Franz Schubert

Franz SchubertOn this day in 1797, the great composer Franz Schubert was born. He is probably the only Romantic period composer who I unreservedly like. But if I were perfectly honest, the music coming into and going out of the Romantic period is generally much better than the straight Romantic stuff. That gives me some wiggle room with Beethoven, who is usually overdone for my tastes, but still ridiculously great.

Schubert was a full generation later than Beethoven, and very much influenced by him. Of course, Schubert was arguably even more influenced by Mozart. And he seems to have been somewhat like Mozart in the rapidity of his composing. Schubert died at the age of 31 of typhoid fever — or syphilis. Yet he left an enormous amount of music. And this may be one of the reasons that he has historically been discounted. There is no question but that he had the ability to quickly grind out facile works. But look at his later compositions, which show such control of emotional tempo and complex harmony.

If you look at what he wrote, Schubert would be considered a vocal composer. In addition to writing hundreds of songs, he wrote a couple dozen operas and singspiels. Yet his operas aren’t much performed, except for Fierrabras — and even it not that much. I don’t understand it. It is beautiful work — and far better than much of the opera that came after it. Whatever. A lot of what gets performed is just a matter of fashion. Here is Jonas Kaufmann performing “Was Quälst du Mich, o Mißgeschick!” (“Why do you torture me, misfortune!”?) from Fierrabras:

But I can’t think of Schubert without immediately hearing the String Quartet in G major. And here is a great performance of it by the Belenus Quartett. It is a very fast way to pass 45 minutes:

Happy birthday Franz Schubert!

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