Schubertiade: History of Austria’s Music Festival Honoring Franz Schubert

Hohenems, Vorarlberg, Austria. Photo credit: Schubertiade

The city of Hohenems, in Austria, kicks off its annual music festival, known as the Schubertiade, for 2017 on May 4. This event began more than 40 years ago to honor the music of composer Franz Schubert. Set in the beautiful Rhine valley in Austria’s westernmost state of Vorarlberg, the combination of Alpine scenery and commitment to music has enhanced the festival’s growth, attracting musicians and audiences from around the world.

Schubert was born in Vienna in 1797 into a poor, but musical, family. His father, a local schoolmaster, was his first music teacher, instructing him in violin. His music training also included piano lessons from an older brother, composition studies with composer Antonio Salieri, a choir scholarship to the boarding school of Stadtkonvikt, and six years as a member of the Vienna Boys’ Choir.

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

As a composer, he was incredibly prolific, composing hundreds of works ranging from piano solos, chamber works, art songs, and lieder, to operas, liturgical music, and symphonies. Despite his versatility, he was best known for his lieder and art songs. Schubert, his friends, and performing artists would hold informal social gatherings in different homes where he and others would perform his piano solos, songs, and chamber music. This type of event, the Schubertiade, still exists today but the name is used for a festival or formal concert of Schubert’s music.

Hohenems Palace. Photo credit: Schubertiade

The Hohenems’ Schubertiade came about after Hermann Prey, an international lyric baritone, gave a recital in that city. In addition to his operatic roles, he was well-known for his interpretation of Schubert lieder (songs for voice and piano specifically with German poetic text). Prey’s concert served as a test for a possible annual concert season dedicated to Schubert’s music. Two years later, in 1976, the city’s first Schubertiade opened with the festival’s first concert in the 16th-century Hohenems Palace. Since then, the festival has continued with 80 events, more concert venues, expanded repertoire to include works of other composers, several museums in the area, and a yearly average of 35,000 visitors.

After Schubert’s death at age 31, more of his works were found that had not yet been published or even previously known. His fame grew posthumously when prominent 19th-century composers, such as Franz Liszt and Felix Mendelssohn, brought his newly discovered pieces to the attention of listeners and publishers. Schubert was a part of both the late Classical era and early Romantic. His music continues to be performed throughout the world.

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For more information:

Schubertiade schedule