Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/336

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.



��school drudgery! Well might his brother say that the rapidity of his writing was marvellous.

Amidst all this work and, one might be tempt- ed to believe, all this hurry, it is astonishing to find that some of the songs of these boyish years are amongst the most permanent of his produc- tions. Gretchen am Spinnrade,' a song full of the passion and experience of a lifetime, was written (as we have said) in Oct. 1814, when he was 17. The 'Erl King' itself in its original form (with a few slight * differences) belongs to the winter of 1815, and the immortal songs of the ' Heidenroslein,' ' Rastlose Liebe/ ' Schafers Klagelied,'the grand Ossian songs, and others of his better-known works, fall within this year. The Mass in G, too, though composed for a very limited orchestra, and not without tokens of hurry, is a masterpiece. The dramatic works contain many beautiful movements, and are full of striking things, but the librettos are so bad, that in their present condition they can never be put on the stage. The symphonies, though not original, are not without original points; and are so sustained throughout, so full of fresh melody and interesting harmony, and so extra- ordinarily scored considering their date, that in these respects a man of double Schubert's age might be proud to claim them.

The habit of writing to whatever words came in his way was one of Schubert's characteristics, especially in the earlier part of his career. With his incessant desire to sing; with an abundant fountain of melody and harmony always well- ing up in him and endeavouring to escape, no wonder that he grasped at any words, and tried any forms, that came in his way, and seemed to afford a channel for his thoughts. If good, well; if bad, well too. The reason why he wrote 8 operas in one year was no doubt in great measure because he happened to meet with 8 librettos; had it been 4 or 12 instead of 8 the result would have been the same. The variety in the productions even of this early year is truly extraordinary. A glance at the list is sufficient to show that he tried nearly every form of compo- sition, whilst the songs which he set range from gems like Goethe's ' Meeresstille ' and ' Freudvoll und leidvoll,' to the noisy ballads of Bertrand ; from Mayrhofer's stern classicality and the gloomy romance of Ossian, to the mild sentiment of Klopstock. No doubt, as Schumann says, he could have set a 2 placard to music. The spectacle of so insatiable a desire to produce has never before been seen ; of a genius thrown naked into the world and compelled to explore for himself all paths and channels in order to discover by ex- haustion which was the best and then to die.

During this year he taught diligently and punctually in his father's school, and attended Salieri's lessons. His relations to the Lichten- thal remained as before. The Mass in G, like

1 The Berlin Library possesses an autograph of the earlier form, nd Mad. Schumann one of the later (with triplet accompaniment). The former was published in facsimile by Espagne (Berlin, Muller).

2 ' Qu'on me donne la Gazette de Hollande,' says Bameau. But Schubert could have thrown poetry into an advertisement ! ' Give me the words,' said Mozart, ' and I'll put the poetry to them.'


that in F, was written for the parish church, and according to the testimony of one 3 of his old friends was especially intended for those of his companions who had been pupils of Holzer's with him. A pleasant relic of his home life exists in a piece of music written for his father's birth- day, Sept. 27, 1815, for 4 voices and orchestra ' Erhabner, verehrter Freund der Jugend.' * He kept up his intercourse also with the Convict, and when he had written anything special it was one of the first places to which he would take it. There possibly his Symphonies were tried, though it is doubtful if a juvenile orchestra would contain clarinets, bassoons, trumpets, and horns, all which are present in the scores of the first four Symphonies. There, thanks to the memo- randum of another old ' Convicter,' we can assist at the first hearing of the Erl King. Spaun happened to call one afternoon, in this very winter, at the elder Schubert's house in the Him- melpfortgrund, and found Franz in his room, in a state of inspiration over Goethe's ballad, which he had just seen for the first time. A few times reading had been sufficient to evoke the music, which in the rage of inspiration he was whelming down 5 on to the paper at the moment of Spaun's arrival; indeed it was already perfect except the mere filling in of the accompaniment. This was quickly done ; and it was finished in the form in which we can now see it in the Berlin 6 Library. In the evening Schubert brought it to the Convict, and there first he and then Holz- apfel sang it through. It was not altogether well received. No wonder; the form was too new, the dramatic spirit too strong, even for that cir- cle of young Schubert-admirers. At the words ' Mein Vater, mein Vater, jetzt fasst er mich an ! ' where Gb, Ft] and Eb all come together, there was some dissent, and Ruzicka, as teacher of harmony, had to explain to his pupils, as best he might, a combination which now seems perfectly natural and appropriate.

1816 was passed much as 1815 had been, in a marvellous round of incessant work. The drudgery of the school however had become so in- supportable that Schubert seized the opportunity of the opening of a government school of music, at Laibach, near Trieste, to apply for the post of director, with a salary of 500 Vienna florins 21 a year. The testimonials which he sent-in in April from Salieri, and from Joseph Spendou, Chief Superintendent of Schools, were so cold in tone as to imply that however much they valued Schubert, they believed his qualifica- tions not to be those of the head of a large esta- blishment. 7 At any rate he failed, and the post

2 Herr Doppler. I cannot refrain from mentioning this gentto- man, who in 1867 was shopman at Spina's (formerly Dlabelli's). I shall never forget the droll shock I received when on asking him if he knew Schubert, he replied, ' Know him ? I was at his christening J Kreissle's Life is indebted to him for many a trait which would other- wise have been lost.

< Now in the Imperial Library, Berlin. No doubt there was one every year, though that of 1814 has been lost.

6 HintuvnMend is Kreissle's word, doubtless from Spaun's lips.

If Indeed this be the actually first original. The omission of bar 8, and its subsequent insertion, however, as well as the clean regular look of the whole, seem to point to its being a transcript.

7 K.H. 107 (i. 109).

�� �