Schubert: Ferocious, tender, sublime

Schubert: Ferocious, tender, sublime

Schubert’s short, prolific career changed history…..musicians and artists reveal the one work they can’t live without. By Tom Service.


Lithograph of Schubert , Josef Kriehuber, 1846. Wikipedia.

The simple facts of Franz Schubert’s life shed little light on the enormous emotional range of his music, and the seismic effect his work has had. Living almost entirely in his home town of Vienna, he was a loyal but occasionally cantankerous and drunk friend to a tight-knit groups of artists, poets and writers. He wrote more than 600 songs, more than a dozen string quartets and 21 piano sonatas; he completed seven symphonies, with many more left unfinished; he wrote operas, masses, piano trios and duets. Yet there was only one public concert of his music in his lifetime. He died at 31, from typhus and syphilis.

It was decades before his achievement was recognised; the “Unfinished” Symphony premiered in 1865, 37 years after his death. Yet the more we know about his music, the more there is to explore. A new Radio 3 season starting this Friday, The Spirit of Schubert, will give us that chance. (Radio is a peculiarly Schubertian medium, the most intimate way of connecting a composer and listener.) There is a whole life revealed in his music, and if you really listen to him, Schubert will change yours, too. We asked musicians and enthusiasts which work they couldn’t live without.


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