iPlayer Radio What's New?
Image for The Final Years

Sorry, this episode is not currently available on BBC iPlayer Radio

The Final Years

Duration:
1 hour
First broadcast:
Friday 24 January 2014

Donald Macleod looks at the extraordinary fertility of Schubert's mind during his last two years.

One of Schubert's more remarkable creations is the song-cycle Winterreise or Winter Journey, setting the poems of Wilhelm Müller. It's a composition that astounded Schubert's many friends when they first heard the composer singing through this bleak work in its entirety: "We were quite dumfounded by the gloomy mood of these songs' recalled one friend, Josef von Spaun, 'From then on Schubert was a sick man'.

Tempting as it is to see the cycle as a harbinger of Schubert's doom, it seems that the composer was no less convivial than in earlier, happier times - as Donald recounts, he even went down to his local pub on completing the first half of the cycle! And musically, too, Franz Schubert was eager to pursue new genres, with commercial potential. His Impromptus, for example, contain moments of quicksilver brilliance.

Once again, his friends encouraged Schubert to seek out greater public recognition. Planning a concert at the hall of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, Vienna's prestigious music society, the composer worked hard to complete a varied programme of new works, including a new string quartet and his magnificent Piano Trio in E flat. The concert was well attended, and brought in much needed receipts to swell Schubert's bank balance. But in the papers there was deafening silence. Vienna's critics were more interested in the pyrotechnics of Paganini. Even Schubert himself would blow a great deal of money for a top-price ticket for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the violinist in action.

One key work from this year is the profound piano duet, the Fantasy in F, which Schubert dedicated to Princess Caroline Esterhazy. There is strong evidence that Schubert was in love with her, and that she was something of a muse to his romantic yearnings. It's not clear if the princess either reciprocated, or was even aware of his feelings for her!

Donald concludes this week's look at the life, loves and friendships of Franz Schubert with what is possibly his last completed work, the show-stopping aria written at the request of the opera singer Anna Milder-Hauptmann. This is The Shepherd on the Rock, a work in which the shepherd expresses his hopes for the spring - a spring which the composer would never live to see.

Music Played

5 items
Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

Broadcasts

Composers A to Z

composers-promo.jpg

Visit the extensive audio archive of Radio 3 programmes about Composers and their works.

Podcasts

  1. Image for Composer Of The Week

    Composer Of The Week

    Donald Macleod explores the life and work of composers. Composer Of The Week is one of BBC Radio 3's…

  2. Image for Composer of the Week A – G

    Composer of the Week A – G

    Discover the life and works of the world's greatest composers with these free downloads from the…

  3. Image for Composer of the Week H – Q

    Composer of the Week H – Q

    Discover the life and works of the world's greatest composers with these free downloads from the…

  4. Image for Composer of the Week R - Z

    Composer of the Week R - Z

    Discover the life and works of the world's greatest composers with these free downloads from the…

  5. Image for Music and Culture of WW1

    Music and Culture of WW1

    Highlights of BBC Radio 3’s special programmes to mark the WW1 centenary. Classical music, art,…

  6. Image for Spirit of Schubert

    Spirit of Schubert

    BBC Radio 3 tells you everything you need to know about Franz Schubert. These free downloads will…

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss