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[Lee In-hyun] Franz Schubert a Van Gogh in classical music

Two weeks ago, I went to the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit with my mother in Los Angeles. Because she majored in art in college, she knew a lot about Van Gogh. Van Gogh certainly had amazing artistic talent; however, he did not get recognition and respect he deserved. He was poor and relied heavily on his brother for financial assistance. He did not gain reputation and fame during his lifetime. Many years after his death, he was at last recognized for his artistic talent. His paintings are now priceless and the place where he resided became a major tourist attraction. My mother felt sorry for him for not getting such recognition during his lifetime.

In a field of classical music, there is a musician who had a similar life; Franz Schubert was like Van Gogh. Although he was very talented musician and wrote pieces that are romantic and beautiful, he did not become a well-recognized musician. Most people who were acquainted with him knew what a genius musician he was. They tried to help him to live a better life; however, he could not escape poverty and hunger similar to Van Gogh. This was mainly due to his timid personality; he avoided showing his music to the public. Also, he had many opportunities to meet Beethoven, the musician he admired the most, but he only met Beethoven a year before his death. (They lived only a few blocks away from each other.) After listening to Schubert’s music, Beethoven admired his artistic talent and regretted not knowing him sooner. Although Schubert had financial difficulties, he never gave up his music; the music meant everything. Whether people know him or not, it was not important to him. He composed music in ways to enclose everything he felt and thought. (He was mainly inspired by poetry and literature.) His music was dazzlingly beautiful but sad enough to bring tears. He was pure and passionate, but lonely and sorrowful. Shubert died of syphilis at a relatively young age at 31 and he became forgotten.

A few years after the death of Schubert, Schumann, who was an influencer in the field of classical music, happened to listen to his pieces and decided to make known his greatness. Thanks to Schumann, much of Schubert’s music came to life. He became famous at last for his artistic talent. The songs he made are more beautiful than other composers’ songs, and his instrumental pieces touched people’s hearts. Although he died, his works are greatly loved around the world like Van Gogh. People celebrate his birth and commemorate his death by hosting concerts. In Austria, Schubert festival is held every year. Whenever I listen to Schubert’s pieces, I think it would have been better if he had become famous musician while he was alive because he could have done more musical activities. Perhaps If Schubert or Van Gogh was a famous artist who gained fame, we may not have been able to experience their beautiful and ingenious works today. Through their music or painting, I can feel their difficult lives.

For these reasons, I highly recommend you listen to Schubert “Ave Maria” and piano sonata D. 959, 2nd movement. “Ave Maria” is very popular and familiar. When my head and mind are complicated and overloaded, I listen to it. Because the melody and atmosphere have a religious feeling, it made me calm. Piano Sonata No. 2 D.959, 2nd Movement shows how difficult he lived. The music was composed before he died. His life became increasingly difficult, and his life was poor until the moment he fell ill and died. Whenever I listen to this music, it hurts my heart to feel his miserable and difficult life. If you want to experience a moment of calm, I suggest you listen to “Ave Maria.” If you want to feel his life and experience his deep side, I suggest the second piece, Piano Sonata No. 2 D.959 2nd Movement. In autumn, when a cold wind blows gently, it does not really matter which song you listen to. It is not an exaggeration to say that the best music for September is his music. If you have a chance, I hope you enjoy his music. You will never be disappointed. 

Lee In-hyun
Lee In-hyun is a classical pianist and author of award-winning book, The Classic Class, published in January 2021. She works both in Korea and the United States. She currently resides in Los Angeles, California. -- Ed.

By Korea Herald (