Franz Schubert - his friends and lifestyle

This prodigiously talented composer led a very full but all too brief life, dying at the age of just 31, in 1828. He is probably best known for the vast number of songs he wrote throughout his life - around 600 of them, including the two song cycles ‘Die schöne Müllerin ' and 'Winterreise' plus some of the most popular symphonic and chamber music in the repertoire, such as the 'Unfinished' and 'Great C major' Symphonies and the 'Trout' Quintet. He was an intensely prolific composer - in his 18th year alone he produced around 200 works. And in spite of immense mental and physical problems he continued to do so, writing some of his best-loved music in his final year. Schubert suffered from severe mood swings most of his adult life. When he was in his mid-twenties, they became far more extreme and his friends reported periods of dark despair and violent anger. It's hard to know at this distance, to what extent his decadent lifestyle affected his behaviour but it greatly increased his chances of succumbing to one of the major killers of the time - syphilis. From then on, his fate was sealed - although he had periods of remission, it irreparably damaged his health and if typhoid fever hadn't struck him down first, would undoubtedly have killed him.

Donald looks at Schubert's teenage years when he had already developed a musical maturity well beyond his years, including two of his most popular Goethe settings, a symphony written for his friends and family to play and his first mass, conducted by the composer, at the tender age of seventeen. He also considers the important role the colourful individuals in Schubert's social circle had on him and his music, and how his decadent lifestyle contributed to his untimely death.

Donald Macleod introduces two works which reflect the polar extremes of Schubert's temperament, written at a time when his mental health began to deteriorate.
Having succumbed to the killer disease syphilis, Schubert's struggles to come to terms with his bleak prospects. Donald Macleod introduces a string quartet which seems to reflect his frame of mind, part of a grand, heroic-Romantic opera and a set of variations inspired by an unattainable woman.

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57 minutes


Role Contributor
ComposerFranz Schubert

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