Part of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers, covering fourteen of the giants of Western classical music
Friday 18 July 2014
Extracted from Michael Steen’s book The Lives and Times of the Great Composers, these concise guides, selected by The Independent’s editorial team, explore the lives of composers as diverse as Mozart and Puccini, reaching from Bach to Brahms, set against the social, historical and political forces which affected them, to give a rounded portrait of what it was like to be alive and working as a musician at that time..
In his short life of not quite 32 years – the briefest span of any first-rank composer – Schubert composed over 600 songs, showing a talent for word-setting which for many has never been equalled. However, while his songs gained gradual fame while he was alive, many of the works for which he is renowned were never performed in his lifetime, not even his Eighth Symphony, the Unfinished, or the Ninth Symphony, The Great C Major, which are so ubiquitous now. He was not lionised for the String Quintet in C, whose second movement Adagio remains one of the most requested pieces on Desert Island Discs. Nor did his exquisite quartets and piano music receive much recognition at the time.
Michael Steen evokes Schubert's youth as the son of an impoverished schoolteacher and his life among a boisterous, arty set of friends living it up in the dazzling gaiety of early 19th-century Vienna. Their evening gatherings for an intoxicating mix of politics, conversation and music became known as Schubertiads. At 25 Schubert contracted syphilis and was to suffer ill health for the rest of his life, falling into the depression that is so heart-rendingly expressed in some of his works. Schubert died only a year and a half after Beethoven, having been a torch-bearer at his funeral. Even so, he remained prodigiously productive and those last years bequeathed some of his finest works.
Click here to explore other Independent eBooks
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more