This website may ask your browser to store cookies. See our Cookies Policy for more information about our use of cookies.

Back to news index

Franz Schubert: Six Years in Life – six online talks by Richard Wigmore

posted on 30/11/21


For Liszt, Franz Schubert was ‘the most poetic of composers’. He had a point. No music seems to speak to us more directly or more touchingly. Paradoxically, Schubert is at once the most friendly of the great composers, and the one who expresses most piercingly a Romantic sense of separation and ‘otherness’; a creator of some of the world’s most lovable melodies who is now rightly revered for his daring approach to harmony.

During his short, hectic life, spent almost entirely in Vienna, Schubert was known overwhelmingly for his songs, partsongs and piano miniatures. Yet by the time of his premature death at the age of 31 he had composed prolifically in all the major genres bar oratorio and concerto. Taking six key years in Schubert’s life, Richard Wigmore’s zoom talks will interleave biography with a discussion of individual works, from songs and symphonies of 1816 to the visionary string quintet from his final months.

They take place every Thursday from 20 January to 24 February at 4.30pm (GMT) and, including Q&A, will probably last just under an hour. They are available for viewing for eight weeks after the last episode is streamed (21 April 2022).

Register for the webinar series for £75

The talks

1. Eighteen Sixteen (20th January 2022)

Working as a reluctant teacher in his father’s school, the nineteen-year-old Schubert somehow found time to compose a phenomenal quantity of music, including masses, string quartets, two symphonies and over 100 songs, many among his best-loved. This first talk will focus on songs and the two contrasting symphonies. In the ‘Tragic’, No. 4, Schubert seems to grapple with the daunting example of Beethoven, while in the delectable Fifth Symphony he pays homage to his beloved Mozart.

2. Eighteen Nineteen (27th January 2022)

Schubert’s fame as a composer of songs and piano works was growing fast by 1819. With the baritone Johann Michael Vogl he formed the world’s first great Lieder duo. This talk will celebrate the songs of this year, including the majestic setting of Goethe’s ‘Prometheus’, plus two happy works written partly on a summer holiday with Vogl: the ever-fresh ‘Trout’ Quintet’, and the ‘little’ A major Piano Sonata, D664.

3. Eighteen Twenty-Two (3rd February 2022)

For Schubert 1822 was a year of expanding horizons and growing artistic ambition. Supported by Vogl, he was hopeful of success in the opera house. This was a period of some magnificent songs, including the macabre ballad ‘Der Zwerg’, plus the revolutionary ‘Wanderer’ Fantasy – Schubert’s most virtuosic piano work – and the symphonic torso prosaically dubbed ‘the Unfinished’. The symphony’s beauty and disturbing power, and its incomplete state, remain one of music’s most tantalising mysteries – to be pondered in Richard’s talk.

4. Eighteen Twenty-Five (10th February 2022)

After he contracted syphilis in the winter of 1822-23, Schubert’s health was often precarious. But there were long periods of remission, most gloriously during the summer of 1825, when Schubert embarked with the faithful Vogl on a Sommerreise that capped even his holiday of 1819. This talk will focus on the two works that took shape that summer amid the mountains, forests and lakes of Upper Austria: the euphoric D major Piano Sonata, D850, and the resplendent, life-affirming ‘Great’ C major Symphony.

4. Eighteen Twenty-Seven (17th February 2022)

Composed in two tranches in early and late 1827, the song cycle Winterreise is for many the archetypal Schubert work, and the ultimate musical expression of dispossessed, alienated humankind. But we should beware of treating Winterreise as autobiography. As Richard’s talk also demonstrates, this nihilistic song cycle is virtually contemporary with the B flat Piano Trio, which more than any other of his late works encapsulates the one popular image of the blithe, companionable Schubert pouring out a stream of spontaneous melody.

6. Eighteen Twenty-Eight (24th February 2022) 

Posterity has imbued Schubert’s final year with a romantic-tragic aura, and ascribed to his frantic creativity a sixth sense that time was running out. Yet we should remember than until his last weeks, he could not have sensed that death was imminent. Richard’s talk focuses on key instrumental works and songs of 1828, from the Piano Trio in E flat, chosen for Schubert's triumphant benefit concert in March, to the C major String Quintet, whose Adagio touches hitherto unglimpsed realms of unearthly tranquillity.

The speaker

Richard Wigmore

Music writer, lecturer and broadcaster for BBC Radio 3. He writes for BBC Music Magazine and Gramophone and has taught classes in Lieder history and interpretation at the Guildhall, Trinity College of Music and Birkbeck College. He read French and German at Cambridge and later studied Music at the Guildhall. His publications include Schubert: The Complete Song Texts and Pocket Guide to Haydn

Register for the webinar series for £75

Frequently asked questions

What methods of payment do you accept?

An electronic invoice will be sent to your e-mail address 1–3 working days after you have completed our registration form. Payment can be made online using AMEX, Apple Pay, Google Pay, MasterCard or Visa.

How do I purchase the webinar series as a gift?

Please contact us specifying how many subscriptions you would like and who they are for (we require their full name and e-mail address). We will invoice you directly, and after we have received your payment we will release the webinar joining instructions to your friend(s) or family member(s).

Can I purchase a single episode?

No, unfortunately not. The series must be purchased in full.

How do I join the webinar?

An e-mail confirmation will be sent to you after you have paid for your subscription, which includes your unique link for joining the webinar. Reminder e-mails will be sent to you one day and one hour before each event. We recommend that you download the Zoom software in advance of the first webinar.

Can I watch the live broadcast(s) on more than one device?

Only one device can be connected to the live broadcast(s) at any one time. If you wish to purchase a second subscription, please contact us.

What happens if I am unable to attend the live broadcast(s)? 

A recording will be uploaded to a dedicated webpage approximately two hours after the live broadcast. For copyright reasons, these recordings cannot be made available indefinitely; access is granted for eight weeks after the final live broadcast of the series. 

View tours with Richard Wigmore

View more Tea-Time Talks

Sign up to our e-newsletter

Ask a question