I am convinced, CONVINCED, that had Schubert lived in modern times, he would have been one of our greatest pop songwriters. He would have been McCartney or Thom Yorke. In fact, I often wonder if Yorke hasn’t been inhabited in some way by the long-dead Viennese pianist. Something about the pulsing sixth chords and his eerie melodic sense. Just compare “Exit Music (to a film)” to the Trio section of the Ab minor Impromptu. Hmm….
Franz Schubert died at 31 impoverished, having endured a sad career in which none of his symphonies received a single public performance. Even his now-legendary piano music languished. So instead of a lauded life filled with fame and glory, Schubert spent his days surrounded by a close group of artists and friends writing song after song (lieder). In one day alone he wrote eight pieces. In 1814, he penned 144 songs. His lifetime total was over 600–600 songs, not symphonies, sonatas, quintets, or any of the other works. In essence, he was the world’s most prolific songwriter, a man with an uncontrollable flow of ideas.
Bonnie Marson’s charming novel Sleeping with Schubert tells the tale of a Brooklyn lawyer with no musical training who one day becomes possessed by the spirit of Schubert. He starts composing through her, finishing symphonies, lieder, etc. Before long, this woman is the talk of the classical music community, when, despite marginal technical abilities, she can suddenly perform Schubert’s music like no one else. She (or he) even finishes his last symphony. The point being, he was an insatiable composer, even in death.
I leave you with one of his wonderful non-songs, an Impromptu written late in his life. The relentless melody scream rock star and genius.