Skip to main content Skip to Search Box
Summary Article: Schubert, Franz Peter
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Austrian composer. His ten symphonies include the incomplete eighth in B minor (the ‘Unfinished’) (1822) and the ‘Great’ in C major (1825). He wrote chamber and piano music, including the Trout Quintet, and over 600 lieder (songs) combining the Romantic expression of emotion with pure melody. They include the cycles Die schöne Müllerin/The Beautiful Maid of the Mill (1823) and Die Winterreise/The Winter Journey (1827).

Schubert was born in Vienna, the son of a schoolmaster. He began to learn the piano and violin at an early age and received lessons from Michael Holzer at the age of nine, also learning organ and counterpoint. He entered the choir school in the Imperial Chapel in 1808, played violin in the orchestra there, and sometimes conducted as deputy. At 13 he wrote a fantasy for piano duet and sketched other works, and in 1811 composed his first song. He played viola in the string quartet at home. His mother died in 1812 and his father married again in 1813. In the same year Schubert wrote his first symphony and left the choir school, continuing studies under Antonio Salieri. At 17 he became assistant teacher in his father's school, but disliked teaching; composed the G major Mass, the second and third symphonies and several dramatic pieces. In 1814 he allegedly sold his overcoat in order to buy a ticket for the revival of Beethoven's opera Fidelio. His own first opera, Des Teufels Lustschloss, was written in the same year. Like all his stage works, it was unsuccessful, but he also composed at this time his first great song, ‘Gretchen am Spinnrade’. The following year he wrote almost 150 songs. In 1816 he left the school and joined his friend Schober in rooms, gathering a circle of literary and artistic, rather than musical, friends around him. In 1817 he met the singer Michael Vogl, who took a great interest in his songs and succeeded in getting his play with music Die Zwillingsbrüder/The Twin Brothers produced in June 1820.

By this time he had written some of his finest instrumental works, including the 4th and 5th symphonies, the sonatinas for violin and piano, and the Trout Quintet. His reputation grew beyond his own circle, but publishers failed to recognize him until his friends had 20 songs published at their own expense in 1821. (Most of his large-scale works were unpublished during his lifetime, however.) His mastery of various instrumental genres is demonstrated in the ‘Unfinished’ symphony and ‘Wanderer’ Fantasy for piano of 1822; the last three string quartets, in A minor, D minor (‘Death and the Maiden’), and G, followed in 1824 and 1826. His 9th symphony of 1825 is one of the most carefully crafted and consistently inspired work of its kind ever written.

Schubert lived in Vienna all his life, except for some summer excursions and two visits to Hungary as domestic musician to the Esterházy family on their country estate at Zséliz, in 1818 and 1824. He never held an official appointment, but earned enough casually to lead a modest Bohemian existence. His output was phenomenal. He died from typhoid, his condition having been weakened by syphilis.

WorksOperas and singspiele (some incomplete) Der Spiegelritter (1811–12, first performed on Swiss radio in 1949), Des Teufels Lustschloss (1813–15, first performance Vienna, 1879), Adrast (1817–19, first performance Vienna, 1868), Der vierjährige Posten (1815, first performance Dresden, 1896), Fernando (1815, first performance Vienna, 1905), Claudine von Villa Bella (1815, first performance Vienna, 1913), Die Freunde von Salamanka (1815, first performance Halle, 1928), Die Burgschaft (1816, first performance Vienna, 1908), Die Zwillingsbrüder (1819, first performance Vienna, 1820), Alfonso und Estrella (1821–22, first performance Weimar, 1854), Die Verschworenen (1823, first performance Vienna, 1861), Fierrabras (1823, first performance Karlsruhe, 1897); also melodrama Die Zauberharfe (1820, first performance Vienna, 1820) and incidental music for Rosamunde, Fürstin von Zypern (1823, first performance Vienna, 1823).

Choral with orchestra church music including five Masses, in F, G, C, A♭, and E♭ (1814–28); Deutsche Messe (1827), oratorio Lazarus (unfinished, 1820), six settings of the Salve regina (1812–24).

Works for voice with and without accompanimentFrühlingsgesang (1822), Gesang der Geister über den Wassern (1817, second version with orchestra 1821), Gondelfahrer (1824), Miriams Siegesgesang (1828), and Ständchen (1827).

Orchestral nine symphonies: no. 1 in D (1813), no. 2 in B♭ (1815), no. 3 in D (1815), no. 4 in C minor (1816), no. 5 in B♭ (1816), no. 6 in C (1818), no. 7 in E (1821, sketches, unscored), no. 8 in B minor (‘Unfinished’, 1822), no. 9 in C (‘Great’, 1825); two overtures in the Italian style (1817, 1819); five German Dances (1813, also in scoring by Webern); Rondo in A for violin and orchestra (1816).

Chamber 15 string quartets: nos. 1–7 (1812–14), no. 8 in B♭ (1814, D112), no. 9 in G minor (1815, D173), no. 10 in E♭ (1813, D87), no. 11 in E (1816, D353), no. 12 in C minor (Quartettsatz, 1820, D703), no. 13 in A minor (1824, D804), no. 14 in D minor (Der Tod und das Mädchen/Death and the Maiden, 1824, D810), no. 15 in G (1826, D887); Octet in F for string quartet, double bass, clarinet, bassoon, and horn (1824, D803); string quintet in C (1828, D956); piano quintet in A (Die Forelle/The Trout, 1819, D667); piano trios in B♭ (1827, D898) and E♭ (1827, D929) for piano and violin; sonata in A (1817, D574); three sonatinas in D, A minor, and G minor (1816, D384, D385 and D408); Rondo brillant in B minor (1826, D895); Fantasia in C (based on song ‘Sei mir gegrüsst’, 1827, D934).

Works for pianoDivertissement à la hongroise (D818), Fantasia in F minor (D940), sonata in B♭ (D617) and sonata in C, Grand Duo (D813), all for four hands; 21 piano sonatas: nos. 1–12 (1815–19), some unfinished, no. 13 in A (D664), no. 14 in A minor (D784), no. 15 in C (D840), no. 16 in A minor (D845), no. 17 in D (D850), no. 18 in G (D894), no. 19 in C minor (D958), no. 20 in A (D959), no. 21 in B♭ (D960); Fantasia in C, based on the song ‘Der Wanderer’ (D760); eight impromptus in two sets: in C minor, E♭, G♭, and A♭ (D899), in F minor, A♭, B♭, F minor (D935); three Kalvierstücke, in E♭ minor, E♭, and C (D946); six Moments Musicaux, in C, A♭, F minor, C♯ minor, F minor, and A♭ (1823–28, D780); two sets of waltzes, D145 and D365.

Songs three cycles, Die schöne Müllerin (1823), Die Winterreise (1827), and Schwanengesang (1828). Some of the best known of more than 600 Lieder are ‘Abendstern’ (Mayrhofer, 1824), ‘Die Allmacht’ (Pyrker, 1825), ‘Am Bach im Frühling’ (Schober, 1816, ‘An den Mond’ (Goethe, 1815), ‘An die Entfernte’ (Goethe, 1822), ‘An die Musik’ (Schober, 1817), ‘An Schwager Kronos’ (Goethe, 1816), ‘An Sylvia’ (Shakespeare, 1826), ‘Auf dem Wasser zu singen’ (Stolberg, 1823), ‘Auf der Donau’ (Mayrhofer, 1817), ‘Auflösung’ (Mayrhofer, 1824), ‘Ave Maria’ (Scott, translated by Storck, 1825), ‘Bei dir allein’ (Seidl, 1826), ‘Delphine’ (Schütz, 1825), ‘Du bist die Ruh’ (Rückert, 1823), ‘Der Einsame’ (Lappe, 1825), ‘Erlkönig’ (Goethe, 1815), ‘Der Fischer’ (Goethe, 1815), ‘Fischerweise’ (Schlechta, 1826), ‘Die Forelle’ (Schubart, 1817), ‘Frühlingsglaube’ (Uhland, 1820), ‘Ganymed’ (Goethe, 1817), ‘Die Götter Griechenlands’ (Schiller, 1819), ‘Gretchen am Spinnrade’ (Goethe, 1814), ‘Gruppe aus dem Tartarus’ (1817), ‘3 Harfenspieler Lieder’ (Goethe, 1816), ‘Heidenröslein’ (Goethe, 1815), ‘Der Hirt auf dem Felsen’ with clarinet obbligato (Müller, 1828), ‘Horch, horch die Lerch’ (Shakespeare, 1826), ‘Im Frühling’ (Schulze, 1826), ‘Die junge Nonne’ (Craigher, 1825), ‘Lachen und Weinen’ (Rückert, 1823), ‘Liebhaber in aller Gestalten’ (Goethe, 1817), ‘Der Musensohn’ (Goethe, 1822), ‘Nacht und Träume’ (Collin, 1822), ‘Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt’ (Goethe, five versions), ‘Prometheus’ (Goethe, 1819), ‘Sei mir gegrüsst’ (Rückert, 1822), ‘Die Sterne’ (Leitner, 1828), ‘Der Tod und das Mädchen’ (Claudius, 1817), ‘Dem Unendlichen’ (Klopstock, 1815), ‘Der Wanderer’ (Lübeck, 1816), ‘Wanderers Nachtlied’ (Goethe, 1822), ‘Der Zwerg’ (Collin, 1822).


Schubert, Franz Peter


Music Through Time: Romantic Music


Schubert, Franz (Peter): prolificacy

Schubert, Franz (Peter): instruments


Schubert Institute (UK)


Schubert, Franz Peter


Schubert, Franz Death and the Maiden

Schubert, Franz Impromptu

Schubert, Franz Piano Sonata D.960, Slow Movement

Schubert, Franz Piano Sonata No. 21, First Movement

Schubert, Franz Symphony No. 8, First Movement

Schubert, Franz Unfinished

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.

Related Articles

Full text Article Schubert, Franz Peter (31 Jan. 1797, Vienna - 19 Nov. 1828, there)
The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music

His father, Franz Theodor Florian Schubert, born in Moravia, was a teacher who emigrated to Vienna, where in 1785 he...

Full text Article Schubert, Franz
Metropolitan Opera Encyclopedia: A Comprehensive Guide to the World of Opera

Composer; b. Vienna, Jan. 31, 1797; d. Vienna, Nov. 19, 1828. Studied with Ruzicka and Salieri. His genius for vocal music was revealed during...

Full text Article Schubert, Franz Peter
Philip's Encyclopedia

1797-1828 Austrian composer whose symphonies represent the final extension of the classical sonata form, and whose lieder (songs) are the...

See more from Credo