Schubert was the son of a teacher and received a liberal education, including singing and playing the violin, piano and organ. In 1808 he became a member of the court band and the Stadtkonvikt (also known as the still existing Wiener Sängerknaben). Soon he became orchestra leader and deputy director of the orchestra of the Stadtkonvikt.
He studied composition and contrapunto under Salieri (the made up “bad guy” from the movie Amadeus). Under his influence, Schubert started to write his first compositions (small string quartets, piano pieces and songs).
In 1813 he finished his Erste Symphonie in D major. At the end of 1813 he became assistant teacher in his father’s school. The new job stimulated composition: in this period, he composed amongst others his first Mass in F major (1814), his first important song Gretchen am Spinnrade (from Goethes Faust; 1814), the ballad Erlkönig (text by Wolfgang von Goethe, written in 1815 and one of the over 245 songs in that period), Symphonies 2 – 5 (The Fourth Symphony Tragische is best known) and the little Sonatas for violin and piano.
Because of financial support from his friends, amongst others Mayrhofer and Franz von Schober, Schubert could completely dedicate himself to music. Von Schober introduced him to the singer J.M. Vogl, who broke many a lance for Schubert’s song, the maiden performance of these songs usually occurred on music nights amongst friends, the so called Schubertiads.
Schubert had a life full of troubles. His retiring and timid nature were not advantageous for a job as a public servant. He had little luck with his applications. Schubert experienced the sad fact that a lot of artistic fame and recognition only comes posthumously: only one of his many concerts was successful.
He died in 1828 in Vienna. After his death his music became popular, as a consequence in 1888 his body was transferred from the humble Währinger Friedhof to the Zentral Friedhof in Vienna.
It is said that Schubert, being a good guitarist, conceived most of his song accompaniments on the guitar before they were transcribed into piano arrangements. Unfortunately, we do not know original guitar compositions by him.