That was the life! Candlelight, music and song, friends, poetry and a good glass of early 19th century Viennese wine. Make that two glasses. So it’ll be easier to forget about the reality of hardship, poverty, the stench of rats, disease and smell of unromantic death of this early Romantic Era. But let’s return swiftly to the inviting candlelight and “das Lied”.
Ah… Schubert. Master of melody and melancholy. To me, he was the embodiment of his time. A time of dawning change indeed. A time in which young Franz, on his way to his lessons with Salieri, stumbled into grumpy Beethoven in the dark streets of Vienna. Too humble and shy to even introduce himself or even say hello for that matter. Some years later Schubert would be one of the torch-bearers at the deaf master’s funeral.
Schubert was a true romantic. He had to struggle to earn a living as a teacher. Never met the love of his life and had a very bad health (to put it mildly) at the end of his short life. But nevertheless he found solace in the beauty of the Austrian countryside, poetry and of course his music. And although Schubert only lived to be 31, he composed a vast body of works. More than 600 songs, 9 symphonies, numerous piano solo works and a large quantity of chamber music and more…
Fun with friends
But he couldn’t have done that without the help of many friends and admirers. The appreciation of Schubert’s works was limited during his lifetime, but luckily he found himself surrounded by a group of friends and admirers that supported him in many ways. And one of these ways became a household name in classical music and the arts: the Schubertiade…
A Schubertiade was an informal gathering of friends, sometimes sponsored by his wealthier friends, where there would be music, singing, poetry and performances throughout the day or night. Schubert would play the piano and if he felt confident enough, premiere his new works every now and then. Maybe he handed out sheet music of his songs, put his glass down on the piano and started playing, while his friends sang along. At least, this is how I like to picture it.
The song that you can now listen to could perfectly have been performed at one of these Schubertiades. It’s a so called “Ständchen” which is a serenade to a beloved one for piano, solo voice and small choir. This recording features a fortepiano which, to me, gives it this real early 19th century feel. Like you’re really there. And who wouldn’t like to be!