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How Schubert Composed.

From a biography of Schubert, by Richard   Heuberger, we learn something of Schubert's methods of composition. Even as early as his sixteenth year he had formed a regular system of work, which he carefully criticised and improved. After the first sketches, which he generally finished in all essentials, he was accustomed to lay a composition aside, later to take it up for careful polishing. Often even this did not satisfy him, and he wrote the same piece three and four times. Two of his most celebrated songs "Der Erlkönig" and "Die Forelle" exist in four forms, each different and yet perfect in itself.

Schubert wrote the melody and the harmonic and thematic parts of the accompaniment of the most important sections in a few minutes, and then went on the working out, so that the whole was begun and ended with one effort. From his sketches it can be seen that in the moment of conceiving and writing a piece—the two were synchronous with him—he considered the various versions, compared, decided, and held finally to the best. Schubert did not leave a sketch-book like Beethoven. His plan of work was much different. Among the many autograph copies of his pieces one may seek almost in vain for a doubtful note or a slip of the pen.
His rapidity of composition was astonishing. For instance, on October 15, 1815, he wrote eight songs, each of them gems. Four days later he wrote seven equally faultless, without a trace of haste or superficiality. For a long time it was said that, pressed by his genius, Schubert took song-texts wherever offered to him. This statement is not justified. Schubert selected his texts with the finest discrimination, and not only rejected certain stanzas, but altered lines and rhymes, and always for the better. He laid thirty-five poets under contribution, and the texts which he selected show that he possessed a clear understanding of the value of literary product. Goethe furnished the inspiration for seventy-two songs; Schiller, forty-six; Wilhelm Müller, forty-four; Heine, only nine.

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