1813 he was given an ultimatum by the authorities of the Stadtkonvikt: his scholarship for further study would only be continued on the condition that he improve his results in academic subjects significantly. Deciding that his path lay exclusively in music, Schubert left the Stadtkonvikt and undertook a course to qualify as a teacher, a measure intended to ensure that he would always have a means of employment to fall back on. He still continued his composition lessons with Salieri and kept in touch with his friends, but had much more time to compose, as his vastly increased output demonstrates. Around this time he wrote his first Symphony, premiered by the orchestra of the Stadtkonvikt, and soon followed it with his first complete opera Des Teufels Lustschloss. A major landmark was the performance in July 1814at the local church of his first Mass, written specially for the church’s centenary, and this success was to spark a period of great productivity lasting two years, in which he composed around half of his surviving works, including five symphonies, masses, piano sonatas, string quartets and for the first year an average of one new song every three days. Some of his best-known songs, such as Erlkönig and Gretchen am Spinnrade, were written at this time.

Two new friends Schubert met after leaving the Stadtkonvikt were the composer Anselm Hüttenbrenner, also studying with Salieri, and Franz von Schober, an amateur writer and musician of comfortable means. Together with the poet Josef Mayrhofer, whom Schubert had met through his Stadtkonvikt colleague Josef von Spaun, these friends formed the core of Schubert’s social circle, and stuck with him for the rest of his short life. Much of Schubert’s time was spent with his friends, drinking and discussing new music, literature and current events; his friends were anxious to make his works better known to the public, and helped organize private publications. Not only were Schubert’s friends influential in his development as a composer, they were also influential in cementing his reputation after his death, providing biographical information, though this is not always completely reliable, as well as details of Schubert’s habits and personality. Together with Ferdinand Schubert, the composer’s older brother, these friends held many of the manuscripts that were left unpublished after Schubert’s death, and the confusion about many of his works resulted from the way these compositions were scattered between them. The way Schubert has been perceived, both as a composer and more especially as a person, was shaped to a large degree by a small number of friends and acquaintances, uniquely so for a great composer.

In 1816, Schubert applied for a post as music teacher in Ljubljana, Slovenia, but was rejected. He had been working as a class teacher in his father’s school since finishing his training course, but probably found this uncongenial. He moved to Schober’s apartment and lived independently for a year, but then took up his post again at the school in late 1817. He was slowly making an impression on musical life in Vienna, his name was mentioned occasionally in the newspapers, some of his works were performed publicly, if not in the main concert venues, and his first works appeared in print. In 1818 Schubert was asked by Count Esterhazy to tutor his two daughters on his country estate in Zseliz, around 100 miles from Vienna. This was Schubert’s first journey out of Vienna, and he spent five months on the estate, teaching the two daughters as well as composing, notably piano duets to play with the girls. On his return to Vienna he finally gave up his post at his father’s school, relying on occasional income instead. The following two years were spent establishing a reputation for himself, leading to a growing number of performances in and outside Vienna. A Singspiel, Die Zwillingsbrüder, had a longer than average run at one of the main Viennese opera houses, followed by another modestly successful run of his melodrama, Die Zauberharfe.

Schubert was now travelling regularly in the environs of Vienna, and often spent his summers in Steyr and Linz with the well-known baritone Johann Michael Vogl, who had been performing many of Schubert’s songs in Vienna. Several new operas were composed, including Alfonso und Estrella, to a libretto by Schober, and Fierrabras; although generally unsuccessful in getting his operas performed, Schubert never gave up composing them, and their continued neglect today is incomprehensible in view of the high quality of music they contain. Judging by his works, Schubert was now entering an important new phase in his development as a composer, experimenting with new forms and highly original orchestration; his output from this period includes the two-movement torso of the “Unfinished” Symphony, the Mass in A Flat and the “Wanderer Fantasy”. Moreover, Schubert was now publishing more works, and receiving good fees, earning comfortably more than he needed to live.

Schubert’s lifestyle, however, seems to have placed great strain on him, his long working hours being coupled with late nights of heavy drinking and smoking. Sometime in late 1822 or early 1823 he seems to have fallen ill, most probably contracting syphilis, a common and generally terminal disease in Vienna at the time. For the rest of his life, he would struggle with this condition, suffering rashes, sickness and hospitalization, in the knowledge that recovery was highly unlikely. In spite of his illness, Schubert was composing prolifically, completing the incidental music for a play, Rosamunde, the song cycle Die schöne Müllerin to poems by Wilhelm Müller, the Piano Sonata in A Minor, D 784 and many other works. In May of 1824, he once again spent the summer in Zseliz at Count Esterhazy’s estate teaching the two daughters. According to various sources, he seems to have taken a strong liking to the elder of the two, Caroline, now aged 22, although he doesn’t seem to have expressed his feelings to her directly. While at Zseliz, he composed further works for piano duet, notably the “Grand Duo” in C and the Variations in A Flat.

From 1825 to mid-1826 Schubert’s illness seems to have subsided, leaving him with more strength and optimism. He now lived in an apartment close to the centre of Vienna, not far from the painter Wilhelm August Rieder, who had become a close friend over the past three years. Rieder painted a portrait of Schubert that was deemed an excellent likeness, and he also possessed a good piano that Schubert played on frequently. Surprisingly, Schubert never owned a piano, and always relied on friends to let him use theirs. He completed his Sonata in A Minor, D 845, and most of the Sonata in C, D 840, which he abandoned halfway through the last movement. In May, he embarked on what was to be his longest journey away from Vienna, visiting Linz and Gmunden on the way to the Alpine resort of Bad Gastein, passing through Salzburg on the way back to Vienna. He was strongly impressed by the Alps, and, buoyed by the scenery and his improved health, wrote some of his most energetic and optimistic music, the Piano Sonata in D and the “Great” Symphony in C. This symphony was dedicated to the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, to which Schubert had recently been elected. Although he received good payment for the Symphony, it was never performed during his lifetime, being regarded as too demanding.

His health failing again, Schubert in 1826 applied for the post of Second Court Music Director, only to hear after several months that the post had been abolished. His last attempt at opera was equally thwarted, the libretto to Der Graf von Gleichen being banned by the censor after he had already composed substantial portions of the first two acts. His last String Quartet, in G, D 894, was completed, as well as the Piano Sonata in G, several songs and the Rondo for violin and piano.

In March of 1827 Beethoven died, an event that affected Schubert strongly. The two composers had never met, but as the dominant figure in Viennese musical life, Beethoven had exerted a strong influence on Schubert, and his death would have touched Schubert deeply. For most of the year Schubert was working on another set of poems by Wilhelm Müller, “Die Winterreise”, as well as the two Piano Trios, the Fantasy for violin and piano and the two sets of Impromptus; more of his works were now being published, and his income from this would have left him fairly comfortable, were it not for a free-spending lifestyle. Frustratingly for him, the works selected by publishers were rarely his more substantial compositions, leading to his reputation for many years after his death as a composer of songs and dances, rather than of sonatas, symphonies and masses. Yet his standing as a composer was now such that he felt confident enough to promote a whole concert of his works at the concert hall of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, on the first anniversary of Beethoven’s death, 26th March 1828. Several songs were performed, including Auf dem Strom, one movement of the String Quartet in G and the whole Piano Trio in E Flat. The evening was a great success – not least financially, as the hall was full to capacity.

In August, Schubert’s health deteriorated, and he moved into an apartment with his brother Ferdinand, where he composed a string of masterworks, including the last three piano sonatas, the String Quintet and the group of songs published after his death as Schwanengesang. Even with his illness now significantly overshadowing his life, Schubert expressed the desire to embark on a course in strict counterpoint with the music theorist Simon Sechter, but only managed to attend the first lesson, on 4th November. After that he remained confined to his bed, frequently delirious, but still able to sketch substantial passages of a new Symphony in D. Schubert died in the afternoon of 19th November. The cause of death was given as nervous fever, which has been interpreted as typhus or even malnutrition. The description of his symptoms is consistent with syphilis, which would not have been mentioned officially due to its stigma as a venereal disease; however, it must be stressed that it is not in any way proven that he ever suffered from it, although it is the most likely explanation of his long-term health problems.


Although Schubert’s Piano Sonatas are now firmly established at the core of the piano repertoire, presenting a series of the complete sonatas poses many problems, which is perhaps why it is so rarely undertaken.

Even the number of sonatas Schubert wrote is debatable, ranging from 12 to 23, depending on which sources one consults. There are 12 complete sonatas of which three were published in the composer’s lifetime. Of the remaining sonatas some are just fragments, as little as 38 bars long, and some are largely complete but include one or two unfinished movements, in a similar manner to the “Unfinished” Symphony. There are also sonatas that seem complete, but consist of movements that may not belong together. This is largely a result of the chaotic way in which Schubert’s manuscripts were gradually unearthed and pieced together in the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, often leading to movements being shuffled around between Sonatas. It would probably be most accurate, therefore, to say that we have the remains of at least 23 sonata projects by Schubert, many of which are unfinished and some of which may in fact be assembled from movements from more than one originally intended source.

It is the achievement of Schubert scholars and performers such as Walburga Litschauer, Maurice Brown and Martino Tirimo that there is a large degree of transparency in these matters, but the controversies as to which movement belongs to which sonata are far from over. This series of concerts presents the sonatas with a minimum of speculation, placing together only those movements that are known to belong together.

A further problem is posed by the sonatas containing unfinished movements. These movements are in most cases completed up to the point of recapitulation, which has prompted many editors and pianists to make their own completions. Schubert often lifted his expositions unchanged into the recapitulation, save for the key change to the second subject; if he therefore left a work completed up to the recapitulation it may have been merely a labour-saving measure, as all the material had in fact already been composed. However, this again is speculation, and no two completions hitherto published have been the same, casting doubt on their validity. Furthermore, sketches have shown that Schubert often made radical changes to his works in the compositional process; if a work is left unfinished, even nominally, it must be doubtful whether this compositional process was complete when the manuscript was abandoned. On the other hand, there are cases where the fragment is of such beauty and importance that it would be a loss not to perform it in public, for example, the first movement of the Sonata in F Sharp Minor, D 571. This concert series will therefore omit unfinished movements, except in these cases, when the performance will end at the point where the manuscript finishes.


The first Piano Sonata Schubert wrote was the Sonata in E, D 157, composed in the spring of 1815. It seems to be unfinished, as the last movement is a Minuet in B, offering neither a convincing climax to the sonata nor a return to the key of the first movement. However, even without a finale, the sonata is an impressive debut, already revealing Schubert’s predilection for lengthy first movements and for rustic but subtle minuets rather than for scherzos. The slow movement is the focal point of the sonata, as is often the case in Schubert’s music. Strikingly, this movement foreshadows many later slow movements, both in its form and its texture, and uses similar techniques of variation and colouring as, for instance, the second movement of D 850.

The Sonata in C, D 279, was written in September 1815, only months after the Sonata in E. All through his life, Schubert adopted a confused numbering of his sonatas, and this sonata was entitled “Sonata I”, perhaps implying that the previous sonata was unfinished and therefore did not count. However, as in the case of D 157, the C Major Sonata also seems to have lost its last movement, as it ends on a Minuet in A. There are various theories concerning the putative Finale, suggesting that it was either lost, or that the unfinished Allegretto in C, D 346, or even the Rondo in C, D 309 were intended for this work.

The Sonata in E Major, D 459/459a, is perhaps the most questionable of all the piano sonatas in the authenticity of its form. The five movements were originally published as Fünf Klavierstücke (“Five Piano Pieces”), many years after Schubert’s death. Around the turn of the century, they were declared to constitute a sonata with two scherzos, probably meant as alternatives. However, there is no manuscript containing all five movements, and little circumstantial evidence for linking them; in fact, there are two manuscripts, one containing the first two movements, and one the other three. A more likely explanation may be that the first two form the rump of a sonata, the other three being unconnected. Indeed, there is speculation that the finale, Allegro patetico, may have been intended as the first movement of a sonata, with the Rondo D 506 (see Sonata in E Minor D 566) as the finale, and the fragment Adagio in C, D 345 as the slow movement. This, however, is just speculation; this series will present the first two movements as a Sonata in E, D 459.

The year 1817 saw Schubert devoting much energy to the piano sonata, beginning a total of at least six. Of these he completed at least four, the first of which, finished in March, was the Sonata in A Minor, D 537. This is the first sonata unarguably left in a completed state, and it represents a huge leap from his previous sonatas, both in its pianistic wealth and its success in balancing music of extreme contrasts. A stormy first movement is followed by a serene Andante, using a theme Schubert would reuse for the Rondo of his penultimate sonata, D 959. The last movement returns to the storm of the first, persistently repeating a surging scale theme, and exploring the various possible replies to it.

Written shortly after D 537, the Sonata in A Flat, D 557, is unusual in several ways. It is again in three movements, but the last movement is in E Flat, a different key from the first two, which are both in A Flat. This would suggest that this sonata, like D 157 and D 279, is lacking a last movement, or that the finale assigned to it does not really belong here. Documentary evidence, however, proves this sonata to be genuine, even if unusual. Another peculiarity lies in the style; Schubert was often conservative in his early works, modelling his music on Haydn and Mozart, rather than on Beethoven, but seldom does he limit himself as much as here. In fact, this sonata could easily have been written 30 or more years earlier as, in marked contrast to D 537, the three movements avoid anything extreme, favouring instead moderate tempi and light expression.

The Sonata in E minor, D 566, is another sonata that has undergone some transformation in recent years. Sources suggested the first three movements belonged together, and the Rondo D 506 was seen as a likely finale to a four-movement work. In this form it was performed and recorded until recently, when, on closer examination of the sources as well as on aesthetic grounds, the Rondo was deemed as less likely to have been intended for this context. Even the Scherzo has been questioned as belonging to this Sonata, mainly due to the unlikely key of A Flat Major in an E Minor/Major work. In fact, it is quite possible that Schubert intended a two movement work similar to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Op. 90, with a stern first movement of moderate tempo in E Minor, followed by a lyrical second movement in E Major. For these reasons, this Sonata will be performed in two movements in the current series.

A curious problem is posed by the Sonata in D Flat, D 567, and its partner, the Sonata in E Flat, D 568, which are almost identical. D 567 was composed in June of 1817, and later transposed and revised, with an extra movement, into D 568. When the reworking happened is still unclear: traditionally, the revision was assumed to have taken place soon after the first version was begun, possibly with both versions taking shape simultaneously. More recently, however, D 568 has been located much later, in 1826, suggesting that Schubert had atypically decided to revise a work written in the past. The evidence for this theory is strong, but it is only a theory.

Schubert began composing a Sonata in F Sharp Minor, D 571, in July 1817, but left the first movement unfinished. A Scherzo in D and an unfinished Finale in F Sharp Minor, D 570, probably were intended for the same sonata, and the Andante in A D 604 may well have been its slow movement. Unfortunately, the most interesting movement, the first, breaks off during the recapitulation, depriving posterity of what promises to be one of Schubert’s most beautiful piano works. It is uniquely bare in texture and in melody, concentrating on arpeggios and rhythmic motifs to create a barren landscape that gradually melts into a more dance-like movement before the manuscript ends, presumably where the recapitulation would have returned to the desolation of the opening.

The last sonata Schubert undertook in 1817 was the Sonata in B Major, D 575. It is also the first undeniably four-movement sonata, setting an example Schubert would return to again in 1825. After a year of experiment, Schubert finds in this sonata the shape and texture of his mature works, notwithstanding the two three-movement interludes that were to follow, D 664 and D 784. It is throughout a quirky and optimistic sonata, from the energetic opening with its unpredictable harmonies to the joyful finale, that could almost be a brighter reworking of the finale to D 537.

Probably composed in 1819, the Sonata in A Major, D 664, is one of Schubert’s most charming and versatile piano works. Arguably the most successful of his earlier sonatas, it has only three movements, all sharing the same happy optimism. The first movement is in a gentle vein reminiscent of the later Rondo in A for piano duet, D 951, mostly substituting tonal shading for dynamic contrast, and is not far removed from the short Andante, which eschews the more usual far-reaching explorations of Schubert’s slow movements. The Allegro begins more briskly, and soon develops into a virtuoso finale, full of showy scale passages and humorous surprises.

The Sonata in A Minor, D 784, was written in early 1823, and could almost have been intended as an answer to the previous Sonata in A D 664. Its three movements, similarly brief in compass to the three of D 664, seem to inhabit a diametrically-opposed world; where D 664 offers grace and melody, D 784 offers sparse textures, bare rhythm and an almost Brucknerian block structure. Particularly the last movement and its ferocious octaves refer to the “Wanderer Fantasy”, written only three months earlier in November 1822.

Schubert returned to the four-movement sonata in 1824, with the Sonata in C, D 840. Again, he was not able to complete the work, leaving the third movement a few notes short and abandoning the finale halfway through; nevertheless it is clear that this work marks a big step in Schubert’s sonatas. It is altogether on a larger scale than any sonata up to then, both formally and expressively, and demonstrates just how far Schubert had distanced himself from the early influences of Haydn and Mozart.

The first complete four-movement work of this mature period was the Sonata in A Minor, D 845. It was also the first sonata to be published, together with D 850 and D 894. In many ways, D 845 appears related to D 840, displaying a similar bareness of texture and perhaps a tendency toward block structure, although these attributes are all somewhat tempered here. As in D 840 and D 784, the main theme of the first movement is presented unisono, with no accompaniment, out of which a full orchestral tutti grows. A beautiful set of theme and variations forms the slow movement, far-reaching in its harmonic explorations, and a rather Beethovenian Scherzo follows. The finale is a Rondo, breathlessly moving from one key to the next, from fortissimo to pianissimo, mysterious in many ways, and sharing much with the finale of Chopin’s Second Piano Sonata.

The Sonata in D Major, D 850, dates from 1825 and Schubert’s journey to the Austrian Alps. It was apparently composed in the town of Gastein, hence its nickname, Gasteiner. It is full of verve and optimism, drawing its tension not so much from different moods as from juxtaposing different key centres and metric subdivisions. This tension is strongest at the impetuous beginning of the sonata, and gradually resolves in the course of the four movements, winding down to just a whisper at the very end. In this sense it seems an exact reversal of the conventional structuring of musical works, where tension is built up to a climax not too far from the end. The four movements are all in their conventional tempi – fast, slow, fast, fast – but an overall positive mood is never distant, as to a degree in the “Great” C Major Symphony, which seems to have been written around the same time, possibly on the same journey. It was, together with the Sonata in A Minor, D 845 and the Sonata in G, D 894, one of the only three of Schubert’s piano sonatas to be published during his lifetime.

The Sonata in G D 894 was published under the name “Fantasy, Andante, Menuetto, and Allegretto”, but whether this was the publisher’s idea or Schubert’s is unclear; there is no documentary evidence for either. In any case, Schubert’s friends seem to have regarded it as a sonata, and even with its innovations it still fits the classic sonata form. Written in late 1826, and published in the following year (together with D 845 and D 850), it is one of the most original sonatas Schubert wrote. The first movement is surprisingly static, then the slow second movement introduces the first more fluid passages in its contrasting sections. The third is in the mould of a German Dance, more rustic than usual for a sonata movement, with a most delicate trio, while the last movement, like that of D 850, is full of humour, although less coy, and almost Gallic in its elegance and poise.

Schubert’s final three piano sonatas were all composed at the same time, in the summer and autumn of 1828, only weeks before his death. Preliminary sketches show how closely linked work on these sonatas was, and, in this sense, they are comparable only to the “War” Sonatas, Nos. 6–8, by Prokofiev, also written simultaneously in one flourish of creativity. It seems Schubert saw them as a group, as he intended to dedicate all three of them to the composer Johann Nepomuk Hummel, but his own death prevented this, and they were published in 1839, dedicated by the publisher to Schumann. In various ways, they are less innovative than many of Schubert’s previous works, and one can feel throughout an allegiance to the “classical” style, perhaps meant as a statement in a rapidly changing musical world.

The first of these sonatas, the Sonata in C Minor, D 958, is often seen as paying homage to the recently departed Beethoven, to whose “Pathetique” Sonata Op. 13 it bears many resemblances. The opening chords of the first movement, the A Flat Adagio, even the falling third motif of the finale all match the corresponding places in the “Pathetique”. It is, however, strongly Schubertian throughout, relatively tight in structure and full of drama and passion. Easily the most extrovert of the three final sonatas, it contains also one of the few genuinely fast first movements in all Schubert’s sonatas.

The second of the final “Sonata-Triptych”, the Sonata in A Major, D 959, was sketched and composed, as the two companions, in the course of the summer and autumn of 1828. It has little of the stormy character of the Sonata in C Minor, and little of the profound melancholy of the Sonata in B Flat; instead, it offers majestic grandeur in the first movement, gentle melody in the last and Mendelssohnian humour in the Scherzo. The slow movement, however, demonstrates Schubert’s taste for extremes, with an almost monotone theme framing a passionate outburst in the middle section, unmatched in its anarchy until the days of Schönberg. The work as a whole also has cyclic elements, as the opening sequence of chords recurs throughout the sonata – ending the slow movement, influencing the main subject of both the Scherzo and the Rondo and triumphantly concluding the work at the end of a prestissimo coda. The actual theme of the Rondo was used by Schubert as the basis for the slow movement of the early A Minor Sonata, D 537, a rare example of the composer reusing material from the same genre.

The final sonata, the Sonata in B Flat D 960, is in some ways a compromise between the many extremes Schubert explored throughout the last years of his life. The first movement is moderate and melancholic, but not as much as that of D 894, the slow movement is quite bare in texture, but not as much as that of D 959, and the harmonic and rhythmic language in general is decidedly less adventurous than in many other sonatas. Nevertheless, everything seems to fit, the themes are beautiful, the modulations are rounded, the transitions are effortless, and the moments of mystery, such as the famous bass trill of the first movement, never distract from the overall beauty and clarity of the music. While many of Schubert’s last works seem to break new ground, for example the Heine Lieder from the Schwanengesang, or the sketches for the Tenth Symphony, Schubert seems to be content to round off his thoughts on the piano sonata.


This concert series also includes a comprehensive survey of Schubert’s Dances for Piano. He left around 400 Dances, including Waltzes, Landlers, Ecossaises, German Dances, Minuets, Cotillons and Galopps, among them some of the most beautiful music that he wrote. They are mostly short, between 30 seconds and two minutes each, and usually in groups of anything between 6 and 36.

During Schubert’s lifetime, his dances were amongst his most popular works, with both the public and his publishers. He apparently wrote them quite spontaneously, often after improvising for his friends, jotting them down and giving manuscripts away as presents, as he also did with his songs. The majority follow a very simple structure, with little textural variety, and this has led to some neglect by both scholars and performers. Nonetheless, within the confines of a very limited form, Schubert does manage to create moments of great beauty, and the simplicity of form and texture is often balanced by quite complex modulations and rhythms.

The popularity of the dances and their consequent publication and republication in numerous editions has introduced two problems for their performance. Roughly half of the approximately 400 dances exist in manuscript form, mostly in sets of between 6 and 12 dances. Where these dances appear in print, they are combined in sets of up to 36, sometimes placed in different orders, different keys, and on rare occasions even in different dance genres. How interested was Schubert in establishing an authoritative playing order? And if he was interested, how much was he involved in combining the various dances into the published sets? Because of the mostly simplistic nature of the dances, the prevailing attitude amongst musicologists has been that Schubert didn’t really mind how they were performed, or, if he did, that his intentions were obscured by wilful publishers, and that the published sets merely represent albums from which the performer should select works according to taste. Certainly this theory was exploited by several other composers, including Liszt and Prokofiev, when they assembled their own “performing sets” of Schubert dances, linking individual pieces with variations and cadenzas to make more substantial compositions, thereby hiding the self-imposed limits of Schubert’s originals.

However, the notion that Schubert churned out huge numbers of short insubstantial pieces and, where he could muster enough interest, passed them on to publishers with carte blanche to do as they pleased with them is not only pure speculation, it runs contrary to what we know of Schubert’s character. One of Schubert’s first publications was the collection of Waltzes, Ländlers and Ecossaises D 145, brought out by Diabelli in 1823, a publication which prompted Schubert to write an angry letter of complaint to this leading Viennese publishing house. We do not know the precise cause of Schubert’s complaint, but it shows both self-confidence in his dealings with publishers and interest in the way his dances were presented to the public. We also know from letters and diaries that dances figured frequently in Schubertiades, and that Schubert often played sets to his friends after they had been published, presumably in the form in which they appeared in print. This does not indicate indifference to their public fate.

In her excellent book on the subject, the editor of the Dances in the Neue Schubert Ausgabe, Walburga Litschauer, rejects the published sets and bases her examinations purely on the manuscripts as they were catalogued by Maurice Brown. However, within the manuscripts, she distinguishes between different types of dance groupings, arguing that some sets, or groupings within sets, clearly develop common material and must be played as a group, whereas in other cases the order seems quite random, and performers should feel free to make their own selection. This more differentiated approach is very helpful in understanding the nature of the sets, but still presupposes that Schubert was happy to let the performer decide, rather than follow the score, printed or otherwise. On the other hand, it does acknowledge that, in many cases, there seems to be a clear intention behind the orderings, i.e. that Schubert was not uninterested a priori in planning his sets, motivically and harmonically. The question remains whether, if he planned some sets carefully, he would have left it to the instincts of the performers to decide which sets to follow, and which not.


Although Schubert wrote many different types of dance, he didn’t seem to distinguish too closely between them. Several dances appear under different names; one dance (D 365 No. 3) was even given two different names on one page by Schubert, and elsewhere he gave it a third. This affects mainly the Deutscher, the Ländler and the Walzer, as all are in three-time, and share a similar tempo. The reason for this confusion may lie in the fact that the principal dance of the past, the Minuet, was gradually being phased out, and its ultimate replacement, the Waltz, had yet to become fully established.

The Menuett, a slow, stately dance, was a relic from the baroque period, where it had formed an important part of the Baroque Suite. It was gradually being replaced, by the Scherzo in orchestral music, and by the Deutscher and then the Waltz in dance music. Schubert wrote many Minuets, but mostly in his earlier years, and he rarely returned to them later outside the Sonata, where he resisted the fashion to replace them with the Scherzo.

Whilst many of Schubert’s dances were published as Waltzes, he himself only once ever referred to a dance as a Waltz; of those dances published as Waltzes, the ones surviving in manuscript are all entitled “Deutsche”. This would indicate little difference between the two forms, and indeed their choreography is very similar. Nevertheless, the more sophisticated collections, such as D 783, D 790 and D 820, tend to be Deutsche, whereas the Waltzes tend to be more straightforward, notably in the accompanying left hand.

The Ländler, a country dance from the “Landl” region of Austria, is usually the most rustic of the three, often using simple harmonies and broken chord passages. These are general tendencies, however, with many exceptions, such as the Ländler D 734, which are altogether more sophisticated than any other collection of Ländler from Schubert’s hand.

The Ecossaise falls into a different category, being a duple-time dance. Historically derived from a Scottish folk dance, it is a fast, energetic dance of mostly rustic character. In his last collection of Ecossaises, D 781, Schubert manages to introduce more subtlety, but he never returned to the form, perhaps finding the limitations of 16 short bars too restricting.

There are several other types of dance in Schubert’s oeuvre, such as the Galopp, a particularly fast party dance, or the Cotillon, a dance similar to the Waltz.


12 Wiener Deutsche D 128 Aside from the earlier set of Menuetts, D 41, which are more in the character of exercises, this is the first set of piano dances, probably written in 1812 and first published in the complete edition of 1897. Interesting numbers include the stormy No.9 and the characteristically ambiguous No.7. The set begins unusually with an introduction, emphasizing the unity of the collection. In the surviving manuscript, however, the order of the dances is different from that in the published version, and there are several different numberings on the manuscript itself. It may be concluded that Schubert was unsure of the best order, and that the editors of the complete edition made their own decision on this matter. The concert series follows the final order given on the manuscript, as opposed to that of the complete edition.

12 Ecossaises D 299 This set unusually has a precise date of composition – 3rd October 1815, around the same time as the Sonata in C, D 279, and the 3rd Mass, in B Flat. It has survived intact in manuscript form, and was first published in the Gesamtausgabe (“Complete Edition of Schubert’s Works”) in 1897. The first Ecossaise is almost identical to the first of D 145. The numbering of the dances is slightly confusing, as every odd dance is repeated after its neighbour – 1-2-1-3-4-3 and so on.

6 Ecossaises D 421 A short set composed in May of 1816, these dances again show larger harmonic structures and seem therefore to belong together. The first dance was included as No. 5 of Op. 18 (see Ecossaises D 145). In spite of its brevity, the set has a few surprises, with unexpected harmonies redeeming some rather perfunctory themes.

36 Originaltänze D 365 These “Original Dances” were the first collection of Schubert’s to be published, by Diabelli in 1821, under the title Erste Walzer (“First Waltzes”). One of the most problematic sets, it combines dances from many different manuscripts, some of them transposed into different keys, and it also does not show a closed key structure. This would suggest a random collection of dances, perhaps even assembled by the publisher rather than the composer; however, on closer examination a harmonic plan does reveal itself, the first 14 dances hovering around A Flat Major, the next 12 around A/E Major and the last group around F Major. The fact that the set begins in A Flat and ends in F is not necessarily problematic as Schubert did sometimes work with open key structures, and the sub-mediant relationship of F to A Flat was one of his favourites. A further questionable aspect of this set is its length. Twelve or even sixteen dances can easily be appreciated, but when the listener is faced with 36 fairly similar short pieces in quick succession, one dance can soon blur into another. However, this is a purely aesthetic problem and should not affect the question of authenticity. On a more positive note, the collection includes a great wealth of beautiful dances in many different moods, and the second dance was one of the most popular tunes in Vienna for several years, albeit attributed to Beethoven under the title Sehnsuchtswalzer (“Yearning Waltz”). It was only many years after Schubert’s death that his authorship was generally recognized, by which time many composers, including Czerny, had written Fantasies and sets of Variations on it.

8 Ecossaises D 529 These eight Ecossaises are thought to have been part of a set of twelve, of which the remaining four dances have been lost. No. 5 is particularly notable, as it is based on an Austrian folk tune, although the similarity is fairly broad. With the exception of No. 3 in G, all the dances are in D, and appear together on one manuscript.

12 Walzer D 145 This set of Waltzes was published in 1823, together with 17 Ländlers and 9 Ecossaises, as Op. 18. Shortly afterwards, Schubert wrote an angry letter to the publisher, Diabelli, complaining that the publication had not been carried out as agreed. Which precise aspect of the publication had antagonized Schubert is unclear, but it may well be the lumping together of three separate collections, which otherwise would have given Schubert three fees. In the letter he demands financial compensation from Diabelli, which supports this theory. The Waltzes are drawn from several manuscripts, including the six Atzenbrugger Tänze of July 1821, three of which become Nos. 1, 2 and 3 of D 145. The collection covers a wide range of characters, even borrowing characteristics from the Mazurka in No. 6. A further highlight is the penultimate dance, which foreshadows the serenity of the later dances, such as D 844 or D 820.

17 Ländler D 145 Published as part of Op. 18, these Ländlers are mostly drawn from a manuscript from 1819–20. Predominantly rustic in character, they are harmonically straightforward, but capturing the rhythmic subtlety of a country dance.

9 Ecossaises D 145 These Ecossaises were separated into two groups when they were published as part of Op. 18, with Nos 1–6 appearing between the Waltzes and the Ländlers, and the remaining three concluding the collection. This underlines the coherence of the first six as a group, all in A Flat, and using similar material, as well as being structured in the same way. No. 1 was also used as the first of the Six Ecossaises D 299.

6 Ecossaises D 697 Composed in 1820, No. 1 of this collection was used as No. 6 of the Ecossaises D 145, Op.18. All six dances are in the key of A Flat Major.

Variation on a Waltz by Diabelli D 718 Not strictly a dance itself, this curiosity stands as an interesting footnote to Beethoven’s monumental “Diabelli Variations”, and is a relic of Diabelli’s original commission to 50 Austrian composers. The bland assurance of the original waltz is here converted by Schubert into a kind of gentle anguish, with typically adventurous harmonies.

16 Ländler D 734 This set was published in 1826 under the title Wiener-Damen Ländler (“Ländlers for the Ladies of Vienna”), which caused Schubert considerable irritation. The manuscript is lost, so we have no means of checking on disparities with the publication, but the dances seem to have been written around 1822 and there is a reference to Schubert performing this set to his friends on its publication, giving it some credibility. Moreover, there are certain common features running through the set, such as textural similarities and the tendency to join the third beat to the subsequent first; harmonically, the set is balanced, beginning and ending in G, with forays as far afield as B Major. It is perhaps the first mature set of dances by Schubert – full of subtlety, with syncopations, modulations and colourful inner voices, as well as a strong feeling of integrity.

20 Walzer D 146 Drawn principally from two manuscripts, these Waltzes were published after Schubert’s death under the title “Last Waltzes” (incorrectly, as they were all composed by 1823). They can be divided into two groups, 10 Waltzes with trios from 1815, and 10 Waltzes without trios from 1823. The later Waltzes are on the whole the more interesting, although some of the earlier ones, such as No. 8, are noteworthy. The published versions often differ significantly from the manuscripts – trio sections being exchanged, sections transposed and so on. This is perhaps the most doubtful collection of all, as the dances all exist in manuscript form and were only altered for publication after Schubert’s death. This concert series, therefore, will present only the later dances, as contained in a manuscript of 1823. In this manuscript, numbered 45 by Maurice Brown in his survey of the dance manuscripts, the dances are combined with several from D 779 and D 783.

34 Valses Sentimentales D 779 Another set of Waltzes drawn from other manuscripts, this large collection was published in 1825 by Diabelli. Only ten waltzes still exist in manuscript, all dating from 1823; the source of the remaining dances remaining obscure. While the authenticity of the collection may be doubtful, it certainly contains beautiful dances, including possibly the most ravishing of all, No. 13, used by Liszt in his Soirées de Vienne No. 6.

12 Ecossaises D 781 Schubert’s final word on the Ecossaise, this collection was composed in January of 1823, and remained unpublished until 1889, with the exception of the last Ecossaise, which was appended to the German Dances of D 783 for Op. 33, and two others, which were published separately in 1824.

16 Deutsche Tänze D 783 These German Dances were written between January 1823 and July 1824, and published in 1825 as Op. 33, with two Ecossaises appended to the Dances. It is a beautiful collection, with a multitude of colours and expressions, leading Schumann to imagine various carnival scenes in his review of this collection. Despite the formal limitations, there is an astounding wealth of harmony and texture, from the opening fanfare to the almost literally monotone melody of No. 15. The set is harmonically open (that is, the key of the first dance is not regained in the last), but the dances seem to bounce off each other with effective key successions, and form a convincing whole, even though there is no manuscript of the set, and several dances were paired with dances from other sets in the few extant manuscripts (see D 146).

17 Deutsche Tänze D 366 Another collection assembled after Schubert’s death from several different manuscripts, these German Dances were written between 1816 and 1824. The collection is of uneven quality, with some particularly fine dances (Nos 3 and 4) as well as some more perfunctory ones. The performance will follow Manuscript No. 51 from Maurice Brown’s catalogue, which consists of 11 dances, here called Ländlers, and dates from July 1824.

12 Deutsche Tänze D 790 Perhaps the most sophisticated set of all, D 790 was composed in 1823 and published in 1864; moreover the manuscript still exists and agrees completely with the published version. The first dance is expanded from the usual 16 bars, and moves through a multitude of keys before returning, almost by accident, to the opening key of D Major. The second dance was also used in D 783, as was the second half of No. 8. Several times in this collection could one think of Chopin, as in No. 6, which foreshadows the texture of Chopin’s Prelude Op. 28 No. 14. In wealth of harmony, expression and texture, this set is a dazzling display of the possibilities inherent in the simple dance form: from the minimalism of No. 5 and the harmonic adventure of No. 7 to the abandon of No. 9.

6 Deutsche Tänze D 820 A smaller collection of German Dances, this beautiful set was only published in 1931, and was soon after transcribed for orchestra by Anton von Webern. The dances are confusingly numbered, as the first and fourth dances act as refrains to the next two dances respectively – 1-2-1-3-1-4-5-4-6-4. The gentle mood of the first three dances is offset by the more assertive Dance No. 4, but the set, as a whole, is definitely more reflective than many of the larger sets. The manuscript of this collection dates from 1824 and Schubert’s second visit to Count Esterhazy’s mansion at Zseliz.

12 Walzer D 969 Published by Diabelli in 1827 as Valses Nobles, these Waltzes were written some time before the end of 1826, and there is again no surviving manuscript with which to compare the published version. As well as beginning and ending in C Major, the set also shows an extrovert character throughout, several of the dances featuring octave passages, beside some minor motivic links. It would not be unreasonable, therefore, to assume an intention behind the order of these dances. Liszt used two of the Waltzes for the best known of his Soirées de Vienne, No. 6.

12 Grazer Walzer D 924 Possibly the last set of dances Schubert wrote, these Waltzes were probably composed in late 1827 on a journey to Graz in Southern Austria. They were published in 1828 as Op. 91; the manuscript remains lost. Showing strong signs of a planned structure, the collection begins in E Major, travels through many more-or-less related keys and ends, again in E, with an extended coda-like Waltz, another strong indication for viewing this set as a cycle. Quite rustic in nature, it shows fewer tendencies to exotic modulations, relying more on strong catchy rhythms. The Grazer Waltzes are partnered by the Grazer Galopp in C D 925, probably written on the same journey. This is a single dance with trio, fast, vivacious and virtuosic, related in spirit to works such as the F Minor Impromptu, D 935 No. 4, or even the “Wanderer Fantasy”, D 760.


During Schubert’s lifetime, his dances were amongst his most popular compositions, and, together with the songs, formed the bulk of his publications. Dance music in general was still considered a largely functional genre, and even though many eminent composers, including Mozart and Beethoven, had composed numerous dances, the essence of the dance was still considered to lie in the formal, rhythmic and harmonic simplicity thought appropriate to the countryside. With the development of the Waltz and other national dances by composers such as Weber and Chopin, the dance became a more complex form, inspired by folk influences rather than obeying the strict conventions of folk music.

Schubert still adhered to these conventions, mostly limiting his dances to 16 bars, keeping the thematic and rhythmic material simple and using basic harmonies. Within these limitations, however, he managed to introduce many subtle inflections, giving the music an expressive wealth that belies its rustic façade.

It is perhaps this illusion of sophisticated simplicity that attracted many other composers to these dances, beginning with the sensational success of the so-called Sehnsuchts-Walzer (D 365 No. 2) that swept the streets of Vienna around 1820, albeit under Beethoven’s name. This simple dance became famous even before it was published, and by the time it was correctly attributed to Schubert it had already been set to variations and fantasies by many composers of the time, including Carl Czerny. The story of this dance was painstakingly researched and described by Maurice Brown in a chapter of his Essays on Schubert.

Liszt, a great admirer of Schubert’s music, was also fascinated by the dances, and assembled groups of two or three into suites, complete with introductions, linking passages and virtuoso codas. These Soirées de Vienne are still very popular, and most audiences today are introduced to Schubert dances by these imaginative and sparkling adaptations.

Brahms was an important campaigner on Schubert’s behalf, and in the course of researching the piano works discovered and edited several collections for publication. He also arranged several dances for piano duet, remaining faithful to the originals and to their original layout. It is interesting how Brahms and Liszt, the two great antipodes of the high romantic period, both shared a love for Schubert’s music, and were both instrumental in rediscovering and popularizing many of his forgotten works, albeit in such different ways.

Another transcription was made by Anton von Webern, with his orchestration of the German Dances D 820. He remains very faithful to the music, following the set exactly as Schubert left it on manuscript, even if the orchestration is unmistakably 20th-century, and could hardly be mistaken for Schubert. Prokofiev also assembled a suite of Schubert dances, following the example of Liszt, with transpositions, linking passages and a coda. This adaptation is surprisingly conservative, as Prokofiev retains the original harmonies and remains quite faithful to the originals, certainly more so than one might expect from the composer of the “Classical Symphony”.

Ravel also acknowledged the dances in his suite Valses nobles et sentimentales, although the tribute is more in the borrowing of the title from two Schubert publications than in the music itself, which probably owes more to the Waltzes of Strauss and Lanner. Ironically, the titles Ravel borrowed, from D 779 and D 969, were of course not given by Schubert, who we know was less than happy with some of the titles suggested by his publishers. Many other composers have drawn on the dances, making arrangements or transcriptions; which makes their continued neglect by pianists today even harder to understand.


WIENER ZEITSCHRIFT FÜR KUNST 29.9.1827 - Sonata (Fantasy) in G, D 894
The popular and talented song composer here gives to the musical world a Fantasy, wherein he has given free play to his imagination and offers the player harmonious enjoyment, without rendering the performance too difficult by the accumulation of excessive intricacies. Both hands are as a rule fully occupied, and Beethoven’s manner of frequently doubling the treble part an octave below, while thirds and sixths run parallel to it, seems to be also a favourite device of Herrn Schubert’s, who often proceeds thus in his constructions. Passing notes, anticipations and suspensions are treated with great freedom, which frequently results in beautiful and often strange relationships. The composer has made the whole even more interesting by well-contrived imitations. The first piece is effective. The Andante allows and demands a great deal of expression. The trio of the Minuet is particularly successful. The Allegretto is fiery and calls for brilliant performance. Herr Schubert keeps closely to a theme and works it out very logically; but not seldom he sacrifices variety. It is right and proper to rank this work among the good pianoforte compositions which by no means aim to be mere dancing-lessons for the fingers. It demands practised players.

Erste Walzer D 365 & Deutsche Tänze D 783 First Waltzes by Franz Schubert, little genies, hovering just above the earth at the height of small flowers – although I do not like the “Sehnsuchtswalzer” [No 2], in which a hundred young girls have bathed their sorrow, or the last three, which, as aesthetical mistakes in this context I cannot forgive their creator; - but how the others spin around him, binding him with scented twine, and how they all share such a carefree rapture, passing it on to the listener – that is very good. The “Deutsche Tänze” are quite a different carnival…No 1 in A. Crowds of masks. Kettledrums. Trumpets. Lighting. The dresser: “All seems to be well.”- No 2. Comical figure, scratching behind its ear and whispering “pst, pst”. Disappears. – No 3. Harlequin, his hands on his hips, then somersaulting out of the door. – No 4. Two formal masks, dancing together in silence. – No 5. A slim knight pursuing a mask: “Caught you, beautiful gypsy girl?” – “Let me go!” – She flees. – No 6. Strict horseman with feathers and scabbard. – No 7. The tailor and his wife, waltzing blissfully together. He, softly: “Is it you?”. They recognize each other. – No 8. Farmer from the country, coming out for a dance. – No 9. The doors open. Ceremonial entry of knights and ladies. – No 10. Says the Spaniard to the Ursuline: “At least speak, if you may not love”. She answers: “Better not to speak, or I may be understood!…”. […]

Sonatas D 845, 850 & 894
We come now to our favourites, the sonatas of Franz Schubert, familiar to many only as a composer of songs, to the majority hardly even as a name. We can only scratch the surface. Were it our purpose to demonstrate in detail why we regard his works so highly, it would require whole volumes - for which there may, one day, be time. Although we would describe all these sonatas as “absolutely wonderful”, and without taking a thousand words to it, the “Fantaisie” sonata strikes us as the most perfect in form and substance. Everything here is of a piece, breathes the same air. Let him avoid the last movement who lacks the imagination to solve its riddles. Most closely akin to it is the Sonata in A Minor, it’s first part so quiet and so dreamy; it could move to tears, but at the same time is so easily and simply put together from two pieces that one can only salute the magician who could combine them and contrast them so wondrously. Life of another sort bubbles from the Sonata in D – one thing after another, exciting and irresistible. And then an Adagio, very Schubertian, so bursting with rapture that it seems unable to sing itself out. The last movement is farcical, and difficult to reconcile with the rest. Anyone who tried to take it seriously would only make himself ridiculous. Florestan calls it a satire on the “Nightcap style of Vanhal” and “Pleyel”. Eusebius finds in the contrasted strong passages those grotesque faces that grown-ups make to frighten small children. The humorous motive is common to both.

Sonatas D 958-960
“The sonatas are designated as Schubert’s last works, and are remarkable enough in any case. A critic unaware of the date of their origin might judge them differently. I myself might have attributed them to an earlier period of the composer’s development, continuing to regard the Trio in E Flat as his last and most individual work. It would be superhuman, of course, were a composer such as Schubert, who composed so much and so continuously, to surpass himself with each new work, and these sonatas may, indeed, be his last works. Whether they were written from his sickbed or not, I have been unable to determine. The music would suggest that they were. And yet it is possible that one imagines things when the portentous designation, “last works”, crowds one’s fantasy with thoughts of impending death. Be that as it may, these sonatas strike me as differing conspicuously from his others, particularly in a much greater simplicity of invention, in a voluntary renunciation of brilliant novelty – an area in which he otherwise made heavy demands upon himself – and in the spinning out of certain general musical ideas instead of adding new threads to them from phrase to phrase, as was otherwise his custom. It is as though there could be no ending, nor any embarrassment about what should come next. Even musically and melodically it ripples along from page to page, interrupted here and there by single more abrupt impulses – which quickly subside. Whether my imagination, through it’s awareness of his final illness, has led me astray in arriving at this judgement I leave to soberer heads to decide. Such was the effect, however, that these sonatas had upon me. In any case, he closes cheerfully and easily and amicably, as if he could begin again the next day. It was not to be. But he could, at least, face the end with serene countenance.”


“Taking them all in all, I do not know but that I prefer his sonatas even to his short pieces for the piano. Yet they are seldom played at concerts!”

“In originality of harmony and modulations, and in his gift of orchestral colouring, Schubert has had no superior.”

“Just as the “Impromptus” and “Musical Moments” were the source of the large crop of romantic short pieces, so Schubert’s charming waltzes were the predecessors of the Lanner and Strauss dances on the one hand, and of Chopin’s waltzes on the other. There is an astounding number of these Schubert dance pieces. Liszt has given some of them a brilliant setting for the concert-hall, but they are charming as originally written. In this humble sphere, as in the more exalted ones we have discussed, historians have hardly given Schubert full credit for his originality and influence. In Schubert’s pianoforte music, perhaps even more than in his other compositions, we find a Slavic trait which he was the first to introduce prominently into art-music, namely, the quaint alternation of major and minor within the same period. Nor is this the only Slavic or Hungarian trait to be found in his music. During his residence in Hungary, he assimilated national melodies and rhythmic peculiarities, and embodied them in his art, thus becoming the forerunner of Liszt, Brahms, and others who have made Hungarian melodies an integral part of European concert music. From the rich stores of Slavic folk-music, in its Hungarian, Russian, Bohemian, and Polish varieties, the composers of to-day have derived, and will continue to derive, much that is charming and novel in their music. Nor is there anything objectionable in this, for if the poet and the painter base much of their best art on national legends, songs, and traditions, why should not the musician? And to Schubert will belong the honour of having been one of the first to show the way.”


“My love for Schubert is a very serious one, probably just because it is not a fleeting fancy. Where is genius like his, which soars aloft so boldly and surely, where we then see the first few enthroned? To me he is like a child of the gods, who plays with Jupiter's thunder, albeit also occasionally handling it oddly. But he plays in such a region, at such a height, to which the others are far short of raising themselves..”

“The true successor to Beethoven is not Mendelssohn, whose artistic cultivation was quite incomparable, also not Schumann, but Schubert. It is unbelievable, the music he put in his songs.”


“The most poetic musician that ever lived”

“Such is the spell of your emotional world that it very nearly blinds us to the greatness of your craftsmanship.”

“Our pianists scarcely realise what a glorious treasure they can find in Schubert's piano compositions ... As a bird lives in the air, so he lived in music, and in doing so sang melodies fit for angels.”


“Schubert's outward appearance was anything but striking or prepossessing. He was short of stature, with a full, round face, and was rather stout. His forehead was very beautifully domed. Because of his shortsightedness he always wore spectacles, which he did not take off even during sleep. Dress was a thing in which he took no interest whatever … and listening to flattering talk about himself he found downright nauseating.” Anselm Hüttenbrenner, 1851

“Written down for my coffee, wine and punch brother Anselm Hüttenbrenner, world famous composer” Franz Schubert, 14.3.1818

“Ever enjoy the present wisely: thus will the past be a fair remembrance for thee and the future hold no terrors.” F.S. 14.9.1819

“Last Friday we had an excellent entertainment: … Franz invited Schubert in the evening and fourteen of his close acquaintances. So a lot of splendid songs by Schubert were sung and played by himself, which lasted until after 10 o’clock in the evening. After that punch was drunk, offered by one of the party, and as it was very good and plentiful the party, in a happy mood anyhow, became even merrier; so it was three o’clock in the morning before we parted.” Josef Huber, 30.1.1821

“I was much with Schubert, for although he is not cultivated, he is yet agreeable by reason of his frankness, his sane understanding and his enthusiasm.” Prokesch, 1822

“I went to Spaun’s, where there was a big, big Schubertiade. On entering I was received rudely by Fritz and very saucily by Haas. There was a huge gathering. The Arneth, Witteczek, Kurzrock and Pompe couples, the mother-in-law of the Court and State Chancellery probationer Witteczek: Dr. Watteroth’s widow, Betty Wanderer, and the painter Kupelwieser with his wife, Grillparzer, Schober, Schwind, Mayrhofer and his landlord Huber, tall Huber, Derffel, Bauernfeld, Gahy (who played gloriously à quatre mains with Schubert) and Vogl, who sang almost 30 splendid songs. Baron Schlechta and other Court probationers and secretaries were also there. I was moved almost to tears, being in a particularly excited state of mind today, by the trio of the fifth March, which always reminds me of my dear, good mother. When the music was done, there was grand feeding and then dancing. … At 12.30, after a cordial parting with the Spauns and Enderes, we saw Betty home and went to the “Anchor”, where we still found Schober, Schubert, Schwind, Derffel and Bauernfeld. Merry. Then home. To bed at 1 o’clock.” Franz von Hartmann, 1826

“With Fritz to Spaun’s, who had asked us to breakfast. When we had breakfasted, Gahy played some very fine German Dances of Schubert’s. Enderes juggles beautifully with sticks, rods and the like; I try to emulate him and let a stick on which a steel hammer was balanced drop heavily on his forehead, which gives me a terrible fright. I could no longer listen to the dances at all, but stayed with him all the time while he bathed the swelling and thus fortunately kept it down.” Franz von Hartmann, 1827

“Enderes was there as well as Gahy, who played entrancing waltzes by Schubert (entitled “Valses Nobles”).” Franz von Hartmann, 1827

“One song was followed by another … Schubert had but little technique, Vogl had but little voice, but they both had so much life and feeling, and were so completely absorbed in their performances, that the wonderful compositions could not have been interpreted with greater clarity and, at the same time, with greater vision”. Ferdinand Hiller, 1877


Vienna around 1820: 250 000 – 300 000 inhabitants Infant mortality rate: 50% Life expectancy for men: 32 Daily expenditure: 7 1/2 Gulden WW (ca. £ 100) Seasonal rent for one room: 35 Gulden (£ 450) in suburbs or 200 Gulden (£ 2600) in city centre Schubert’s annual income: 1800 Gulden (£ 23 000) – 3700 Gulden (£ 45 000)

Schubert and Women: Schubert had few female friends, and no letters written by him that touch on his own love affairs on his part have survived. In letters and writings by his friends, however, two women are reported to have aroused his warmer feelings: Therese Grob, the daughter of another local schoolmaster, and Caroline von Esterhazy, the elder of the two young countesses Schubert tutored in Zseliz. Therese was a friend of Schubert’s in his teens, and she sang the soprano solo part in his first Mass, when it was performed in the local church in 1815. According to Anselm Hüttenbrenner, Schubert told him that ‘I loved someone very dearly and she loved me too … . For three years she hoped I would marry her; but I could not find a position which would have provided for us both.’ No direct evidence of this survives. Because of this lack, and Schubert’s generally recognized coldness towards women, speculation inevitably arose as to the possible homosexuality of the composer. If Schubert was homosexual, he certainly would not have advertised the fact, but as there really is no strong evidence for any particular sexual leaning on his part, speculation is probably rather fruitless.

Syphilis: Mercury was used to treat syphilis from 1496 up to the 1840s in the form of ointments, oral administration, and vapour baths. In the 1800s, mercury was used so liberally that many patients were more harmed by the treatment than by their ailment.

Opera in Vienna: From his earliest beginnings as a composer, Schubert wrote operatic music, and he was still working on operas is his last year. Several were left unfinished, but many were completed and some even performed in the public opera venues, although without particular success. Even today, performances of Schubert operas are rare events. There are many reasons for this, one of the strongest being the poor quality of the librettos he set, but a regular criticism concerns overall dramatic structure. In any case, Schubert never gave up writing operas, and, larger structures apart, much beautiful music can be found in them.

Concert Venues: An old myth about Schubert states that there was only one concert in his lifetime devoted to his music. This is misleading, as concerts at that time were generally very mixed affairs, with orchestral, chamber and solo numbers interspersed. Entire concerts devoted to one composer were the exception, and the one concert of this kind Schubert organized himself was very successful. Some of his operas had moderately successful if short runs in the opera houses, and his songs were performed occasionally, both in Austria and elsewhere. Amateur orchestras and chamber ensembles made a significant contribution to Viennese musical society, and many of Schubert’s earlier works, such as his first six symphonies, were performed in this way. His piano music, songs and chamber music were also frequently performed at Schubertiades, often to large audiences, so he certainly had the chance to hear most of his works. It is true that there were relatively few performances at public venues, but their number grew steadily during the course of his life. Schubert was hampered in this respect by not being a performer himself, as Beethoven, Mozart and most of the later composers were; he could therefore not promote his works actively in the same way as Chopin or Paganini could.

Salieri: Antonio Salieri was born in Legnano, Italy, in 1750, and died in Vienna in 1825. He was mainly known as a successful composer of operas: in Milan, where his opera L’Europa reconosciuta was performed at the opening of La Scala; and in Vienna, where he was Court Composer and Kapellmeister (Music Director) for over 50 years. His relationship with Mozart was famously dramatized in Peter Schaffer’s play Amadeus, although the theories expounded there are mostly based on fiction. Besides Schubert, Salieri taught Beethoven, Liszt, Czerny, Hummel, Moscheles and many other influential musical figures of the time.


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