Books, Manuscripts and Music from Medieval to Modern

Books, Manuscripts and Music from Medieval to Modern

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 79. F. Schubert. Fine lengthy autograph letter to his brother Ferdinand, 4 pages, Zseliz, 24-25 August 1818.


F. Schubert. Fine lengthy autograph letter to his brother Ferdinand, 4 pages, Zseliz, 24-25 August 1818

Lot Closed

July 19, 11:26 AM GMT


70,000 - 90,000 GBP

Lot Details


Franz Schubert

Fine lengthy autograph letter signed ("der treue aufrichtige Franz[paraph]ia"), to his brother Ferdinand, 24-25 August 1818

expressing his deep feelings for his family and for his home town Vienna, telling Ferdinand that he has completed the former's Deutsches Requiem, D.621, which has made him sad as he "sang it from the bottom of his soul", suggesting that Ferdinand write in the words and mark any repeats as he sees fit, wishing that he could bring his brother a little happiness, as he seems to be in a bad place at the moment, and joking that his stupid foot is falling asleep (which it wouldn't do if it could write); in a continuation of the letter written at 8 o'clock the following morning Schubert asks Ferdinand in return for composing the requiem for him, to extend his love to his parents, brothers and sisters, especially his youngest brother Karl, and to send him some more clothes, especially two pairs of cashmere trousers (he can pay him as he has just earned 200 florins that month), since it is already getting cold and he will not leave for Vienna until the middle of November; at the end of the letter Schubert expresses his fulsome love for Vienna, and that whilst he is looking forward to seeing the harvest and the vintage at Freistadtl (belonging to Count Erdödy, his patron's uncle), nevertheless, most of all, he cannot wait to get back to his home town, which encompasses all that he holds dear ("...So freue mich doch unendlich wieder auf den Augenblick, wo es heißen wird: Wien, nach Wien! Ja, geliebtes Wien, Du schließt das Theuerste, das Liebste, in Deinen engen Raum, und nur Wiedersehen himmlisches Wiedersehen wird diese Sehnen stillen...")

...Es ist Nachts halb 12 Uhr, und fertig ist deine Trauermesse. Traurig machte sie mich, glaub es mir, denn ich sang sie aus voller Seele. Was dran fehlt, ergänze, d.i. schreibe den Text drunter u. die Zeichen drüber. Willst Du manches repetiren, so thu es, ohne mich in Zeliz darum zu fragen. Dir geht es nicht gut, ich wollt, ich könnte mit Dir tauschen, so wärst Du einmahl froh. Jede drückende Last würdest Du abgeworfen finden. Lieber Bruder, ich wünscht’ es Dir vom Herzen--Mein Fuß schläft mir ein, u. ich bin darüber sehr böse. Konnte der Talk schreiben, würde er nicht schlafen.-- -- -- -- -- -- Guten Morgen, Brüderchen, ich hab nun sammt dem Fuß geschlafen und setze meinen Brief den 25 um 8 Uhr fort...

4 pages, oblong 4to (c.20 x 24.5cm), on "Konzeptpapier", pencil annotation at head ("92"), collector's paper wrapper (numbered "92" and "163"), Zseliz (Zeliezovce), 24-25 August 1818, some creasing and light dust-marking to folds on the fourth page


Schubert's autograph letters are by far the rarest of the great composers of the Viennese Classical Era. While there are roughly four hundred letters and diaries by Haydn, six hundred letters by Mozart and sixteen hundred by Beethoven, only about sixty by Schubert are known to survive, mostly in museums. This letter is only one of two to have been offered at auction here in the last seventeen years (the other being the celebrated last letter of Schubert, sold in these rooms on 8 June 2021, lot 55). 

In July 1818, Schubert travelled one hundred miles east to the Hungarian town of Zseliz (now Želiezovce in Slovakia), at the invitation of Count Johann Karl Esterházy of Galánta, to teach his teenage daughters, the 16-year-old Maria and 12-year-old Caroline. It seems that for the latter Schubert grew to entertain deep feelings: she became in fact over time something of a muse for the composer, and it was for her that he wrote in the closing year of his life (1828) the sublime Fantasy in F minor for piano duet, D.940. Among the other works that Schubert composed during his sojourn in Zseliz are the famous March Militaire in D for piano duet, op.51 (D.733 no.1), the piano duet sonata in B-flat, op.30 (D. 617), and the songs "Das Abendroth" (D.627), "Einsamkeit" (D.600) and "Blonde zu Marien" (D.626). 

The Deutsches Requiem referred to in the letter is work that the composer wrote for his brother Ferdinand (a modest composer in his own right), who then passed it off as his own composition in order to further his career and to pass exams. He had the work performed at the chapel of the Vienna orphanage in September 1818, and it was even published by Diabelli as Ferdinand's "opus 2" in 1826. However, this letter makes it clear that Ferdinand's famous brother Franz was in fact the composer (the autograph is in fact lost). In a subsequent letter to Ferdinand, Schubert begs him not to apologise for appropriating his work (" my German Requiem pleased you, and you cried over it, perhaps at the very word over which I wept myself...[letter dated 29 October 1818: translation]").


The letter, then still owned by Ferdinand's descendants in Vienna, was first published by Sir George Grove in his article 'Schubert' in A Dictionary of Music and Musicians, III (1883), p.330; G. Kinsky, Manuskripte-Briefe-Dokumente von Scarlatti bis Stravinsky (1953), no.163; O.E. Deutsch, Schubert. A Documentary Biography (1946), no.131 (pp.94-97); Elizabeth Norman McKay, Franz Schubert: a biography (Oxford, 1996), pp.222-225; Franz Schubert, Briefe, Tagebuchnotizen, Gedichte, edited by Erich Valentin (1997), pp.40-42 


Caroline Geisler-Schubert (1856-1951); Maggs Bros., Autograph letters, Historical Documents and Authors' Original Manuscripts, catalogue no.449 (1924), item 380 (illustrated)