Schubert letter up for auction ‘shows the composer’s optimistic personality’

·2-min read

A letter written by Franz Schubert shortly before his death shows the composer’s “optimistic personality”, according to an expert from an auction house that is selling the document.

It is worth £100,000 to £150,000 and is the last surviving letter written by the Austrian composer, who died in 1828 at the age of 31, auction house Sotheby’s said.

John Arthur, music consultant at Sotheby’s, said while Schubert suffered a “terrible” fate, the letter shows the composer’s positive disposition.

(Sotheby’s/PA)
(Sotheby’s/PA)

The letter was written by Schubert to his friend Franz von Schober, who Sotheby’s said was “blamed for introducing the young composer to the seedy underworld of Vienna whilst the two lived together in 1822”.

In the letter, Schubert tells his friend he is sick and has not eaten anything for 11 days.

He asks his friend to leave novels at a coffee house so that his brother can collect them for him.

Mr Arthur told the PA news agency the document has “probably a greater poignancy than any other letter I have seen before” because of how closely it was written to Schubert’s death.

He added that von Schober was “the keeper of Schubert’s secrets, and some have seen him as the person who led Schubert astray in the decade before the letter”.

“It’s really quite a terrible fate, Schubert’s,” he said.

“If you think there he is, aged 31, dying, but he already knew eight years earlier in the end of 1822 with his diagnosis of syphilis, it was basically a death sentence.

“So from that point he knew he was never going to live long and that colours the sort of music he wrote, the depth of his emotions.

“Although if you look at the letter… it’s not in shaky handwriting or anything like that, it’s outwardly quite optimistic but that reflects his generally very optimistic personality.”

Mr Arthur said letters by Schubert are “very rare” compared with some of the other great composers, adding: “The important thing about the letter is that it’s his last letter and one does have a great sense of awe when you handle it, because you know only seven days later he died.”

The online auction opened on Friday and bidding will end on Tuesday.

Bidding starts at £90,000.

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