Gretchen Am Spinnrade – Franz Schubert


Franz Schubert, born in January 1797, was an Austrian composer who died at the young age of 31 years. His work bridged classical and romantic. He had an early gift for music playing the piano, violin and organ and was also an excellent singer although when his voice broke in 1812 it forced him to leave college, Stadtkonvikt (Imperial Seminary) after earning a choir scholarship there in 1808. His father was a school teacher, and he taught the young Schubert rudimentary violin whilst his elder brother taught him piano. His mother was a home maker and played the cello. He was their 12th child, he had 14 siblings, nine died in infancy.

Franz Schubert

Between 1813 and 1815 Schubert was a prolific songwriter, at the age of 17 he wrote two of his first German Lieds ‘Gretchen am Spinnrade’ and ‘Der Erlkönig’. He worked with texts from poetry giants like Wolfgang von Goethe, interpreting their poetry using his musical creativeness. These pieces are very dramatic, the depiction of the spinning wheel and treadle in the piano in ‘Gretchen’ are a tricky pictorial keyboard figuration.

Therese Grob

He had to teach to make ends meet but he hated it. In 1814 he met a soprano called Therese Grob and wrote several works for her, he wanted to marry her but was thwarted by harsh marriage laws where he had to show he had the means to support a family. He lived in the early 1820’s with a close-knit group of artists and students, he and four of his friends were arrested by the Austrian police who were on their guard against revolutionary activities. One of his friends was banished from Austria and Schubert was ‘severely reprimanded’. Schubert was not quite five feet tall and his friends nicknamed him “Schwämmerl” ‘Little Mushroom’.

Franz Liszt

When he died in November 1828, he’d been ill with headaches, fever, swollen joints and vomiting, impoverished and neglected except by a circle of his friends who were in awe of his genius. The composer Franz Liszt said of him after his death that ‘he was the most poetic musician who ever lived’. His output in his short life was prolific consisting of over six hundred secular vocal works (mainly Lieder), seven completed symphonies, sacred music, operas, incidental music and a large body of chamber and piano music.

Today Schubert is placed amongst the greatest composers of the early Romantic era and as such is one of the most frequently performed composers of the early nineteenth century.

This was the video of performance of this fabulous composition at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod in 2014 courtesy of Llangollen.

An Early Depiction Of Gretchen am Spinnrade

English Translation

My peace is gone,
My heart is heavy,
I will find it never
and never more.

Where I do not have him,
That is the grave,
The whole world
Is bitter to me.

My poor head
Is crazy to me,
My poor mind
Is torn apart.

For him only, I look
Out the window
Only for him do I go
Out of the house.

His tall walk,
His noble figure,
His mouth’s smile,
His eyes’ power,

And his mouth’s
Magic flow,
His handclasp,
and ah! his kiss!

My peace is gone,
My heart is heavy,
I will find it never
and never more.

My bosom urges itself
toward him.
Ah, might I grasp
And hold him!

And kiss him,
As I would wish,
At his kisses
I should die!

40 thoughts on “Gretchen Am Spinnrade – Franz Schubert

  1. Once again, you have drawn us into the emotion of the piece at all levels. Most appreciated and thoroughly enjoyed! Brava.

      1. Life is like that! Make the most of it but also make sure you look after yourself. Enough sleep and remember to eat properly! I expect you know all this already! 🙂

      2. Hi Clare, thanks for the advice and I do so agree with you. It is so important to have people who have got your back and are looking after your interests. So thank you for caring it means so much to me.

        I am relaxing tonight, just cooked a meal and have a cake baking in the oven for later as a little treat.

        Whatever you do this weekend I hope that you have a fabulous time.

        Best wishes

  2. Aaww.. 🙁 That is heart-breaking. So, he died without knowing that many people would come to love his work? Tragic..more than the sickness to me. Another reason I hope Heaven is real..I’d get to see him play before the most massive crowd imaginable. His dream fulfilled.

    As for the song/ make it look easy, Lady Hoather. But don’t worry, I know better.

    1. Hi Eric, It was a big competition and that adds a bit of a change to your breathing and heart beat that’s for sure 🙂 It was a heart-breaking tale I agree with you.

      Best wishes

  3. The lament of being an artist.

    How many created great books, wrote wonderful musical pieces, or created wonderful paintings only to spend their lives struggling. Sadly, many years later to have the world catch up and for them then to be considered a genius.

    Thankfully these days seem to be a bit more kind towards free thinkers.

    Have a great week!

    1. Do you think so Steve, I know lots of artists who have to take jobs to subsidise their art its so sad when their compositions aren’t discovered and celebrated in their lifetimes.

      Best wishes

  4. Brava. You are amazing. So talented and beautiful I am enthralled by your voice. Mesmerized by your performance. Thank you and best of luck in everything you do.

  5. Wow, I am totally impressed. I love the information, the performance, the english translation of the lyric. Absolutely great, thank you so much. I’m a big fan of Schubert and his music.

    1. Hi Cecilia, I love to read about the composers and the pieces they wrote, it helps me to understand them a little better and hopefully improves my performance. I am so glad that you enjoyed it.

      Best wishes

  6. Charlotte, first of all, your picture at the top is gorgeous! So professional — love your dress. Second, the information on Schubert is astonishing. I had no idea. What a tragedy that the world lost this genius so young and that he was so abandoned. That poor man!! Third, you sound absolutely magical. Lyrical, fluid, clear as a bell, with wonderful pearl-like round tones that absolutely glow. Brava!!

    1. Hi Beth, that is just the boost I needed this weekend thank you so much 🙂 I do wonder what he could have achieved with a little more support, so sad.

      Best wishes

    1. I love researching my songs, I do extra work on my own scores after the initial research I store and post here, I had limited languages exposure but it’s something I’ve put a lot of time into during the last three years. Got a lot to make up but it’s well worth the effort.
      Best wishes

  7. Wonderful, just so sad and lovely. I love the history with it, but it is a sad story indeed that Schubert died so young. A little modern medicine would have gone a long way!

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