Schubert, Franz Peter
Only a few realty recognized Schubert's great genius in his lifetime, and his name was not even known by the general public of his day. Many reasons for this have been advanced: One is that he lived during the reign of the operatic aria, at a time when art song was not so much appreciated or cultivated as it is at the present day; besides Schubert's artistic career lasted only about seven years. Had he lived long enough to study and accomplish what he had hoped to do, there is no knowing to what splendid heights he might have risen, in every form of composition. But Schubert was handicapped in many ways: Of all the really great geniuses of Germany, he had the least musical training. His brilliancy and natural ability dazed his teachers from the very beginning, even Salieri, and none of them ever gave him any regular or methodical instruction, and from beginning to end of his career he never studied counterpoint. Schubert was so miserably poor all his life and his manners were so unprepossessing that he failed to succeed where many less gifted persons would. He was most conscious of his physical shortcomings, and because of them avoided meeting strange people or coming in contact with the nobility and aristocratic people of Vienna, who might have aided him. In appearance he was short, being only five feet and one inch in height, and very stocky, with a broad, flat nose, a round and puffy face, and short curly hair; he wore glasses, and his general appearance was insignificant. Yet his nature was one of the sweetest and he was most modest, and absolutely without jealousy or envy. He was extremely simple in his tastes and lived apparently for his art alone.
He spoke, thought and lived in music. Schubert was fond of a convivial time and drank sometimes to excess, but was never a drunkard and had no vicious habits whatever. He was contented with little and that little was always at the service of his friends. Fetis declared that he was always unhappy and melancholy, but other biographers have said that his life was uneventful, and that there was nothing tragic in it except unrequited labor. It is a fact worthy of comment that of all the great musicians, whose residence in Vienna made that city famous as a musical center, Schubert is the only native son. Yet he was neglected by the Viennese, not more than one hundred of his songs being published before his death, and his larger works did not make their appearance till his fame as a song-writer was well established, and that was long after he had died.
Years after, Schumann discovered his great C symphony, dusty and forgotten, in Vienna, and urged Ferdinand Schubert, the brother of the composer to send it to Mendelssohn at Leipsic and have it performed at the Gewandhaus. Since then many other musical treasures written by him have been taken out of old cupboards in that city. He was wretchedly paid for the songs that were accepted and for six years his ErlKing was rejected by the publishers, and his Winter Journey series of songs brought only the equivalent of twenty cents apiece. Schubert lived only thirty-one years, yet in these years, devoted to his art, he wrote more than eleven hundred compositions. Of these nearly six hundred are songs the most beautiful that have ever been written, and as fresh and vital as the day they emanated from the composer's brain. His music is of the most wonderful beauty, tenderness, sweetness and purity, blended with strength, nobility and grandeur. His greatest songs and perhaps his best known are The ErlKing, The Wanderer, Who is Sylvia, the Ave Maria, The Serenade, and the song-cycles, Miller's Fair Wife; songs from Ossian, and songs from The Lady of the Lake.
Schubert wrote nine symphonies, the greatest of them being, in the opinion of nearly all musicians, his symphony in C; sonatas; marches; waltzes and a large number of religious compositions including seven masses; two Stabat Maters; a Magnificat; a Hallelujah and many detached pieces. He left a large number of works in manuscript, including symphonies; masses; chamber-music; sonatas and many songs. Rubinstein did, perhaps, more than any other musician to establish Schubert's place in the history of music, although Schumann and Mendelssohn did much to secure the acceptance of his symphonies as master-works. Rubinstein included him in the list of those whom he considered the five greatest composers Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin and Glinka. Dvorak, the great Bohemian composer of modern times, said that Schubert was as versatile as Mozart, and wrote with quite as much facility, and declared that he had no hesitation in placing him next to Beethoven and far above Mendelssohn and Schumann. Schubert's genius was lyrical, not dramatic. His style was copied by many others, but he was a creator in the realm of song, in which field he has never been rivaled. Schubert's service to the history of music may be summed up in a few words: He may be said to have established the form of the German lied; he was the first really great song-writer, and has had only two successors who showed themselves fully worthy and able to follow where he led, these being Robert Schumann and Robert Franz; he created a new era of music, and all other song-writers have followed in his steps. The German song owes its highest development to him, and it is by his songs that he will be remembered, despite the excellent work he did in other branches of music. One critic has called Schubert, " very nearly the greatest of all composers," and declares that had he lived longer, been more carefully trained in his youth and received more appreciation during his lifetime, he might have become the greatest and most wonderful composer that ever lived.