Franz Schubert was one of the foremost Viennese composers who made a remarkable contribution to piano repertoire, orchestral music, chamber music and most notably, the German lied. He wrote no less than 1,500 works in his short career. His influence on future generations was immense, especially the fact that he raised the lied genre from marginal to highly important.
Schubert was the son of a school headmaster who possessed enough violin-playing skills to give his musically talented son some basic training. From the age of eight, alongside violin lessons with his father, he studied counterpoint with Michael Holzer, who reported that ‘whenever I wished to impart something new to him, he always knew it already’. After showing great promise and completing an impressive audition, Antonio Salieri appointed him as a choirboy in the Hofkapelle, which included free tuition, accommodation and the best possible education for a non-aristocratic boy. Here, in the school orchestra in which he played violin, he encountered the orchestral music of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. As well as his growing fascination with the style of these composers, and the poetry of Goethe and Schiller, Schubert was also encouraged by his teacher Salieri to explore the depths of Italian opera for inspiration in composing. Very little about Schubert’s early life as a composer is known, but it seems his earliest known compositions date from his 13th year.
In October 1813, at the age of 16, he completed his First Symphony in D and a year later, his Mass in F. These early works are full of the language that Mozart and Haydn before him had composed in, along with some flavours of Bach and even Rossini but at this stage of his youth, his music was barely distinguishable from other lesser-known Viennese composers from the turn of the century.