The winter of 1827 in Vienna was savage and relentless and life in his
tiny apartment had become almost unbearable. On occasions, even the
ink froze in its pot and he would be driven back into his bed in a
desperate attempt to keep warm. The little money he had received for
the first set of twelve songs had long gone and he was now without
food, without heating and several weeks in arrears with his rent.
Schubert's dear friend Vogel had called to encourage him to set down his quill for a while and join friends in the coffee house, and after some
persuasion he had reluctantly agreed. In the Cafe Adler he found
warmth and jollity with his friends, but his mind was tormented by
the song he had been working on, bouncing from the walls of his
creative genius demanding to be set free. Schubert did his best to
relax and participate, but his friends soon realised what was
happening; they had seen this happen before. Vogel left the group and
after a brief conversation with the cafe owner, returned to the table
with a quill and ink pot and set them down in front of his friend.
Schubert smiled, picked up the quill, dipped it carefully into the
ink pot and set to work on the tablecloth.
The fascinated silence that had fallen around the table as Schubert
scratched frantically at the cloth was abruptly shattered as the cafe
door burst open and a blast of winter air heralded the arrival of
Beethoven. Squat, gaunt and totally deaf, Beethoven shuffled off into
a corner completely oblivious of his surroundings and demanded coffee
of the approaching waiter. As the waiter scurried away, Beethoven
dropped a pile of manuscripts onto his table and began scowling at
them through his eyeglass.
Vogel looked across the room at Beethoven, now totally immersed in his manuscripts, looked back at his friend Schubert, now similarly
immersed in a world of his own and smiled at his fellow witnesses.
They all instinctively recognised an utterly unique moment in history
when two of the greatest composers the world would ever know were
sitting feet apart, totally immersed in their work and totally
oblivious of each other. Unknown to everyone, both were beginning
their final Winter journeys.
Some days later, Franz Schubert wearily climbed the steps to the second floor apartment of his publisher, Tobias Haslinger. It was yet
another bitterly cold February morning; his threadbare clothing
totally inadequate for such conditions. He had been working
frantically through the night; wholly possessed by the desire to
commit his latest composition to manuscript. He had no time for sleep
or for food or for any other mortal pleasure. Though racked by
illness, hunger and cold, his tiny frame had been cocooned from
earthly trauma by an inner serenity; a serenity he had been blessed
with since birth. This tiny, insignificant, unkempt and mortally ill
genius was again delivering heavenly music from the angels.
'My dear Schubert,' gasped Haslinger as he opened his door, 'you look
absolutely dreadful. Come in; come in and set yourself by the fire.'
Schubert, more than grateful to do so, perched himself carefully by the roaring log fire, taking an instant, yet dulled pleasure from its welcome
heat. He set down his battered manuscript case against his feet and
with a corner of his worn cravat, slowly began to cleanse his tiny
rimless spectacles of their condensation.
'I see you bring me more of your joyful and heavenly music Franz. Dare I hope that you have completed the second twelve songs of your 'Winter Journey'?'
Schubert carefully replaced his tiny frameless spectacles and stared into the fire. His frozen features had now slowly melted into a distant
expression of absolute contentment.
'Herr Haslinger, my long and often painful 'Winter Journey' is finally
completed. I fear that I have said everything that our good Lord will