Schubert’s occasional visits to the opera
set the foundation for his greater
Meanwhile, his genius was already
beginning to show itself in his
compositions. Antonio Salieri, a leading
composer of the period, became aware
of the talented young man and decided
to train him in musical composition and
By the age of 21, he had already
composed six of the seven symphonies
which were performed by various
amateur orchestras with which he was
associated, but during the next few
years he seems to have become
increasingly aware of the magnitude of
Beethoven’s symphonic achievements
and was determined to find the means
to create symphonies of comparable
scope and substance.
It was the example of Beethoven, whose
mighty Ninth Symphony appeared in 1824,
that both inspired and terrified Schubert. He
knew that after Beethoven, the symphony
could never be the same again -- but what an
act to follow!
Schubert tried, but unfortunately, like
Beethoven, died in his thirties. Beethoven
died at age 35, while Schubert died at age 31.
He wrote some six hundred
songs, seven completed
symphonies, and the famous
The first two movements of the
“Unfinished Symphony” were
completed down to the last detail and
among the finest he ever wrote. It is
believed that Schubert abandoned the
“Unfinished Symphony” because he
did not feel he could continue the work
at the high level of the first two
However, purely musical considerations
may not have been the only factors that led
to the abandonment of this symphony, for
the most recent medical opinion suggests
that it was in late 1822 that Schubert
contracted a venereal disease, for which
there was no effective cure at that time.
There is little doubt that this was a period
of great emotional turmoil for him and that
the two completed movements reflect his
disturbed state of mind.
Der Erlkönig (original poem by Goethe) was
Schubert's most popular song during his
lifetime. Beethoven attempted to set it to
music but abandoned the effort.
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