23-31 March 2012
Schubert’s death certificate said he had died of Nervenfieber (nervous fever). Otto Erich Deutsch decorously interpreted this as typhus or typhoid fever. Those less squeamish of Schubert’s true nature think that mercury poisoning - a treatment for syphilis - may have been the cause. Others have pointed to Schubert’s well-documented alcoholism, as well as malnutrition from a loss of appetite attendant with any fever. He died on 19 November 1828, aged 31. His funeral took place in a nearby church before his body was taken to Währing, where he was buried near to Beethoven. When the City of Vienna opened the Zentralfriedhof in Simmering (to the South) later in the 19th century, both composers’ remains were moved there and given pride of place. You can still visit Schubert and Beethoven as well as Brahms, Johann Strauss I, Johann Strauss II, Wolf, Schoenberg, Zemlinsky and a whole host of Schubert’s successors’ graves today.More
And what as heritage for us is left behind:
The works of fond affection and of power,
The sacred, noble truth we have for dower
Shall stay for ever in our heart and mind.
What music profits and what friendship gains
By thee, we hear it in celestial strains.
So let us ever follow each sweet note,
That we may meet again in worlds remote.
– Franz von SchoberMore
Schubert’s Death MaskMore
I am ill. I have eaten nothing for eleven days and drunk nothing, and I totter feebly and shakily from my chair to bed and back again. Rinna is treating me. If ever I take anything, I bring it up again.
Be so kind, then, as to assist me in this desperate situation by means of literature. Of Cooper’s I have read The Last of the Mohicans, The Spy, The Pilot and The Pioneers. If by any chance you have anything else of his, I implore you to deposit it with Frau von Bogner at the coffee-house for me. My brother, who is conscientiousness itself, will most faithfully pass it on to me. Or anything else.
Bogner’s was Schubert and his friends’ favourite haunt. They started 1828 at the coffee house, drinking, smoking and eating until early on New Year’s Day. The letters and reminiscences of Schubert’s friends are littered with references to Frau and Herr Bogner and it was to Frau Bogner that Schober was asked to send copies of Fennimore Cooper novels towards the end of Schubert’s life.More
Grünangergasse in Vienna’s 1st District. This is the site of the Gasthaus ‘Zum Anker’ where Schubert and his friends would often go drinking.More
Schubert hoped to go on holiday during the summer of 1828, either to Graz with friends or to Gmunden on the Traunsee. While it’s only speculation, it’s likely that Schubert’s health prevented him from travelling. He nevertheless kept busy, writing further liturgical works. But by August, he was distinctly unwell and he consulted the the court physician, Dr Ernst Rinna. Although he had Schubert’s best intentions at heart, his idea that Schubert should move out of the centre of town to suburb of Wieden (now part of the city itself), where his brother Ferdinand lived, proved fatal. Although the area itself was more spacious and conducive to recovering, his brothers apartment was cold and damp and merely exacerbated Schubert’s condition.More
Schubert has understood his poet with the kind of genius that is his own. His music is as naïve as the poet’s expression; the emotions contained in the poems are as deeply reflected in his own feelings, and these are so brought out in sound that none can sing or hear them without being touched to the heart.
– Theaterzeitung (29 March 1828) on the publication of the first part of WinterreiseMore
Schubert, Franz Lachner, Schwind and Bauernfeld serenading ‘the Future Occupants of an Unfinished House’ - from a picture by Moritz von SchwindMore
1828 was Schubert’s last year alive. As if predicting the bad times ahead, his friend Bauernfeld composed a poem for New Year’s Eve. ‘The pleasures of singing,’ he wrote, ‘they too will be gone’. Despite the air of pessimism, Schubert spent the evening with friends at Bogner’s coffee house. It was a regular haunt for the group and they stayed there until 2am.
Schubert went through much of 1828 with that sense of ‘carpe diem’. It was a hugely prolific year, including writing sketches for a new opera called Der Graf von Gleichen, a Mass in E flat major, various shorter liturgical works and the beginnings of another symphony, to say nothing of the Fantasy in F minor for piano duet, the Drei Klavierstücke, final triptych of piano sonatas, the String Quintet, The Shepherd on the Rock and the songs that would become Schwanengesang. Defying death, Schubert was full of life almost to the end.
A clip from Thomas Guthrie’s version of Winterreise, as featured on this evening’s Schubert Lab.More
…but it’s still winter at the National Gallery. This image by Schubert’s contemporary Caspar David Friedrich is the perfect distillation of Winterreise. A man has collapsed in the snow and there’s a strange building, a mirage perhaps, in the distance. Although rooted in reality, the painting is eerie, almost surreal. ‘Winter Landscape’ is on permanent display at the National Gallery.More
Here is the first page of Schubert’s manuscript for Winterreise, in honour of tonight’s broadcast of the cycle with baritone Florian Boesch and pianist Malcolm Martineau.More