Franz Schubert

This room is devoted to the composer, Franz Schubert (1797-1828) – we're therefore leaving the Vienna Classical era and turning to the Romantic era.

Franz Schubert was born in the suburbs, in the "Zum roten Krebsen" house, and is therefore the first "genuine" Viennese composer of those featured so far. If you glance around, you'll immediately notice the bourgeois comfort that is reflected in the interior design, with silk wall coverings and beautiful furniture. Schubert himself could only dream of such luxury. The short video portrays the actual political and economic situation of that time:

In Schubert's days, Vienna was anything but a desirable place to live. The sanitary and medical conditions were catastrophic and clean drinking water was scarce, meaning that disease spread rapidly. The majority of the population lived in terrible conditions; malnutrition, tuberculosis and cholera were constantly present. Rents were extremely high, meaning that large families had to live closely together. Schubert's father, for example, a teacher, had just two rooms. He used one as a classroom and the family lived in the other – of the 14 children in total, only five survived.

The loss of many siblings and the poor conditions naturally had an effect on Schubert's musical work. As you can see from the song words in the middle of the room, he often embraced issues such as death and loss. But the Romantic era is also characterised by a love of nature and enthusiasm. Song cycles such as "Die schöne Müllerin" and "Die Winterreise" are still popular today, and a permanent feature of concert repertoires.

Schubert composed around a thousand works over a period of about 15 years - with iron discipline, sitting at a table, without a piano. Essential for his composing were his glasses, which you can see in the high corner cabinet on your left – one of our most valuable exhibits. The piano in this room didn't belong to Schubert. He didn't possess one of his own until the last 6 months of his life. Schubert needed to make very few amendments, and if he did want to check something, he visited his friends and used their piano.

The gatherings of Schubert's circle of friends were also very valuable in musical terms, as many of his works were premiered there. Due to the political situation, which was extremely tense at that time, with Austria resembling a police state - the bourgeoisie withdrew into the privacy of their own homes, giving rise to the artistic Biedermeier movement.
The Schubertiaden (musical social gatherings involving Schubert's friends) also emerged, at which "house music" was played to a very high standard. We can see such an evening here, depicted by Schubert's friend, the painter Moritz von Schwind. Schubert is sitting at the piano; the large man sitting in front of the piano is the tenor, Johann Michael Vogl, who also premiered most of Schubert's songs. On Schubert's other side sits the host, Josef von Spaun. On the right of the portrait stands a group of painters, the third is Moritz von Schwind himself. A little further to the right, sit the only two guests who are not listening attentively to the music: Franz von Schober, with whom Schubert lived for many years, is flirting with his girlfriend. Immediately behind Schober's girlfriend stands the poet, Franz Grillparzer.

Did you know that…

the young woman in the background of this picture is Caroline von Esterházy? There were rumours of a romance between her and Schubert. Caroline was aware of Schubert's affection. He's said to have answered her question as to why he hadn't yet dedicated any of his compositions to her, with: "Why should everything be dedicated to you?" Despite this statement, he did dedicate "Die Schwanengesänge" and other pieces to her.

Lied (song): “Gretchen am Spinnrade” – “Gretchen at the Spinning wheel”

Performed by the Lucerne Festival Orchester, under the baton of Claudio Abbado.
Soprano: Renee Fleming