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First Steps as a Freelance

Duration:
1 hour
First broadcast:
Tuesday 21 January 2014

Franz Schubert gains the support of a powerful ally and sponsor for his songs.

In today's episode, Donald recounts Schubert's first, awkward introduction to one of Vienna's most prestigious opera singers of the day, Johann Michael Vogl. Vogl was a man who had evidently grown tired of music and musicians, and whose idea of relaxation was translating classical Greek. Luring Vogl into the Schubert circle was far from easy, but once he was forced into listening to some of the young man's songs he was captivated, later expressing his incredulity that 'such depth and maturity could emanate from the little young man'.

Schubert had abandoned the schoolroom for the precarious life of a freelance composer, and friends such as Vogl would prove crucial for such success as he was to enjoy in his short life. It was a holiday to Steyr in the company of Michael Vogl that would inspire Schubert to compose the Trout Quintet, at the behest of a mining official and amateur cellist. There were other amusements besides the mountain scenery: Schubert noted the presence of eight girls in the house where he lodged, 'nearly all of them pretty'. It was to one of them, Josefine von Koller, that he dedicated a piano sonata in A major.

Schubert's main ambition at this time was to compose a successful opera for the Vienna stage. The results of his labour met with limited success, and Die Zwillingsbruder or the Twin Brothers only staggered on for a few performances, and nearly caused a riot on the first night. As Donald Macleod recounts, one of Mozart's sons was distinctly underwhelmed by the production. Believing Schubert to be a 'beginner' he noted in his diary that 'most people felt farce wasn't Schubert's strongest suit'. In fact, Schubert was anything but a beginner in music, and in private he was pursuing new, and perhaps strange pathways, including the tantalising and dramatic Quartettsatz.

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