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For his 220th birthday, we celebrate the joys and sorrows of the leader of Lieder: Franz Schubert.

Little mushroom. Yes.

Schwammerl was his nickname. It's Austrian slang for tubby.

And he was. Not to mention short; barely five feet tall, they say.

Although he was small, Franz Schubert was the first composer to survive (as long as he did) as a working composer without an aristocratic patron.  In his lifetime, he got by with a little help from his friends. Had he lived beyond 31, perhaps someone would have funded him...

But, we'll never know.

What we do know is that he was the most prolific composer of German art song. More than 600 settings of poetry for voice and piano make up more than a third of his total output. Sure, he wrote a whole lot of piano literature and music for chamber ensemble, finished seven symphonies, wrote a little incidental music and tried his hand at opera...

But, what was it that drew him to so elegantly illuminate these eloquent distillations of the joys and trials of human existence?

Mark Steinberg, first violinist of the Brentano Quartet, astutely explains that "Yearning and desire are even more moving when one dares to hope despite being confronted over and over by unforgiving realities... Schubert shows us the forces that wound, and the immense sensitivity of the soul that hopes."

Christopher Nupen, a South-African born British director with a penchant for classical music, directed and produced Franz Peter Schubert: The Greatest Love and the Greatest Sorrow for the BBC in 1994. A comprehensive portrait of the man painted with his words, his music, and his contemporary prophets; Nupen's documentary brings Schubert's journey and some of his greatest works (so many of which hold permanent rank in the hierarchy of western art music's standard repertoire) to life.

 

 

 

 

Don't forget to check out the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir's performance of Schubert's Mass No 6. You can listen to a snippet of the Kyrie at the beginning of Nupen's documentary. Come see the whole thing on Sunday, March 5 at St Boniface Cathedral!

And come back next Wednesday for another fresh episode of Mid-week Musicology here on Classic107.com!

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