Franz Schubert was the first great romantic composer. Poetic love and pure joy of life, despair and coldness of solitude, seeking of high ideal, thirst for vagrancy and hopelessness of wanderings - all those feelings were reflected in the composer's creative work, in his spontaneously and naturally flowing melodies. The emotional openness of the romantic worldview and the spontaneity of expression raised the genre of song to the unprecedented highness. This genre, formerly an accessory one, became the basis of the artistic world in Schubert’s creative work.
The composer managed to express a whole range of feelings in the song melody. The inexhaustible musical talent allowed Franz Schubert to compose several songs a day (totally he created more than 600 ones. Song melodies penetrate into instrumental music, for example, the song “The Wanderer” served as the material for the piano fantasy with the same name, and “Trout” - for the quintet, etc.
Schubert was born in the family of a schoolteacher. Since the early childhood, the boy demonstrated the outstanding musical abilities and was sent to study in Convictus (1808-1813). There he sang in the choir, studied music theory under the direction of Antonio Salieri, performed in the student orchestra and conducted it.
The family of Schubert (as was common in the German burgher environment), was fond of music, but considered it an entertainment and a hobby. The profession of musician was considered not honorable enough. A fledgeling composer had to follow his father’s profession. For several years (1814–1818), Schubert’s work at school distracted him from creative work, and yet he continued to write music. The dependence from the Viennese classics style (mainly Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) was still felt in the instrumental music. However, at the age of 17, the composer created works in the song genre that fully revealed his individuality. Poetry of Wolfgang von Goethe inspired Schubert to create such masterpieces as, “Gretchen am Spinnrade” (Meine Ruh' ist hin), “Erlkönig”, songs from “Wilhelm Meisters”, etc. Schubert also wrote many songs on the words of another classic of German literature - Friedrich von Schiller.
Fervently wishing to devote himself entirely to music, Schubert quit from school (that was followed by the break up with his father) and left for Vienna (1818). Only the unstable sources of existence remained, such as private music lessons and publication of new compositions. Not being a virtuoso pianist, Schubert could not easily (like Frédéric Chopin or Ferencz Liszt) win laurels in the music world and thus promote his music. The nature of the composer, his complete immersion in music composition, his modesty and, at the same time, the fidelity to creative principles that did not allow him to take the middle path, contributed to this situation. However, he found understanding and support among his friends. A circle of creative youth was grouped around Schubert, each member possessed some artistic talent (What can he do? - every newcomer was met with such a question). The participants of the “Schubertiads” became his first listeners, and often co-authors (Johann Mayrhofer, Franz Grillparzer, etc.) of the genius songs of the circle head. Conversations and heated debates about art, philosophy and politics alternated with dances, for which Schubert wrote music. Often the musician improvised. Minuets, polonaises, landlers, polkas, gallops - these were dance genres. The waltzes rose above them – they were not the dancing music, but rather lyrical miniatures. Psychologizing the dance movements and turning them into a poetic mood picture, Schubert anticipated the waltzes of Frédéric Chopin, Mikhail Glinka, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, and Sergei Prokofiev. The member of the circle, the famous singer Michael Vogl promoted Schubert's songs at the concert stage.
Schubert's talent developed basing on Viennese long-standing musical traditions. The classical school (Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven), multinational folklore and the influence of Hungarians, Slavs, and Italians that superimposed on the Austro-German basis, and finally, a special passion of the Viennese for dancing and home music – all this determined the direction of Schubert's creativity.
The heyday of Schubert creativity was in the 20’s. At this time, the best instrumental works were created: the lyric-dramatic “The Unfinished” symphony (1822) and the epic, life affirming C-dur one. For a long time both symphonies were unknown to the public. Robert Schumann discovered C-dur symphony in 1838, and “The Unfinished” symphony was found only in 1865. Both symphonies influenced the composers of the second half of the 19th century, defining various ways of romantic symphonic style. Schubert did not hear those symphonies played by professional performers.