Franz Peter Schubert - Life and Music


Go to content

Schubert's Circle

Schuberts Circle

The art of making friends, and of keeping them, was no secret to Franz Schubert. Several friendships, formed at the Convict, lasted throughout his life. Schubert's circle of friends, bound together by a desire for self-improvement and a passion for poetry and music, include some of the finest artists of the 19th century. Below are Schubert's friends and acquaintances, who were important or influental in the composer's life.

Schubert’s circle playing games at Atzenbrugg 1821

Bauernfeld, Eduard von
(1802–1890). Viennese dramatist and man of letters. One of Schubert’s closest friends, he often played duets with him. Younger than the composer, Bauernfeld was often concerned about Schubert’s wellbeing, particularly when he spent extended periods of time in Schober’s company. His diary and reminiscences provide an important primary source of information about the last years of Schubert’s life. It is Bauernfeld who particularly strikingly describes Schubert's intimate feeling for literature:

'...Moreover in literature, too, he was anything but unversed and the way he understood how to interpret, with inventiveness and vitality, the different poetic individualities, like Goethe, Schiller, Wilhelm Müller, G. Seidl, Mayrhofer, Walter Scott and Heine, how to transform them into new flesh and blood and how to render faithfully the nature of each one by beautiful and noble musical characterization - these recreations in song should alone be sufficient to demonstrate, merely by their own existence and without any further proof, from how deep a nature, from how sensitive a soul these creations sprang. A man who so understands the poets is himself a poet!'

Bocklet, Karl Maria von
(1801–1881). Pianist and violinist. Schubert dedicated to him the D major Sonata of August 1825. At Schubert’s sole concert, he was the pianist in the first performance of the E flat Trio.

Diabelli, Anton (1781–1858). Directed the firm of Diabelli & Co., successor to Cappi & Diabelli, until 1853. He published more than forty opus numbers of Schubert’s work during the composer’s lifetime, bought all the surviving unpublished songs, and other works, from Ferdinand Schubert in 1829, and published the fifty books of the so-called Nachlass, containing more than 135 previously unpublished songs and partsongs from 1830 to 1850. Diabelli was also a composer, immortalised by Beethoven’s monumental ‘Diabelli’ Variations, his last major piano work.

Doblhoff, Anton von
(1800–1872). A politically minded member of Schubert’s circle, he was a pupil of Senn (see below) and himself came under suspicion of the police at the time of Senn’s arrest.

Eckel, Georg Franz (1797–1869). Distinguished physician and veterinary surgeon, and a friend of Schubert since their Seminary days. His memoirs contain an extraordinarily detailed account of Schubert’s physical appearance and temperament. He wrote:

'Even in boyhood and youth, his life was primarily one of inner, spiritual thought, which he would seldom express in words but almost only in music. Even with his close friends he was generally silent and uncommunicative. On the walks which the pupils took together, he usually kept apart, walking with lowered eyes and with his hands behind his back, playing with his fingers (as though on keys). He seemed entirely lost in his own thoughts. I seldom saw him laugh; more frequently I saw him smile, sometimes for no apparent reason, as if it were a reflection of the inner life of the soul.'

Esterházy, von Gahinta, Johann Karl, Count
(1775–1834). Hungarian nobleman. Schubert tutored his daughters at Zseliz in 1818 and 1824, and kept in touch with the family during their visits to Vienna. Countess Caroline, with whom Schubert was in love, was the dedicatee of the F minor Fantasy for piano duet.

Gahy, Josef von
(1793–1864). Civil servant and pianist. Born in Hungary, he was Schubert’s favourite duet partner, and a famous performer of his keyboard dances.

Grillparzer, Franz
(1791–1872). Austrian poet and dramatist. An acquaintance rather than a friend, he wrote the controversial inscription for Schubert’s tombstone and helped organise the official subscription for a memorial to him.

Grob, Therese
(1798–1875). Schubert’s first love, she later married a baker but died childless. The young Schubert was accustomed to visit the Grob family. The widow was owner of a silk-factory in Vienna, and was highly cultured and well circumstanced. Her daughter, Therese, whom Schubert greatly admired, was exceedingly accomplished as a singer, her voice being a high soprano. She often tried over his latest songs, while a "Tantum ergo" and a "Salve Regina" were specially composed for her voice. Her mementos of Schubert, including the songbook he compiled for her in 1816, were sequestered for many years by descendants of her nephew. To Anselm Hüttenbrenner's question if he had ever fallen in love, Schubert replied;

'I loved someone very dearly and she returned my love. She was a schoolmaster’s daughter, somewhat younger than myself, and she sang most beautifully and with great feeling. She was not exactly pretty and her face had pock-marks; but she had a heart, a heart of gold. For three years she hoped I would marry her; but I could find no position which would have provided for us both. She then later married someone else, which hurt me very much. I love her still, and no one since has ever appealed to me so much. But it seems she was
not meant for me..'

Holz, Karl
(1798–1858). Violinist and member of the Schuppanzigh Quartet. He participated in the first performances of Schubert’s A minor Quartet and the Octet in F for strings and wind, as well as appearing in Schubert’s only public concert on 26 March 1828. He arranged for a performance of Beethoven’s C sharp minor Quartet for Schubert on his deathbed.

Holzapfel, Anton (1792–1868). Successful Viennese lawyer and a fellow student of Schubert’s at the Seminary. He was a fine tenor singer and an excellent cellist, who afterwards took up law for his living. His memoirs give a vivid picture of the teenage Schubert’s love of poetry:

'He was one of those deep, quiet natures who, from the standpoint of superficial book-learning, often seem to have little talent. But even in those days his intellectual development was far in advance of his years; I remember particularly a long poem of his, written in the manner of Klopstock’s odes (a style hardly understood by us pupils). And its theme? ‘God’s omnipotence in the creation!’

Huber, Josef
(1794–1870). A popular member of Schubert’s circle, later an accountant in the Austrian War Department. Schubert shared lodgings with him in 1823–4.

Hüttenbrenner, Anselm
(1794–1868). Lawyer and musician, and a pupil of Salieri. He was a favourite friend of Schubert, who wrote a set of piano variations (D.576) on a theme by him.

Hüttenbrenner, Josef
(1796–1882). Brother of the above. An amateur musician, he was a passionate enthusiast for Schubert’s music who tirelessly attempted, to the often intense irritation of the composer, to bring some semblance of order to the chaos of Schubert’s professional life.

Jenger, Johann Baptist (1793–1856). Austrian pianist and a founder member of the Styrian Philharmonic Society, which awarded its Diploma of Honour to Schubert in 1823. He later moved to Vienna, where he frequently attended private performances of Schubert’s music.

Kenner, Josef
(1794–1868). Austrian civil servant and a former schoolmate of Schubert’s at the Seminary. Of Kenner, an accomplished amateur writer, Schubert set to music 3 of his poems. His reminiscences are most memorable for their scathing attack on Schober’s influence in Schubert’s life. He certainly blamed Schober for encouraging the composer into the pathways that led to his final illness. There is something of the provincial puritan in Kenner's attitude, but also the solicitude of an older boy at school protecting a younger charge.

Thirty years after the composer's death, Kenner described to Ferdinand Luib the extraordinary times in the freezing cold piano room of the Imperial College:

'It was there that his earliest compositions were first tried out and discussed and it was there that I was surprised by the dedication of the 'Liedler', which was handed over to me. You cannot possibly imagine how humble I felt at this mark of distinction, at this dedication, and at the truly friendly way in which it was done, because you know neither my admiration for Schubert's artistic greatness nor my opinion of my own very humble merits. I did indeed know that Schubert craved merely for words which were fairly manageable and that therefore I had no reason to be in the least conceited because mine were chosen.'

That dedication of Der Liedler turned out to be the high point of Kenner's life. (From
notes by Graham Johnson)

Kiesewetter, Raphael Georg
(1773–1850). Viennese civil servant, singer, f lautist, and pioneer musicologist. He was among the first to champion the cause of early music, and the concerts regularly given at his home were often attended by Schubert.

Kupelwieser, Josef
(1791–1866). Secretary of the Court Theatre in 1821–3, he wrote the libretto for Schubert’s projected grand opera Fierrabras, which was abandoned after the failure of Weber’s Euryanthe.

Kupelwieser, Leopold (1796–1862). Brother of the above. An Austrian artist, he became part of Schubert’s circle in the early 1820s. His sketches of its members and their activities of the circle are the most important pictorial records available today.

Lachner, Franz Paul
(1803–1890). Composer, organist and conductor. A pupil of Simon Sechter and Abbe Stadler, he was a friend of Schubert’s, and did his best to promote his chamber music and theatrical works. He's in the famous drawings of Schubert at the piano with tall, handsome Johann Vogel in pride of place. Prussian by birth, Lachner worked in the Lutheran Church in Vienna, hence his interest in liturgical music and big pieces for organ and choir, which the raffish Schubert crowd eschewed.

Lászny, Katharina,
née Buchwieser (c.1789–1828). Opera singer. Schubert and Vogl were frequent visitors at her house, though not on the long list of her lovers. Schubert dedicated to her a book of songs (Op. 36) and the Divertissement à l’hongroise.

Mayerhofer, Ferdinand von (1798–1869). One of Schubert’s schoolmates at the Seminary and an active member of the circle in the 1820s. He had literary interests, and collaborated with Bauernfeld in translations made for the Vienna Shakespeare.

Mayrhofer, Johann
(1787–1836). Austrian poet, and a major inf luence on Schubert’s development as a songwriter. During December of the year 1814 Schubert made the acquaintance of Mayrhofer, the census-official and tragic poet, the musician's senior by full ten years. He studied law in Vienna, and seems to have maintained himself by teaching until 1820, when he became an official in the Censorship Office. He and Schubert shared rooms for two years from the autumn of 1818. Mayrhofer’s neo-classicism, and his deep commitment to Romantic ‘longing’ was an important source of the melancholy so characteristic of Schubert’s greatest work. In his memoirs he wrote:

'My acquaintance with Schubert was brought about by a young friend giving him my poem, 'Am See,' to set to music. The friend brought him to that very room which, five years later, 1819, we were destined to share in common. It was in a dark, gloomy street. House and furniture were the worse for wear; the ceiling was beginning to bulge, the light obstructed by a huge building opposite, and part of the furniture was an old worn-out piano and a shabby bookstand such was the room. I shall never forget it nor the hours we spent there...This depth of sentiment and mutual love for poetry and music drew our sympathies closer and closer; I wrote verses, he saw what I wrote, and to these joint efforts many of his melodies owed their beginning, end, and popularity in the world.'

Milder, Pauline Anna (1785–1838). Viennese opera singer, and the first Leonore in Beethoven’s Fidelio (1805). Schubert’s enthusiasm for her as an artist was first kindled by her performance in Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride, while he was still at school. Schubert wrote his second Suleika song and Der Hirt auf dem Felsen for her.

Mohn, Ludwig
(1797–1857). Painter. A prominent member of Schubert’s circle in the early 1820s, he hosted the reading parties in the autumn and winter of 1823-4.

Mosel, Ignaz Franz von
(1772–1844). Secretary to Count Moritz Dietrichstein, and an influential supporter of Schubert’s music. The four Goethe songs of Op. 3 were dedicated to him.

Paumgartner, Sylvester (1764–1841). Mining engineer, cellist, and local patron of the arts at Steyr. During Schubert’s stay in Steyr in 1819 he commissioned the Piano Quintet in A (‘Trout’).

Pichler, Karoline
(1769–1843). Author and literary hostess. Her salon in Vienna was internationally famous. Schubert was a frequent visitor in the early 1820s, and his music was often played there.

Rieder, Wilhelm August
(1796–1880). Austrian painter and a member of Schubert’s circle. His water-colour portrait of the composer (1825) was universally agreed by his friends to be the best contemporary portrait, and became popular even in Schubert’s lifetime.

Schlechta, Franz Xaver von
(1796–1875). Austrian civil servant and poet. A fellow pupil of Schubert at the Seminary, he was a devoted supporter of the composer’s music. Schubert’s Schlecta settings include Des Sängers Habe and Fischerweise.

Schober, Franz von
(1796–1882). Austrian dilettante. Gifted, charismatic and undisciplined, he was in many ways the most prominent member of Schubert’s circle. Franz von Schober, an associate of the ‘Bildung Circle’ and already a sophisticated man of the world, certainly in his own estimation. Tall, handsome, smooth, facile and verbally articulate, he was in many respects Schubert’s polar opposite. Oozing charisma, he quite overwhelmed the diminutive, tongue-tied Schubert, who quickly became an adoring admirer. He was hardly alone. Schubert’s friend and former schoolmate Eduard von Bauernfeld was almost equally entranced: 'Schober surpasses us all in mind, and still more so in speech!'

He was certainly Schubert's closest and most influential friend, but not in the long run for the better. Helpful in establishing useful opportunities and contacts in the early part of Schubert’s career, and in providing him with lodgings for extended periods, he was later blamed, most fiercely by Josef Kenner (see above). Frustratingly for posterity, this man who knew Schubert longer and better than anyone else outside his family never set down a single sentence of reminiscence.

Schönstein, Karl von (1797–1876). Baritone singer, public official, and member of Schubert’s circle. A close friend of the Esterházy family and a devoted interpreter of Schubert’s songs, he was especially famous for his performance of the song cycle Die schöne Müllerin, which Schubert dedicated to him.

Schuppanzigh, Ignaz (1776–1830). Austrian violinist and quartet leader. He and his famous quartet worked closely with Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert, whose A minor Quartet was dedicated to him.

Schwind, Moritz von
(1804–1871). Distinguished Austrian painter and a prominent member of Schubert’s circle. His best-known work, appropriately unfinished, is entitled ‘Schubert Evening at Josef von Spaun’s’.

Sechter, Simon
(1788–1867). Bohemian-born composer, organist, and theorist. In his final weeks Schubert began a course in counterpoint with Sechter but in the event could manage only one lesson.

Senn, Johann Chrysostomus
(1792–1857). A friend of Schubert’s from their Seminary days, he was a passionate supporter of Tyrolese independence. After the police raid on his rooms in March 1820, in which Schubert was also arrested, he was imprisoned for fourteen months without charges being brought against him, and then banished to his homeland. Senn, a gifted and impetuous poet, turned misanthrope, and came to an untimely end.

Slavík, Josef (1806–1833). Bohemian violinist, regarded by Schubert as ‘a second Paganini’. Schubert wrote for him the Rondo in B minor and the Fantasy in C, which he performed with his compatriot Bocklet (see above).

Sonnleithner, Leopold
(1797–1873). A distinguished barrister, he also played a leading part in the Philharmonic Society. Although Schubert’s exact contemporary and one who did much to promote his interests, he remained somewhat aloof and never became a close friend.

Spaun, Josef von
(1788–1865). Austrian government official. Nine years Schubert’s senior, he was his most longstanding and loyal friend, and, when necessary, posthumous defender. They met early in Schubert’s career at the Seminary, and Spaun remained his most mature and well-balanced advisor and champion. About Schubert he wrote: 'I quickly noticed how this usually quiet and very ordinary-looking child surrendered himself completely to the impressions of the beautiful symphonies we played in the school orchestra. It was his delight in the music and the excitement with which he took part that first made me notice him.' Spaun also recalls an incident which shows another side of Schubert. When Schubert was 16 he went with Spaun to see Gluck’s great tragedy Iphigénie en Tauride. Schubert was bowled over both by the music and by the singing, in particular of Anna Milder and the famous baritone Johann Michael Vogl, whom he all but worshipped. After the opera they adjourned to a nearby tavern, to crown a great evening out with a little celebration.

'While we were still there, revelling unrestrainedly in the joy of what
we had heard, a professor at the next table mocked our enthusiasm, declaring that Milder had crowed like a cock and that Oreste had the feet of an elephant. Schubert sprang up in a rage and, in doing so, knocked over a glass full of beer, and there ensued a violent exchange of words which would have turned to blows but for some calming voices, which came in on our side, and thus appeased us. Schubert was ablaze with fury over this, a state quite foreign to his normally gentle disposition.'

Stadler, Albert
(1794–1888). Another friend from the Seminary days, he maintained contact with Schubert after moving away from Vienna in 1817. Stadler became a barrister by profession, and in his spare time cultivated pianoforte-playing and composition.

Streinsberg, Josef Ludwig von
(1798–1862). Yet another fellow Seminarian and member of Schubert’s circle. Strongly active politically, he too was arrested in the police raid on Senn’s rooms in March 1820.

Teltscher, Josef
(1801–1837). Painter and portraitist, member of the circle. His wellknown lithograph of Schubert was made in 1826 and his famous coloured drawing of Jenger, Schubert and Anselm Hüttenbrenner is reproduced in many biographies.

Troyer, Ferdinand Count (1780–1851). Chief steward of the Archduke Rudolph, and an excellent clarinettist. He commissioned the Octet for wind and strings, and the first performance was given at his house in the spring of 1824.

Vering, Josef von
(1793–1862). Medical doctor, who attended Schubert during the last days of his life. He was a specialist in the treatment of venereal disease.

Vogl, Johann Michael
(1768–1840). Famous Austrian baritone, friend and champion of Schubert. He continued performing Schubert songs well into his seventies, though he was not averse to embellishing them with numerous vocal ornaments of his own.

Vorísek, Jan Václav (Hugo) (1791–1825). Outstanding Bohemian composer. He took part in the salon concerts at the home of Ignaz Sonnleithner, where he first met Schubert. He was the first exponent in Vienna of the short piano piece in ternary form which found its greatest fame in Schubert’s impromptus and Moments musicaux. His influence on Schubert’s piano music has only recently been fully acknowledged.

Home | Biography | Music | Schuberts Circle | Letters | Site Map

Back to content | Back to main menu