Franz Schubert was educated as a chorister of the imperial court chapel. Schubert spent his life largely in Vienna, enjoying the company of friends, but never holding any position in the musical establishment or attracting the kind of patronage that Beethoven had 20 years earlier.
Schubert wrote operas, Singspiel and incidental music for the theatre. His best-known compositions of this kind include the music for the unsuccessful playRosamunde, Fürstin von Zypern (‘Rosamunde, Princess of Cyprus’), mounted at the Theater an der Wien in December 1823. The ballet music and entracte from Rosamunde are particularly well known.
Schubert wrote for mixed voices, male voices and female voices, but by far the most famous of his vocal compositions are the 500 or so songs—settings of verses ranging from Shakespeare to his friends and contemporaries. His song cycles published in his lifetime are Die schöne Müllerin(‘The Fair Maid of the Mill’) and Die Winterreise (‘The Winter Journey’), while Schwanengesang(‘Swan-Song’) was compiled by a publisher after the composer’s early death. Many songs by Schubert are very familiar, including Der Erlkönig (‘The Erlking’), the Mignonsongs from Goethe and the Songs of Norma from Sir Walter Scott.
The ‘Unfinished’ Symphony of Schubert was written in 1822, but no complete addition was made to the two movements of the work. Other symphonies of the eight more or less completed include the ‘Great’ C major Symphony and the Classical and charming Fifth Symphony. His various overtures include two ‘in the Italian style’.