Gretchen am Spinnrade
, D. 118
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 9 Track 25-29
It is tempting to think of our Romantic composers dying Romantic deaths. John Field
died far from home in Moscow at the age of fifty five in 1837. Frail from overwork and weakened by the loss of his family, Mendelssohn
died at the age of thirty-eight ten year later. Chopin
, as he had requested, was cut open to make sure he was dead before being buried. He was given an enormous funeral in 1849 having died at the age of thirty-nine. Robert Schumann
threw himself into the Rhine river and then spend two years in an asylum to die there at the age of forty-six in 1856. All of this following Beethoven
shaking his fists at a bolt of lightening as he lay dying at the age of fifty-seven in 1827.
Yet Mr. Schubert
, very Romantic, died of typhoid fever. Though it was tragic for his friends to lose such a talent at such a young age, thirty-one, his death had nothing to do with his work. He had not stressed himself from travel and drink, nor overwork, had no postmortem fears we know of nor a national funeral, and he probably did not shake his fists at lightening bolts. He worked consistently from nine to two and produced a remarkable collection of scores. Where his personal life and death were unremarkable and perhaps unimportant to him, his creative life achieved a conquest of death.
To my ears, Schubert is inescapably linked to the imposing genius of Beethoven. Though worthy of a listen in his own right, Mr. Schubert's music reminds us of what else was going on in the town that housed that awesome iconoclast with the messy hair.