Franz Schubert

The son of a schoolmaster, Franz Schubert showed an extraordinary childhood aptitude for music, studying the piano, violin, organ, singing and harmony and composition with Antonio Salieri. By 1814 he had produced piano pieces, settings of Schiller and Metastasio, string quartets, his first symphony and a three-act opera. This output continued through 1815 with "Gretchen am Spinnrade" and "Erlkänig" among numerous songs,  two more symphonies, three masses and four stage works.

In 1820-21 aristocratic patronage, further introductions and new friendships augured well. Schubert's admirers issued 20 of his songs by private subscription, and he and Schober collaborated on "Alfonso und Estrella". Though full of outstanding music, it was rejected. Strained friendships, pressing financial need and serious illness - Schubert almost certainly contracted syphilis in late 1822 - made this a dark period, which however encompassed some remarkable creative work: the epic "Wanderer" Fantasy for piano, the passionate, two-movement Eighth Symphony ("Unfinished"), the exquisite "Schöne Mí¼llerin" song cycle, "Die Verschworenen" and the opera "Fierabras". In 1824 he turned to instrumental forms, producing the A minor and D minor ("Death and the Maiden") string quartets and the lyrically expansive Octet for wind and strings; around this time he at least sketched the "Great" C major Symphony. With his reputation in Vienna steadily growing, Schubert now entered a more assured phase. He wrote mature piano sonatas, notably the one in A minor, some magnificent songs and his last, highly characteristic String Quartet, in G. 1827-8 saw not only the production of "Winterreise" and two piano trios but a marked increase in press coverage of his music; and he was elected to the Vienna Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. At his death, aged 31, he was mourned not only for his achievement but for "still fairer hopes."