Johann Straus II - Vergnügungszug (Pleasure Train), op. 281

Johann Strauss II , known for his waltzes and lively compositions, had a unique approach to his creative process. He consistently sought contemporary and relevant themes to serve as the driving force behind his new musical compositions. This approach ensured that his work remained fresh and connected with the audiences of his time.  One notable instance of this creative approach was the composition of this polka, composed in 1864. This piece of music was specifically crafted for a summer concert held in the picturesque Russian town of Pavlovsk. It's fascinating to note that Strauss drew inspiration for this composition from the world around him. In this case, he found it in the emerging technology of the time, namely, the steam locomotive. The composition itself is a testament to Strauss's ability to capture the essence and energy of the subject matter. The rhythm of this dance piece mirrors the rhythmic chugging and movements of the old-fashioned steam trains that were prevale

Schubert - A desperate genius

Rarely can a man be driven out of fate as far as Franz Peter Schubert. He was born on January 31, 1797, one of his family's 14 children, in the kitchenette of his humble family home in Vienna. His father was a poor teacher - he used his house as a school - who fought his whole life to make ends meet.

The gods who give away beauty ignored Franz Peter. He was short, fat and congenitally short-sighted. He had a low forehead, short plump fingers and walked with a strange, apologetic, restrained step. He was also - apparently not unnecessarily - overly shy.

This is where Schubert was born. The cramped house
that his father turned into a school, struggling to
survive as a teacher.
He was certainly a musical genius, and his talent appeared very early when he began composing for his family. At 10, he composed music for the local church, where he was also a choir director.

When Schubert was 11 years old, he won a scholarship to the Choir of the Royal Chapel at the Imperial and Royal School of Vienna, where he sang with his children's soprano voice. He liked his uniform, but he found the system strict and the diet bad. 

But he excelled in music. In 1812 he became a student of Mozart's great rival Salieri and the following year he wrote his First Symphony for the school orchestra, at the age of 16.

That same year his voice changed due to age and he left school to return home, where he would help his father teach. That period wasn't happy. The pay was meager, and Schubert's tendency to oscillate between vagueness and excessive rigour alienated him from his students. Nevertheless, the years of teaching have been one of Schubert's most productive, currently composed more than 400 musical works.

Bohemian life

In 1817 Schubert gave up teaching to devote himself to music. He left his house and lived as a bohemian in the center of Vienna. His mornings without exceptions were dedicated to composition. This monomania was the key to Schubert's awesome productivity. Within a year he composed about 150 songs, eight of which in the course of a single day.

In the afternoons, with friends - musicians and poets - Schubert would meet in Vienna cafes, eating pastries and drinking coffee. Schubert also drank large quantities of wine and often at night his loyal friends carried him drunk to his bed.

Schubert and his friends in the famous "Schubertiads"
His friends were extremely devoted to Schubert. They invented a special name, "Schubertiad", for the musical nights when the composer played his music. They were fascinated by Schubert's personality, humour and cheerful disposition, and willingly forgave him for his moody side. This side would show up when he drank too much - he got dark and sometimes he would get violent. He also often had depression attacks. As he himself said: "There is no other man in the world as tormented and unhappy as me."

He's had a lot of depression. His attempts at opera were without exception unsuccessful. He had some success with the release of his songs, but the fee was meager. The musical evenings organized by his devoted friends were the only opportunity to present his music.

In 1822, after an ordinary night of wine, Schubert was persuaded by a friend to visit a brothel. It was typical of Schubert's misfortune that only he got a serious case of syphilis. The physical impairment due to the illness, but also the mercury he took to cure it (he temporarily lost his hair), affected his health for the rest of his life.

Depression attacks

Schubert's grave in Vienna 
central cemetery.
This also led him to growing depression attacks from which the melancholy, gloomy cycle of Winterreise -Winter Journey songs emerged. Even his closest friends felt despair when they heard these songs.

Schubert's misfortune continued. His first and only concerto on March 26, 1828, was ignored by music critics, who preferred to exthus the recent appearance in Vienna of the young talented violinist, Niccolo Paganini. In October, Schubert's friends convinced him to vacation in Eisenstadt, a resort of the Austrian royal family. Their intention was to entertain him, but Schubert spent most of his time full of grief at
Haydn's grave. When he returned to Vienna, he fell ill with typhus and on the afternoon of November 19, he died.

"Here, here is my end." Schubert's last words were a last-ditch, provocative cry against the misfortune that ruined his life. The tragic irony is that it was only after his death that he began to be recognized as a musical genius. His music made him immortal.