Principal Franz Schubert and His World
Due to the technical work on the site downloading books (as well as file conversion and sending books to email/kindle) may be unstable from May, 27 to May, 28 Also, for users who have an active donation now, we will extend the donation period.

Franz Schubert and His World


During his short lifetime, Franz Schubert (1797–1828) contributed to a wide variety of musical genres, from intimate songs and dances to ambitious chamber pieces, symphonies, and operas. The essays and translated documents in Franz Schubert and His World examine his compositions and ties to the Viennese cultural context, revealing surprising and overlooked aspects of his music.

Contributors explore Schubert’s youthful participation in the Nonsense Society, his circle of friends, and changing views about the composer during his life and in the century after his death. New insights are offered about the connections between Schubert’s music and the popular theater of the day, his strategies for circumventing censorship, the musical and narrative relationships linking his song settings of poems by Gotthard Ludwig Kosegarten, and musical tributes he composed to commemorate the death of Beethoven just twenty months before his own. The book also includes translations of excerpts from a literary journal produced by Schubert’s classmates and of Franz Liszt’s essay on the opera Alfonso und Estrella. In addition to the editors, the contributors are Leon Botstein, Lisa Feurzeig, John Gingerich, Kristina Muxfeldt, and Rita Steblin.

Princeton University Press
ISBN 10:
ISBN 13:
The Bard Music Festival
PDF, 68.39 MB
Descarga (pdf, 68.39 MB)

Most frequently terms

You can write a book review and share your experiences. Other readers will always be interested in your opinion of the books you've read. Whether you've loved the book or not, if you give your honest and detailed thoughts then people will find new books that are right for them.


Brahms and His World
edited by Walter Frisch (1990)

Janáček and His World
edited by Michael Beckerman (2003)

Mendelssohn and His World
edited by R. Larry Todd (1991)

Shostakovich and His World
edited by Laurel E. Fay (2004)

Richard Strauss and His World
edited by Bryan Gilliam (1992)

Aaron Copland and His World
edited by Carol J. Oja and
Judith Tick (2005)

Dvoˇrák and His World
edited by Michael Beckerman (1993)
Schumann and His World
edited by R. Larry Todd (1994)
Bartók and His World
edited by Peter Laki (1995)
Charles Ives and His World
edited by J. Peter Burkholder (1996)

Franz Liszt and His World
edited by Christopher H. Gibbs and
Dana Gooley (2006)
Edward Elgar and His World
edited by Byron Adams (2007)
Prokofiev and His World
edited by Simon Morrison (2008)

Haydn and His World
edited by Elaine R. Sisman (1997)

Brahms and His World (revised edition)
edited by Walter Frisch and
Kevin C. Karnes (2009)

Tchaikovsky and His World
edited by Leslie Kearney (1998)

Richard Wagner and His World
edited by Thomas S. Grey (2009)

Schoenberg and His World
edited by Walter Frisch (1999)

Alban Berg and His World
edited by Christopher Hailey (2010)

Beethoven and His World
edited by Scott Burnham and
Michael P. Steinberg (2000)

Jean Sibelius and His World
edited by Daniel M. Grimley (2011)

Debussy and His World
edited by Jane F. Fulcher (2001)
Mahler and His World
edited by Karen Painter (2002)

Camille Saint-Saëns and His World
edited by Jann Pasler (2012)
Stravinsky and His World
edited by Tamara Levitz (2013)




Copyright © 2014 by Princeton University Press
Published by Princeton University Press, 41 William Street,
Princeton, New Jersey 08540
In the United Kingdom: Princeton University Press,
6 Oxford Street, Woodstock, Oxfordshire OX20 1TW
All Rights Reserved
For permission information, see page xvii
Library of Congress Control Number: 2014940720
ISBN: 978-0-691-16379-6 (cloth)
ISBN: 978-0-691-16380-2 (paperback)
British Library Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available
This publication has been produced by the Bard College Publications Office:
Ginger Shore, Project Director
Karen Walker Spencer, Designer
Anita van de Ven, Cover Design
Text edited by Paul De Angelis and Erin Clermont
Music typeset by Don Giller
This publication has been underwritten in part by grants from
Roger and Helen Alcaly and Furthermore, a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund
Printed on acid-free paper. ∞
Printed in the United States of America.
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

Preface and Acknowledgments


Permissions and Credits


Schubert: The Nonsense Society Revisited



Excerpts from Beyträge zur Bildung für Jünglinge, 1817–1818



“Those of us who found our life in art”: The Second-Generation
Romanticism of the Schubert-Schober Circle, 1820–1825



Schubert’s Kosegarten Settings of 1815: A Forgotten Liederspiel



The Queen of Golconda, the Ashman, and the Shepherd
on a Rock: Schubert and the Vienna Volkstheater



Liszt on Schubert’s Alfonso und Estrella



Schubert’s Freedom of Song, If Not Speech



Schubert’s Tombeau de Beethoven:
Decrypting the Piano Trio in E-flat Major, Op. 100



Schubert in History





Notes on Contributors


• v •

Dein Freund Schubert. These were probably the last words the composer
ever wrote, about a week before he died on 19 November 1828, at age
thirty-one. They were the conclusion to a heart-wrenching letter to Franz
von Schober, his closest friend, that began: “I am ill. I have eaten nothing
for eleven days and drunk nothing. And I totter feebly and shakily from
my chair to bed and back again.”1 He then made the simple request that
Schober send him some novels by James Fenimore Cooper.
Schubert’s last letter points to some defining dimensions of his alltoo-brief life: that friends and family were at its center (he was living at
the time with his older brother Ferdinand, having recently moved from
Schober’s place); that literature was a consuming passion; and that serious
illness led to early death. An obituary a few weeks later observed that the
composer “lived solely for art and for a small circle of friends.”2 To this
constellation of friendship, art, and a life of seemingly endless potential
cut short, we should add another crucial element: Vienna. Unlike great
predecessors who moved to the gloried “city of music,” Schubert was born
and remained there, with only infrequent excursions not far away.
An understanding of the music Schubert wrote during his brief
career benefits enormously from awareness of the social, cultural, intellectual, and political context in which he lived and worked. This book,
the twenty-fifth in the Bard Music Festival series published by Princeton
University Press, aims more than ever to be true its title: to explore a
particular composer’s world, a world that in Schubert’s case proved quite
limited in duration, geography, and professional opportunities, but that
nonetheless nourished astounding creative achievements, not only from
contemporaries in music, such as Beethoven, but in the other arts as well.
One of the many enduring myths about Schubert is that he was largely
unrecognized during his lifetime, a sad situation allegedly allayed to
some extent by a devoted circle of friends who embraced his music. The
reality seems to have been much more complex. He enjoyed considerable success, both in Vienna and beyond, with his songs and small-scale
pieces, most intended for domestic consumption. A culture of intimate
music-making is epitomized by the Schubertiades of the 1820s, evenings
devoted to his music at which Schubert and others played for friends
and invited guests. Schubert’s ambitions, however, went much farther,
extending to what he once described to a publisher as his “strivings

• vii •


after the highest in art.”3 He ultimately produced a staggering quantity
of music, although most of it remained unpublished during his time.
Already as a teenager he composed a large number of chamber, orchestral, sacred, and dramatic pieces, but it was in his twenties that he claimed
real ownership of these genres. (Had he been of the mindset of Johannes
Brahms, he probably would have destroyed much of his early instrumental music.) Many of these large-scale works were never performed in his
lifetime and some were therefore unknown even to certain friends who
viewed him, as did the public in general, principally as a composer of
Lieder. Franz Grillparzer, Austria’s leading writer and an acquaintance,
captured contemporaneous perceptions in the epitaph he crafted for
Schubert’s grave: “The Art of Music Here Entombed a Rich Possession,
But Even Far Fairer Hopes.”4
The idea of an unfinished career finds expression in Schubert’s
most popular instrumental work, his Symphony in B Minor—the
“Unfinished”—composed in 1822, and actually just one of a handful of
his unfinished symphonies. When the work was finally premiered more
than forty years later, in December 1865, critic Eduard Hanslick noted
the “excited extraordinary enthusiasm” of the audience and how after
hearing only a few measures “every child recognized the composer, and a
muffled ‘Schubert’ was whispered in the audience . . . every heart rejoiced,
as if, after a long separation, the composer himself were among us in
person.”5 Three years later Schubert’s close friend Moritz von Schwind
created his famous sepia drawing of a Schubertiade at Josef von Spaun’s
house (see Figure 1 on page 68). Schwind also worked on a version in
oils, which appears on the cover of this book, but it was not yet completed
when the artist died in 1871.6 The unfinished state of both the symphony
and painting helps remind us of Schubert’s unfinished life, suggesting
a figurative “program” to various pieces that have none declared, not
just the “Unfinished” Symphony, but also the “Quartettsatz,” “Reliquie”
Piano Sonata, and other marvelous torsos.
The span of Schubert’s active public career lasted less than fifteen
years, from 1814 to 1828. It is fitting that this book should appear in 2014,
and that the Bard Music Festival honors Schubert during its twenty-fifth
season, as the year marks the bicentennial of his miraculous masterpiece
Gretchen am Spinnrade, whose composition on 19 October 1814 is often
hailed as the “Birthday of the German Lied.” In political history, the year
also had profound consequences for Schubert and his contemporaries, as
it saw the convening of the Congress of Vienna, held between September
1814 and June 1815 to negotiate borders and balances of power in the
wake of the Napoleonic Wars. A period of reaction in Austria under the
• viii •

Christopher H. Gibbs and Morten Solvik

powerful Prince Clemens von Metternich led to censorship and repression that crucially defined aspects of Schubert’s world.
A better appreciation of this time and place reveals matters that contemporaries, especially close friends, would have understood but that
have since been obscured or forgotten. Despite the focus of much recent
Schubert scholarship on ahistorical analytic matters, there have nonetheless been enormous strides in advancing archival and documentary
knowledge of Schubert’s world, all building on the pioneering work of
the great Schubert scholar Otto Erich Deutsch (1883–1967). The publications of the Internationales Franz Schubert Institut between 1987 and
2005, the journal Schubert: Perspektiven, abundant conference reports,
contributory volumes, and monographs continue to enlarge our historical understanding of the composer.
One result is that the image of Schubert has changed considerably,
from the familiar one of a poor, shy, largely unappreciated figure, surrounded by merry friends, who composed “clairvoyantly,” to a darker
portrait of one who struggled valiantly with health, depression, career,
and political repression.7 The revisionist portrait is built on a firmer
documentary basis and is surely more nuanced, although of necessity
it is still often speculative and hampered by large holes in the historical
record, not least because so few verbal documents survive from Schubert
himself. The most sensational repositioning of Schubert, which generated the most heated debates, concerns his sexual life, an issue still far
from resolved (and probably unresolvable) that is not much discussed
in this book.8 What has proved salutary is the more skeptical and subtle
examination of Schubert’s own writings and of those about him, which
helps construct a much more psychologically complex and professionally
confident figure than the clueless one earlier trivialized in sentimental
fiction, operettas, films, and biographies.
There remain large gaps to fill, facts to find, and secrets to solve, a
project this book seeks to advance. The order of the chapters presented
here combines the roughly chronological with the thematic. The first
three in various ways consider Schubert’s social sphere, his famous
“circle of friends.” In some of the book’s essays, scholars revisit, revise,
and expand their own earlier work. Twenty years ago Rita Steblin, a
Canadian scholar living in Vienna whose formidable archival work on
Schubert and Beethoven has yielded fascinating finds (and sometimes
controversial interpretations), discovered newsletters of the so-called
Unsinnsgesellschaft (Nonsense Society). Schubert participated in this
secret society, made up largely of artists and poets, along with some
familiar friends, notably Leopold and Josef Kupelwieser, but also with
• ix •


individuals previously not known to have had any contact with him. The
Unsinnsgesellschaft was active from April 1817 to December 1818, when
Schubert was in his very early twenties. The surviving newsletters—the
Archive of Human Nonsense—reveal a subculture in which code names,
secrets, playfulness, and irreverence were paramount values. They shed
new light on some of Schubert’s compositions and contain marvelous
illustrations, a few included here, that add to the limited supply of contemporaneous images of the composer.
Schubert had graduated a few years earlier from the Vienna
Stadtkonvikt, an elite boarding school to which he had won a scholarship because of his musical gifts and where he began to forge lasting
friendships. His somewhat older school friends (and then friends of
these friends) initially guided his career, suggested (and sometimes
wrote) poems for him to set to music, and helped to facilitate various
career opportunities. Most of these young men were musical, but not
professional musicians. David Gramit, in his presentation of three translated articles from Beyträge zur Bildung für Jünglinge (Contributions to
Education for Youths), offers another window into Schubert’s early social
milieu, an altogether more serious one than that associated with the
Unsinnsgesellschaft. This short-lived annual appeared for just two years
(1817–18) and contained essays, poems, translations, dramatic scenes,
and other edifying offerings. Today we might think of it as akin to a literary journal put together by smart graduate students at a good university.
One encounters earnestness, ambition, and idealism, a search for virtue,
truth, and the good—all appropriate to the age of the contributors.
As these two opening chapters show, Schubert was engaged with different social networks, but posterity has nevertheless loosely lumped
them all together as a monolithic “Schubert Circle,” the individuals
who populate Schwind’s composite Schubertiade illustrations. John
M. Gingerich demonstrates that this was not the case and examines
overlapping spheres in which Schubert participated, sometimes at the
periphery or, with Schober, at its center (leading Schubert to coin the
name “Schobert”).9 In the fall of 1824 a major conflict divided the circle
around Schubert and Schober over an issue that superficially seems a
mere test of loyalty. But the subsequent paths of various members reveal
fissures that mirror divergences between early and late Romanticism,
or more precisely, between the Friedrich Schlegel of 1799 and the same
Friedrich von Schlegel of the 1820s, which means that they were also
profoundly divided over religious and political issues. Gingerich traces
the connections various members of the group had to both early and
late Schlegel, some of them intense and personal, as well as the varied
• x •

Christopher H. Gibbs and Morten Solvik

involvement of the painters in the circle with the so-called Nazarenes, a
movement in German painting also influenced by the Romantic writer.
The essay reveals a Schubert circle profoundly divided over some of the
central ideological, social, and artistic controversies of the time, and to
a surprising extent personally engaged with some of the main actors in
those controversies.
The next three essays touch on Schubert’s engagement with dramatic
works, each from a very different vantage point. In the first, coeditor
Morten Solvik explores the Liederspiel, a form of semi-dramatic, domestic
music-making associated with simple strophic songs. He lays out for the
first time in English a case he has made in earlier work concerning
Schubert’s 1815 settings of twenty poems by Gotthard Ludwig
Kosegarten, demonstrating that they form a group of Lieder for three
singers portraying the tragic tale of an amorous adventurer and his forlorn mistresses. Schubert’s path-breaking later song cycles to poems by
Wilhelm Müller, Die schöne Müllerin (1823) and Winterreise (1827), are
much more familiar today and have obscured this earlier practice, a type
of song performance in private salons involving amateur acting and multiple characters. In what emerges as something of a detective story, Solvik
examines Schubert’s manuscripts for the Kosegarten songs, as well as
musical evidence based on tonal planning, head motives, and other compositional devices, to make the case that the composer conceived these
Lieder as a unified set telling a Biedermeier story of love gone astray.
In addition to such domestic spheres, including the Schubertiades,
Schubert regularly attended a reading group that discussed contemporary authors including Goethe, Heinrich Heine, Heinrich von Kleist, and
Ludwig Tieck. Theater was a preoccupation for the Viennese in general
and an area in which Schubert also hoped to succeed as a public figure—
he wrote more than a dozen theatrical works, from brief Singspiele, to
incidental music, to full-scale operas. Anselm Hüttenbrenner described
his friend’s typical day: Schubert would get up early and compose from
six to one, he “never composed in the afternoon; after the midday meal
he went to a café, drank a small portion of black coffee, smoked for an
hour or two and read the newspapers at the same time. In the evening
he went to one or other of the theaters.”10 Even if Hüttenbrenner exaggerated the frequency of Schubert’s theatrical attendance, there is little
doubt he and his friends went to a great many plays, folk theater, and
operas. Lisa Feurzeig considers how the Volkstheater tradition, plays by
Ferdinand Raimund and Adolf Bäuerle with music by Wenzel Müller and
Joseph Drechsler, may have found echoes in pieces by Schubert, including the “Wanderer” Fantasy, Winterreise, and Der Hirt auf dem Felsen.11
• xi •


Schubert’s theatrical aspirations are most apparent in his full-scale
operas Alfonso und Estrella (1822) and Fierabras (1823), neither of which
was staged during his lifetime. In the midst of the Rossinimania that
captivated Vienna in the late teens and early 1820s, Schubert held out
hopes that German opera might succeed. The triumph of Carl Maria von
Weber’s Der Freischütz in 1821 made this seem reasonable, just as the failure two years later of the same composer’s Euryanthe is partly responsible
for dashing those hopes. Schober wrote the libretto for Alfonso; the two
friends enjoyed a secluded period in the fall of 1821 working together
on the project, which was completed in January. Decades later Schober
brought the opera to the attention of Franz Liszt, with whom he was
closely associated at the time in Weimar. Liszt adored Schubert’s music—
he once called him “the most poetic of musicians”—and although he
harbored reservations about Alfonso, he nonetheless mounted its much
belated premiere in 1854.12 He also wrote an extended essay about the
work, which Allan Keiler introduces and translates here. Liszt does not
pull his punches, pointing to the faults in the opera, but also to its many
The final three chapters explore the intersection between intention
and reception, Schubert’s goals as a composer and the manner in which
he has been understood by posterity. Schubert won his first and most
enduring fame with Lieder, the genre in which he produced his initial
masterpieces to texts by Goethe and that engaged him to the very end (the
playfully serious Die Taubenpost, on a poem by the Viennese poet Johann
Gabriel Seidl about an esoteric mode of communication employed by
both lovers and spies, was apparently the last piece he wrote). His songs
have invited an astonishing range of scholarly attention and approaches.
Recent German-language scholarship in particular has become attuned
to political imagery in numerous poems that he chose to set in the repressive post-Napoleonic chill that came over Vienna just as his career was
starting up. The hopes of so many in his generation for a spring-like
renewal after the war were frustrated by an interminable winter. Kristina
Muxfeldt’s essay explores how Schubert’s music deftly reshaped words
and allowed unsuspected meanings to resound in the changing political
climate. In a time of censorship, music with words, such as songs and
operas, had to receive official approval, but Muxfeldt argues that Lieder
nonetheless offered Schubert an expressive realm for political thought,
“freedom of song, if not speech,” as she puts it.
Beethoven was the commanding musical presence in Schubert’s
world and the composer he most revered. Coeditor Christopher Gibbs
returns to a topic broached in earlier writings to propose that Schubert
• xii •

Christopher H. Gibbs and Morten Solvik

composed the Piano Trio in E-flat Major, Op. 100, in honor of Beethoven.
We know Schubert was deeply affected by the master’s death and participated in his funeral on 29 March 1827. The following November,
just as Beethoven’s gravestone was dedicated, he began composing the
trio, which premiered publicly on 26 March 1828, the first anniversary
of Beethoven’s death. Various strains of biographical and musical evidence converge to suggest that Schubert wrote the piece as a tombeau de
Beethoven, which may explain why many listeners have perceived a ghost
haunting the work ever since.
Schubert died less than eight months after the premiere of the E-flat
Piano Trio and a few days later he was buried, supposedly at his expressed
request, near to Beethoven. The two composers became increasingly
united in death, their graves a pilgrimage site, and the musical values
embodied by their compositions compared and contrasted. The continual posthumous discovery of ever more of Schubert’s music meant that
his achievement seemed more in line with Beethoven’s.
With Schubert’s premature passing he entered not only a realm of
myth making, but also of contest for his legacy, a subject Leon Botstein
considers in the final chapter. Among the posthumous careers of the
great Classical and Romantic composers Schubert’s is unprecedented
and extraordinary: most of his significant instrumental, dramatic, and
religious music was released in the decades following his death, a steady
stream of masterpieces that surprised and delighted many. The discovery of new marvels—Hanslick commented that it appeared Schubert was
“composing invisibly”13—made it seem as if he were still alive, a contemporary not only of Mendelssohn and Schumann (both of whom died well
before the premiere of the “Unfinished” Symphony), but also of Wagner
and Brahms. Thus Schubert could be enlisted or dismissed as a continuing presence in the contested musical politics of the century, and not
simply invoked as a departed master. His close identification with Vienna
accelerated, and choral groups such as the Wiener Männergesangverein
and Schubertbund claimed him as a native son. Botstein takes the story
into the twentieth century, including the 1928 centennial of Schubert’s
death, when he continued to be extravagantly celebrated and condescendingly diminished by individuals and groups with larger ideological
Great historical figures are, of course, always ripe for reassessment,
provoking studies that can reveal, with the benefits of hindsight, new
perspectives on the distant past while also inevitably reflecting current
concerns and attitudes. Anniversary years add impetus, as shown by
Schubertjahre in 1897, 1928, 1978, and 1997. As the Bard Music Festival
• xiii •


and this book series celebrate their silver anniversary, we are halfway
now from the Schubert bicentennial to the next big anniversary in 2028.
Among leading composers of the past two and half centuries Schubert,
with his largely uneventful and poorly documented life, and his extraordinary posthumous career, turns out to be a fascinating and unusually
inviting figure for continual reappraisal.
— Christopher H. Gibbs

1. Otto Erich Deutsch, Schubert: A Documentary Biography, trans. Eric Blom (London,
1946), 819–20.
2. Otto Erich Deutsch, Schubert: Memoirs by His Friends, trans. Rosamond Ley and John
Nowell (London, 1958), 10.
3. Deutsch, Schubert: A Documentary Biography, 740.
4. See Ernst Hilmar, “Zu Grillparzers Inschrift auf Schuberts Grabdenkmal,” Schubert
durch die Brille 29 (2002): 125–28.
5. Hanslick’s Musical Criticisms, ed. and trans. Henry Pleasants (New York, 1978), 102.
6. For more about Schwind’s drawing and painting, see Maurice J. E. Brown,
“Schwind’s ‘Schubert-Abend bei Josef Spaun,’” in Essays on Schubert (New York, 1966),
7. Christopher H. Gibbs, “‘Poor Schubert’: Images and Legends of the Composer,”
Cambridge Companion to Schubert, ed. Christopher H. Gibbs (Cambridge, 1997), 36–55.
8. Maynard Solomon first raised the issue of the composer’s possible homosexuality
in “Franz Schubert’s ‘Mein Traum,’” American Imago 38 (1981): 137–54. His argument
achieved wide notoriety with the article “Franz Schubert and the Peacocks of Benvenuto
Cellini,” 19th-Century Music 12 (Spring 1989): 193–206; and responses in “Schubert:
Music, Sexuality, Culture,” a special issue of 19th-Century Music 17 (Summer 1993).
9. Deutsch, Schubert: A Documentary Biography, 98.
10. Deutsch, Schubert: Memoirs by His Friends, 183.
11. Concerning possible influences of popular theater on Schubert’s own dramatic
music, see Mary Wischusen, “Franz Schubert and Viennese Popular Comedy,” in The
Unknown Schubert, ed. Barbara M. Reul and Lorraine Byrne Bodley (Aldershot, 2008),
12. Janita R. Hall-Swadley, ed. and trans., The Collected Writings of Franz Liszt, vol. 2:
Essays and Letters of a Traveling Bachelor of Music (Lanham, 2012), 327.
13. Deutsch, Schubert: Memoirs by His Friends, 383.

• xiv •

With Franz Schubert and His World the Bard Music Festival series, published
each year by Princeton University Press, reaches its twenty-fifth volume.
Many of the individuals deserving thanks for their efforts with this book
have long been involved with the series, some going back to Brahms and
His World in 1990. First and foremost is Leon Botstein, who when he
founded the festival was determined that performance and scholarship
should exist in fruitful dialogue and that a lasting legacy of each year’s
explorations would be a volume of essays and documents.
Ginger Shore has overseen the process since 1996 and retires this year;
our thanks to her for dedication to these volumes, for always keeping
things moving forward, and for her sensitive oversight of design issues.
Irene Zedlacher, executive director of the Bard Music Festival, brings her
keen editorial eye to reading the book and deals with many other matters
to make things run smoothly. Don Giller has set the musical examples
since the series began and we thank him for his careful work. We are
grateful to Erin Clermont for copy-editing, Karen Spencer for the layout,
and Ruth Elwell for indexing.
Our special thanks to another veteran of the series, Paul De Angelis,
who oversees the production of the book from start to finish. His generous
help and support as well as his terrific editorial comments and suggestions
are what editors, authors, and contributors crave but so rarely receive in
publishing ventures these days. We count ourselves very lucky.
We would also like to thank our families for their patience and support as
we put together this book in countless email exchanges, Skype calls, transAtlantic trips, and long nights of editing. We are grateful for their care and
Finally, when a publisher asked Schubert about the dedication of one
of his pieces, the composer responded: “The work is to be dedicated to
nobody, save those who find pleasure in it. That is the most profitable
dedication.” In that spirit we wish to thank and dedicate this book to that
most precious and endangered group in classical music, the generous
music-loving patrons and benefactors who have made the Bard Music
Festival possible year after year.
Christopher H. Gibbs, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York
Morten Solvik, Vienna, Austria

• xv •

Permissions and Credits
The following institutions and individuals have graciously granted permission to
reprint or reproduce these materials:
Erich Lessing/Art Resource, New York, for the front cover image by Moritz von
Schwind; and for Figure 3, p. 224.
Handschriftensammlung, Wienbibliothek for Figure 1, p. 2; Figure 5, p. 9; Figure 7
(and 7a–7b), pp. 18–19; Figure 4, p. 127 (from the album “Stammbuch Karl Haslinger.
Herrn Karl Haslinger zur Erinnerung an den 25-jährigen Bestand seiner musikalischen
Abende gewidmet 1862”); and Figure 4, p. 235.
Musiksammlung, Wienbibliothek for Figure 2, p. 123.
Wien Museum Karlsplatz the copyrighted © images reproduced in Figure 2, p. 4;
Figure 3, p. 5; Figure 4, p. 6; Figure 6, p. 12; Figure 8, p. 24; Figure 10, p. 28.
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna/The Bridgeman Art Library, for Figure 9, p. 25.
Lebrecht Music & Arts for Figure 1, p. 55 and Figure 3, p. 98.
Wien Museum Karlsplatz, Vienna, and Erich Lessing/Art Resource, New York, for
Figure 1, p. 68; Figure 2, p. 69; and Figure 2, p. 186.
Goethe House and Museum, Frankfurt, Germany/Art Resource, New York, for Figure 4,
p. 103.
Irving S. Gilmore Music Library, Yale University, for Figure 3, p. 124.
Austrian National Library (ÖNB), Bildarchiv und Grafiksammlung, for Figure 5, p. 133;
Figure 6, p. 134; and Figure 1, p. 168.
Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Musikabteilung, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz/Art
Resource, New York, for Figure 7, p. 144.
Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, Yale University, for Figure 8, p. 150.
National Gallery, London, U.K./The Bridgeman Art Library for Figure 1, p. 214.
The Metropolitan Museum, New York for Figure 2, p. 216 (From Galerie du Palais
royal, gravée d’après les tableaux des differentes ecoles qui la composent : avec un abrégé de la vie
des peintres & une description historique de chaque tableau, par Mr. l’abbé de Fontenai / par J.
Couché, vol. 2 [Paris: Chez J. Couché, J. Bouilliard, 1786–1808], held by the Metropolitan
Archiv, Bibliothek und Sammlungen der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien, for
Figure 2, p. 256; Figure 3, p. 257; Figure 4, pp. 265–66; Figure 5, p. 285.
The authors and publishers have made every effort to trace holders of copyright.
They much regret if any inadvertent omissions have been made.

• xvii •


Schubert: The Nonsense Society Revisited

Twenty years have now passed since I discovered materials belonging to
the Unsinnsgesellschaft (Nonsense Society).1 This informal club, active in
Vienna from April 1817 to December 1818, consisted mainly of young
painters and poets with Schubert as one of its central members. In this
essay I will review this discovery, my ensuing interpretations, and provide
some new observations.
In January 1994, at the start of a research project on Schubert iconography, I studied some illustrated documents at the Historisches
Museum der Stadt Wien (now the Wienmuseum am Karlsplatz), titled
“Unsinniaden.”2 The documents comprise forty-four watercolor pictures
and thirty-seven pages of text recording two festive events celebrated
by the Nonsense Society: the New Year’s Eve party at the end of 1817 and
the group’s first birthday party on 18 April 1818.3 The pictures depict
various club members, identified by their code names and dressed in fanciful costumes, as well as four group scenes for the first event, including
Vivat es lebe Blasius Leks (Long live Blasius Leks; Figure 1), and two group
scenes for the second event, including Feuergeister-Scene (Fire Spirit Scene;
Figure 6 below).4 Because of the use of code names—and the misidentifications written on the pictures by some previous owner of the materials—
it was not initially possible to interpret these documents correctly.5
A few months later, in April 1994, I discovered a second set of
papers, housed in the manuscript collection of the Wiener Stadt- und
Landesbibliothek (now Wienbibliothek) in Vienna’s City Hall, and these
made it easier to unravel many of the society’s secrets.6 This second set
of materials had been purchased in 1937 from a descendant of the club’s
vice-editor, code-named Zeisig (a type of finch).7 It consisted of handwritten newsletters titled Archiv des menschlichen Unsinns (Archive of Human
Nonsense). One numbered issue of the newsletter was apparently produced each week, although the collection contained only twenty-nine
newsletters, those between 17 April 1817 and 10 December 1818 (nine from
• 1 •


Figure 1. Vivat es lebe Blasius Leks: Zur Unsinniade—5ter Gesang
(Long Live Blasius Leks: For the 5th Song of Nonsense), 31 December 1817.
Watercolor by Carl Friedrich Zimmermann (Aaron Bleistift).

1817 and twenty from 1818). Each issue, penned in Kurrentschrift (German
running script) and usually eight pages long, begins with a motto and
ends with a watercolor picture; in between are humorous and rather
off-color texts spoofing contemporary politics, social mores, scientific
discoveries, art, drama, and literature, each signed with the writer’s
code name. At the beginning of the first issue, in Zeisig’s hand, is a key
headed “Namen der Unsinnsmitglieder” that identifies most of the club
members—twenty-two in all. This is what made it possible to link the
newsletters to the documents in the Wienmuseum and, after intensive
biographical research on the club’s participants, establish Schubert’s
important role in the secret society.
Most of the members were young painters—students at the Vienna
Art Academy—with code names that reflect their profession: for example, August Kloeber (1793–1864), famous for the portrait he sketched of
Beethoven in 1818, was called Goliath Pinselstiel (Giant Paintbrush) and
Johann Nepomuk Hoechle (1790–1835), who would paint Beethoven’s
studio a few days after the composer’s death, was called Kratzeratti
Klanwinzi (Little Scratcher). Three Kupelwieser brothers are also clearly
• 2 •

Rita Steblin

identified on this list: Blasius Leks (Josef), Chrisostomus Schmecks
(Johann), and Damian Klex (Leopold).8 Not all of the club’s members are
initially listed; Schubert’s name, for example, is missing. Moreover, various
code names that occur in the newsletters or on the individual portraits,
for example that of Quanti Verdradi (Totally Mixed-Up), whom I have
identified as Schubert’s friend Franz von Schober, are also not on the
initial list. Compounding this, at least two-thirds of the newsletters
originally produced by the club are now missing (including the twentythree issues immediately after the first one), a loss that makes a definitive
interpretation of all the complicated allusions difficult.
Schubert’s connection to the society was referred to in at least two
memoirs by his friends but was misinterpreted by the great scholar Otto
Erich Deutsch (1883–1967), who was only aware of another group, the
so-called Ludlamshöhle (Ludlam’s Cave). The first reference comes from
Heinrich Anschütz (1785–1865), a famous Burgtheater actor, who delivered Franz Grillparzer’s celebrated oration at Beethoven’s funeral. He
wrote in his memoirs:
I had spent my first Christmas in Vienna at the end of 1821. . . .
This Christmas was of special interest to me because it
brought Schubert to my house for the first time. Franz
Schubert was one of the most active members of the late
Nonsense Society. In this my brothers had been most intimately associated with him for years and it was through my
[brothers] that he came to my house.9
There is no reason to doubt Anschütz’s assertion about Schubert’s active
participation in the “late” Nonsense Society—“late” meaning that the group
no longer existed in 1821. Moreover, the first two names on the list of
Nonsense Society members are the actor’s two brothers: “Anschütz Eduard
. . . Schnautze, Redacteur” and “Anschütz Gustav . . . Sebastn Haarpuder”
(see Figures 2–4).10 Eduard Anschütz (ca. 1797–1855) was actually the club’s
leader, as well as the main editor (Redacteur) of the newsletters; most of the
texts were written in his hand. His code name Schnautze, meaning (big)
snout, is an anagram of Anschütz.
The second reference to the Nonsense Society, although the group was
not mentioned by name, appears in an obituary for Schubert by Eduard
von Bauernfeld (1802–1890):
At the time Schubert came out into the world several young
men in his native city, mostly poets and painters (e.g. the
• 3 •


Figure 2. Die Redaction: Herr Schnautze (The Editorial Board: Mr. Snout),
31 December 1817. Watercolor by Ernst Welker (Kritzli Batzli).

• 4 •

Rita Steblin

Figure 3. Schnautze Redacteur (Snout Editor), 18 April 1818.
Watercolor by Johann Nepomuk Hoechle (Kratzeratti Klanwinzi).

• 5 •


Figure 4. Sebastian Haarpuder (Sebastian Hairpowder), 31 December 1817.
Watercolor by Franz Goldhann (Ultimus).

• 6 •

Rita Steblin

esteemed [Leopold] Kupelwieser), gathered together, whom
genuine striving after art and similarity of views soon united
in sincere friendship, and into whose circle Schubert too was
drawn. The mutual communication between these youths
and their artistic conversations had a great effect on him and
stimulated him, if not so much to talk, at any rate to the most
varied musical productivity. To several of these friends he
was most cordially devoted to the end of his life, and he often
expressed regret, in letters as well as conversation, that the
friendly union of so many worthy young men, as will happen,
became disrupted by their pursuing different careers and by
other chances.11
Bauernfeld’s mention of “other chances” having led to the disruption
of this circle of poets and painters was probably a hint that the increasingly strict police measures against club formations in Prince Clemens von
Metternich’s Vienna made it too dangerous for the Nonsense Society to
survive. One of the friends to whom Schubert “was most cordially devoted
to the end of his life” was Franz Goldhann (1782–1856), the society’s oldest
member—aged thirty-five—and thus code-named Ultimus. His father had
helped Mozart out financially, and he himself would become a member of
Ludwig Mohn’s reading circle in late 1823, using the new euphemism “Dr.
Faust.” His family name Goldhann actually means golden rooster, and
the portrait painted of him for the club’s first birthday party depicts him
holding a shield displaying a barnyard fowl of this color. The pictures are
full of such hidden clues to the members’ real identities. Fortified by the
references from Anschütz and Bauernfeld regarding the importance of
this society for Schubert and his musical output, I began the search for his
presence in this extremely secretive, encoded material.

Iconographic Evidence
The most immediately compelling evidence for Schubert’s participation
in the Nonsense Society could be gleaned from the many illustrations that
accompanied the various issues of the newsletter. One particularly striking example is Zur Unsinniade—5ter Gesang (For the 5th Song of Nonsense)
a watercolor containing the banner “Vivat es lebe Blasius Leks” (Long
live Blasius Leks) and illustrating the last poem or song that Josef
Kupelwieser wrote to describe the New Year’s Eve party on 31 December
1817 (see Figure 1). The term Unsinniade suggestively resembles a later,
• 7 •


far more famous word-creation: Schubertiade. Could the former have
served as the inspiration for the latter?
Standing in the middle of the scene is a short man with curly sideburns
and wearing eyeglasses, dressed in a brown suit, whom I have identified
as Schubert. He is accompanied by two young women attired in formal
white dresses and blue accessories, arriving at the end of the party, perhaps after attending another festivity elsewhere. The little man on the
left, wearing a hat with fancy feathers, is the still-life painter Johann Carl
Smirsch (1793–1869), whose code name was Nina Wutzerl. He is mentioned in the Schubert literature for having provided the composer with
the opportunity to send the deeply moving letter of 31 March 1824 to
his close friend Leopold Kupelwieser in Rome.12 The man on the right,
dressed as a roughneck from Berlin and offering a toast to the two female
guests, is Carl Friedrich Zimmermann (1796–1820), the one Jewish member in the club. He painted this picture, which is signed with his code name
Aaron Bleistift (Bleistift meaning pencil, used by a Zimmermann, meaning
carpenter). The two women are most likely Babette and Therese Kunz,
sisters with whom Schubert gave concerts in March 1818 and for whom
he arranged, in December 1817, his two Overtures in Italian Style as fourhand piano works (D592 and D597). The person playing the violin at the
left of the complete picture is the amateur painter Ludwig Kraißl (1792–
1871), code-named Pinselmo Schmieraliri (Brushy Smearup). He was also
a friend of Leopold Kupelwieser and played the violin in the well-known
picture Ball Game at Atzenbrugg (dating from 1823), in which Schubert sits
on the grass, smoking a pipe.13 Kraißl’s prominent position at the forefront
of the Unsinniade scene means that he serves as a kind of musical herald,
announcing the arrival of his superior: the musical genius Schubert—who
is placed so prominently in the center of the picture.14
Other illustrations also point to Schubert. The caricature in Figure 5,
The Kaleidoscope and the Draisine, was painted by Leopold Kupelwieser
(signed with his code name Damian Klex) and is attached to the newsletter of 16 July 1818.15 It spoofs the composer as a portly schoolteacher,
holding a stick and peering through a kaleidoscope, and the artist himself
as a young student riding the newly invented draisine, a forerunner of the
bicycle. The picture’s meaning is explained in the accompanying article
“Zum Kupfer” credited to the editorial board—that is, Eduard Anschütz:
The latest example of contemporary history proves just how
dangerous the new invention of ice-slides is in Paris. But
even the seemingly harmless inventions of the kaleidoscope
and the draisine have their dangers, as the accompanying
• 8 •

Rita Steblin

Figure 5. Das Kaleidoskop und die Draisine (The Kaleidoscope and the Draisine),
16 July 1818. Watercolor by Leopold Kupelwieser (Damian Klex).

picture illustrates. The stout gentleman is absorbed in the
contemplation of the kaleidoscope’s wonderful play of colors—the dark glass makes him even more nearsighted than
usual. He is about to be knocked to the ground by a passionate draisine rider, who likewise has his eye fixed only on his
machine. Let this be a warning for others. There is already
supposed to be a police order in the works on the strength
of which every blockhead is strictly forbidden, on account of
the danger, from using both new inventions.16
The nearsighted Schubert was habitually associated in the newsletters not
only with eyeglasses, but with other optical devices as well, such as the
kaleidoscope.17 This new invention was patented by Sir David Brewster in
1817 to create inexhaustible forms of symmetrical geometric patterns; the
draisine was likewise invented in 1817, by German Baron Karl Christian
Ludwig Drais von Sauerbronn.
• 9 •


These illustrations provide vital clues for unlocking coded references
to Schubert in the newsletters. Once a word or object was associated with
a member, subsequent issues developed the association in other creative
ways, which in turn could lead to further associations. Thus Gustav
Anschütz, using the kaleidoscope as a coded allusion to Schubert, writes
as follows in a newsletter dated 10 September 1818:
The undersigned has the honor of faithfully informing the
venerated public that he has for sale a kind of kaleidoscope
(also known as looking-through-tube) with the unique property that one can use it to see through all kinds of clothing.
The great benefit of this optical device should be apparent
to everybody since it discloses some items that are at present
carefully kept hidden. Especially for young men who like to
go walking on the Graben.
Today the Graben is filled with expensive shops, but in Schubert’s
time it was associated with prostitutes, the notorious “Graben nymphs.”
In another account, Josef Kupelwieser warns that the kaleidoscope can
have a strong effect not only on the eyes, but also on the nose. He may
be alluding to an advanced stage of syphilis in which the nose is eaten
away. It is known that Schubert eventually contracted this disease, most
likely in late 1822—probably through contact with a prostitute. The
exact nature of Schubert’s illness was hushed up by his contemporaries, but Wilhelm von Chézy, whose mother, Helmina, in 1823 penned
the text to the drama with incidental music Rosamunde (D797), came
close to revealing this in his recollection of the composer, published in
1841: “Schubert adored women and wine. Unfortunately this taste had
caused him to stray into wrong paths from which he could no longer
find his way back alive.”18 Indeed, as we shall see, there is enough evidence provided by the surviving Nonsense Society materials to suggest
strongly that Schubert was already using prostitutes in 1817.
Kupelwieser’s caricature also alludes to Schubert’s work as an assistant
at the school where his father was headmaster, for it shows him carrying a stick. This attribute—associated with the disciplining stick used by
teachers, sometimes known as a “Spanish rod”—occurs repeatedly in the
newsletters, again pointing to the composer. For example, the issue dated
24 September 1818 describes the invention of a new machine called the
Hiebeidoskopf—a play on the words Hiebe (blows, strokes) and Kaleidoskop—
whereby a quantity of installed Spanish rods could give out the desired
number of blows.19 The machine could also be used to beat the dust from
• 10 •

Rita Steblin

clothing. Directly following is a newsletter article by Josef Kupelwieser
describing the search for a theater librettist and the conditions under
which he is to serve. The article closes as follows: “A composer is also
required, under similar terms, except that he must also clean the boots
and clothes of the director.”20 Thus, in this encoded manner, a composer
(Schubert) is associated with both the kaleidoscope and the stick. The
stick occurs again in connection with “Ritter Zimbal” (Knight Cimbalom),
in a newsletter dated 5 November 1818: here Schubert’s code name follows the phrase “25 blows with a stick on the backside of a Hungarian
soldier.” What is more, a long serial drama by Schnautze Redacteur that
appeared in the last five surviving newsletters (dated 12 November to 10
December 1818) satirizes Schubert as a Genie (genius) who flies out of a
Schublade (a drawer) to the sound of music. After being transformed into
a stick, this Genie warns about how dangerous it is to consort with a prostitute, disguised as a seductive woman in white.

Der Feuergeist
These allusions to Schubert in 1818 all refer back to an article in the second surviving newsletter, dated 25 September 1817, in which Schubert’s
role as composer emerges in a context completely unknown to music
historical accounts. Under the rubric “Theateranzeige” (Theater News),
Eduard Anschütz announces that the Nonsense Society was about to
begin rehearsing a drama in four acts with choruses and stage machinery called Der Feuergeist (The Fire Spirit). The text was written by Blasius
Leks (Josef Kupelwieser), and Schnautze himself was to play the role
of the fire demon.21 Schubert must have composed the music for this
work; this is attested by the watercolor titled Feuergeister-Scene, painted
to document a production of the drama that took place at the club’s first
birthday party in April 1818 (see Figure 6). This picture is remarkably
similar to a scene in Schubert’s three-act melodrama Die Zauberharfe
(The Magic Harp; D644), a work he supposedly composed in a mere
few weeks in the summer of 1820. Although the libretto to Zauberharfe
is lost, the program for the 19 August 1820 premiere at the Theater an
der Wien names such characters as Sutur, an evil fire demon; Count
Arnulf; his estranged wife, Melinde; and their son Palmerin, who plays
the magic harp. The plot, as reconstructed on the basis of Schubert’s
music and the first newspaper reviews, contains a scene in Act 3 that
unfolds as follows: Arnulf is happy and wants to reconcile his differences with Melinde, but the demonic Sutur appears and reminds her of
• 11 •


Figure 6. Feuergeister-Scene (Fire Spirit Scene), 18 April 1818.
Watercolor by Franz Goldhann (Ultimus).

an oath she had made to him earlier. With the help of his fire demons,
Sutur tries to destroy her. Palmerin flies in to the rescue, playing on his
magic harp. His music overpowers the evil forces and saves the true love
of his parents. This is exactly the situation depicted in the illustration.
In keeping with the nonsense theme of the society, Arnulf is portrayed
here as a Bierhäuselmensch (a beer-house person) and Melinde—the role
played in 1817 by Schnautze—is a barmaid.
In Eduard Anschütz’s prose description of the birthday party—“Il
giorno di nascitá”—he identifies the players and their parts, and we
learn that they were assigned roles different from the original production. Schnautze concludes: “The fire demons drank everything up. All
the actors competed honorably with each other, the choruses fell apart
beyond all expectation and the piece disintegrated marvelously. What a
wonder therefore that the performance ended with much laughter, art’s
beautiful reward.”22 Role reversal, that is, spoofing the identities of other
members, was one of the defining features of the club, and the exchanged
parts no doubt led to the performance’s disintegration.
• 12 •

Rita Steblin

An additional clue pointing to Schubert’s involvement with Der
Feuergeist is Schnautze’s use of the word Schub (push, thrust) in describing
the birthday performance. This is how he begins the introduction to his
prose account: “When a woman gives birth, a human being is born and
this is a Hauptschub [major event]. But, if an exceptional person is born, this
is a little bit more, and if a God of Nonsense is born, this is still two bits
more.”23 Thus, by using the word Schub and referring to an “exceptional
person,” Anschütz gives an encoded allusion to Schubert’s important
role in this celebration, although the composer himself was not present
at this particular event. Later, in a newsletter dated 15 October 1818,
Schnautze builds on this analogy in a children’s ballet titled Insanius auf
Erden (Insanius on Earth). Schubert is featured here as the ABC (primary
school) teacher called Hymen Halbgott (Hymen Half-God); the God of
Nonsense “Insanius” appears as a “3/4 Gott”—three-quarters being “a
little bit more than half,” and also alluding to dances in 3/4 time.
In the summer of 1820, when Schubert was under great time constraints, he must have reused some of the music of Der Feuergeist for Die
Zauberharfe. Other evidence supports this supposition. The overture to
Die Zauberharfe contains music that he had already composed in November
1817. Much comes from the introduction and coda for the Overture in
the Italian Style in D Major (D590) that Schubert arranged in December
1817 in a four-hand piano version (D592) for the Kunz sisters. An earlier
dating of the music to Zauberharfe would also explain the great confusion
that exists in the numbering of the scenes in the manuscript material.
When Schubert’s Zauberharfe was staged for the first time in August 1820
at the Theater an der Wien, its librettist remained officially anonymous. A
diary entry by Josef Karl Rosenbaum names him as Georg von Hofmann,
who usually wrote for the Kärntnertortheater. I suspect that Rosenbaum
may have been mistaken. Moreover, one of the newspaper reviewers of
the Zauberharfe production, “B. S.,” generally thought to be the poet and
Schubert-friend Baron von Schlechta, called the librettist “ein ehrlicher
Kämpfer für den Unsinn” (an honorable fighter for nonsense).24 Perhaps
Schlechta was here admitting his inside knowledge that the real librettist
was Josef Kupelwieser. Schubert’s melodrama was criticized by contemporary reviewers for its many drinking choruses. Since the picture from
1818 shows the ensemble of fire demons behind a table loaded with
drinks, Schubert must have written many such choruses for the Nonsense
Society. The early collaboration between Schubert and Kupelwieser is
important in light of their later joint venture, Fierabras (D796), usually
considered Schubert’s best opera.25

• 13 •


The Knight of the Keyboard
It should come as no surprise that Schubert’s ingenious talents as a composer found their way into a wide range of allusions in the newsletters. In
fact, his primary code name in the Nonsense Society was Ritter Juan de
la Cimbala (Don Giovanni of the Keyboard), Cembalo being the German—
actually Italian—word for harpsichord.26 This name, although not found
on the list of members attached to the first newsletter, is the only code
name for any of the members with a musical meaning. It occurs in the
issue dated 13 August 1818, written by the vice-editor at a time when
Schubert was away from Vienna serving as music master in the home
of Count Johann Esterházy at his summer residence in Zseliz, in what is
today southeastern Slovakia but what was then part of Hungary:
According to reports from Spain, the inquisition has arrested
the famous painter Juan de la Cimbala because, owing to his
own admission, he has been occupied with black magic in
addition to his usual duties. Nevertheless, we hope that he
will get out of this alive, in that even before his arrest he had
severely burned himself.
Zeisig, the author of this extremely encoded entry, has in typical nonsensical fashion turned Hungary into Spain and the musician Cimbala
into a painter. The passage “owing to his own admission” probably indicates that Schubert had recently sent a letter to his friends in the Nonsense
Society, relating his activities in Zseliz. This must have been similar to the
well-known account addressed on 8 September 1818 to Schober and six
of Schober’s friends in which he describes in great detail the people at
the Esterházy estate, including “the chambermaid very pretty and often
my companion . . . the manager my rival.”27 Other letters make it clear
that the composer had two groups of Viennese friends at this time—“the
city friends” and the Schober circle.28 (It goes without saying that many
of Schubert’s letters are lost.) I interpret the “black magic” in Zeisig’s
account as referring to the compositional activities of the Spanish Don
Juan (Schubert), in addition to his usual teaching duties for the Esterházy
family in Zseliz, where he was “confined” for about five months. He had
“burned” himself earlier by writing a secretive 19-bar palindrome for
Feuergeist. When musicologist Brian Newbould discovered this amazing
feat in its later version in Die Zauberharfe, for music associated with the
fire spirit Sutur, he described this achievement as the “product of intellectual manipulations, the willful reversal of values, as in the ‘black mass.’”29
• 14 •

Rita Steblin

There may also be a double meaning in the word burned. Since Schubert
had hinted in his correspondence that he was having a love affair with
the maid-servant (Pepi Pöckelhofer), he was again “playing with fire”—
having severely burned himself earlier in his relations with prostitutes.
Another newsletter, written on 5 November 1818 while Schubert was
still in Zseliz, uses the name “Ritter Zimbal,” an appropriate reference
to cimbalom, the Hungarian hammered dulcimer. The next newsletter,
one week later, is headed with the motto “Heidideldum! Heidideldum!
Hopsasa hopsasa Heidideldum!” and opens with an article by Blasius
Leks (Josef Kupelwieser) about the Spanish nobleman “Hans from the
Hinterland” riding back to Austria on a Hanselbank (sawhorse). The words
“Hans in Wien” are underlined for emphasis. Hans, of course, is the
diminutive for Johannes, the German form of (Don) Juan, hence another
allusion to Schubert as Ritter Juan de la Cimbala. Kupelwieser elaborates
on the name to announce that Schubert is about to arrive back in Vienna
from his long stay in the “hinterland” of Hungary.30
A remarkable observation regarding Schubert’s sojourn in Hungary is
his composition there of a work that explicitly refers to his moniker in the
club: Variations on a French Song (D624). This is the four-hand piece consisting of eight variations on Le bon chevalier (Der treue Ritter or The Good
Knight) that Schubert later dedicated to Beethoven as Op. 10. It seems
highly likely that Schubert chose this particular song about a faithful knight
relating the tale of hopeless love (no doubt with autobiographical elements
as well) as a tribute to his role as Ritter Juan in the Nonsense Society.
The code name Cimbala/Zimbal is clear in its reference to his musical instrument, the keyboard. But what about the Spanish nobleman—
Don Juan? There are, in fact, many jokes in the newsletters about Ritter
Juan’s pursuit of women.31 In the same month that Schubert composed
his piano duet variations—September 1818—we find the following tale
about “Chevalier Touchetout” in the newsletter:
L’observateur curieux [The Curious Observer] has reported—
that in the dilemma in which Madame Culronde [Roundbottom]
has felt herself placed as the ardent Chevalier Touchetout
[Touches Everything], who casually undertook some physicalanatomical investigations with her, and his hand, to the
misfortune of the lady and the great astonishment of the
Chevalier, instead of the assumed natural curves pulled out
some socks—nothing further other than that her dilemma
was without end.

• 15 •


There are numerous clues that point to Schubert in this passage. The
immediately preceding newsletter item mentions Schuhe (shoes)—Schubert
actually means “shoemaker”—and the item directly following discusses
a “Caleidoscop.” The French word touche (German Tasten) means not
only “touch,” but also piano keys. Chevalier is the French word for Ritter
(knight), Ritter Juan is the only code name with this title. In the newsletter dated 12 February 1818, the poem “Impromptu”—which dealt with
a sock—follows an article about “a fortepiano for sale.” The poem also
jokes about Ritter Cimbala’s lack of expertise as a painter—obviously an
inside joke among the many visual artists in the society.
From such passages we can already begin to see the value of this material
in uncovering details about Schubert. A close look at the text and illustrations of the Nonsense Society reveals something of a running commentary
on what scholarship has been able to piece together from other sources
regarding these twenty-one months of Schubert’s life. By April 1817,
Schubert, having passed his pedagogy exams in 1814, had been working
for some time as an assistant teacher at his father’s school in the district
of the Rossau, and the major event of 1818 was his appointment working for Count Esterházy in Zseliz. This remarkably detailed chronicling,
or rather spoofing, of the main activities of Schubert’s life during his
membership in this club sheds light on other events as well.

The Rossau
According to Deutsch, Schubert moved to the Rossau—the suburb closer
to the inner city than the parish of Lichtental, where he grew up—at the
end of 1817, after his father was appointed director of the new schoolhouse there.32 Interestingly, the Rossau is mentioned in two Nonsense
Society newsletters from November 1817, the very month that the school
year began.33 The suspicion therefore looms large that there was already
a connection to the Rossau in the newsletters from this month and that
these texts contain hidden messages involving Schubert. The fifth surviving newsletter, dated 6 November 1817, begins with the following
item, titled “Politisches Allerley” (Political Miscellany), and is signed by
According to reports from the Rossau, a ship is being built
there, but we have not yet been able to discover its purpose.
However, it is not to be used for war, and one suspects, on
account of its build, that it will not at all serve as a transport or
• 16 •

Rita Steblin

merchant ship. But, from its interior furnishings, we believe
we may conclude that it will function as it had previously—as
a place of eating and drinking [Einkehrwirthshaus]—especially
as a man who has already shown himself to be a good host is
supposed to be appointed as its commander.34
On 28 October 1817 a petition had been made by the parish priest in
the Rossau to appoint Schubert’s father as the new school director. He is
praised for having raised all of his sons to be worthy schoolmen. Moreover,
he had promised that his sons would provide the music services for the
Rossau church for free, thus amounting to a savings for the parish of several
hundred Gulden annually. Schubert’s activities for the Nonsense Society,
however, help to explain the lack of any substantial sacred music dating
from 1818 and suggest that he was now more interested in writing theater
music for his friends. The petition was submitted to the higher authorities for approval on 5 November 1817 and one day later the Nonsense
Society was already joking about how a ship in the Rossau—meaning the
newly built schoolhouse, which would also have included the home of
the Schubert family, the only new building constructed in that suburb—
would serve them as a place of refreshment. The next item, also written by
Eduard Anschütz, begins:
The Klosterneuburger ship’s captain Blaser has safely
arrived at the Schanzel this morning with his ship, called
Herr Dekan. But, according to his own report, he had to
withstand a great deal of adverse wind which he attributes
to the load carried by his vessel, since it consisted mainly of
garlic and green beans.
The rest of the article is about a rather obscene battle with women selling fruit at the Schanzel, a marketplace alongside the Danube Canal. The
ship’s captain “Blaser” is obviously Blasius Leks, that is, Josef Kupelwieser,
and his ship—with its name meaning a school dean (Dekan)—is Schubert.
Since Josef had a short time earlier written the text to Feuergeist, which the
club had begun rehearsing in September 1817, it makes sense that the two
friends—librettist and composer—would then have been in close contact.
This ship’s tale, with its mention of wind created by eating gassy foods,
probably inspired the story of the voyage through Vienna’s suburbs that
appeared in the next surviving newsletter, dated 20 November 1817,
illustrated by the picture Windhosen: Der sechste Welttheil in Europa (Wind
Trousers: The Sixth Area of the World in Europe; see Figure 7). There
• 17 •


Figure 7. Windhosen: Der sechste Welttheil in Europa
(Wind Trousers: The Sixth Area of the World in Europe), 20 November 1817.
Watercolor by Johann Carl Smirsch (Nina Wutzerl).

are many clues pointing to Schubert here, including his profile on the
section of the map labeled “Rossau”: his snub nose and cleft chin are
especially visible on the shoreline (to the lower left). The round glass on
Schubert’s cheek, with its compass pointing to Frass (gluttony) and Suff
(boozing), harks back to the previous mention of eating and drinking.
The long text, signed by Blasius Leks, contains the following passage:
Now we sailed to the Rossau where we thought we could
fix our foremast which had suffered significantly during
the Spittelberg storm and which we, because we lacked help
[Hülfe], were in danger of losing completely. The Rossauers
might have already noticed us from afar because we saw
clearly how they brought wood onshore from the timber
rafts in the harbor, in order to defend themselves as we drew
closer. Thus we did not find it advisable to land directly at
• 18 •

Rita Steblin

Figure 7a. Detail from Windhosen, showing the suburb of Spittelberg,
with Leopold Kupelwieser’s nose middle right.

Figure 7b. Detail from Windhosen, showing the suburb of New Lerchenfeld.
• 19 •


the harbor, but disembarked at a place some distance away,
next to the Schanzel bath. There we snuck around via some
detours, undergoing cannon fire from the Bear, Eagle, Ship
and Star (forts skirting the harbor), deeper into the countryside and finally arrived at the main goal, the Swan, where
we—unrecognized—had some refreshments and then continued on our journey.35
Spittelberg was a Viennese suburb notorious for its prostitutes. The
foremast seems to be Schubert, who as we have seen is often associated
in the newsletters with sticks, but also with wood—and, of course, with
the Rossau, which was a place where piles of wood were stored. An additional clue is the word Hülfe since Schubert’s official profession at this
time was that of a Schulgehülf (assistant school teacher). The word Swan
in the text, and the prominent inscription “Zur Schwane” next to the
throne (or armchair) topped by a crown and the letter S, was probably added because of the association of Schubert with a “singing swan”
(desiring a euphemistic death). The prominent stack of wood labeled
“Am Schanzel” next to Schubert’s face has a tiny drawing on it: of a couple making out behind the woodpile. Since Schubert’s first teacher was
named Michael Holzer, this may have been a source of the many jokes
associating him with wood (Holz).36
The boot at the top of the map, resembling Italy (see Figure 7a), contains the names of various inns—some real, some nonsensical—located in
the suburb of Spittelberg, including the made-up name “Zur Nasen” (At The
Nose), written on a drawing of Leopold Kupelwieser’s nose.37 Next to his
mouth is the sign “Schwimmschule” (Swimming school)—referring to
Leopold’s noted skill in swimming. Next to the fortress of “Thuri”—the
small suburb directly adjoining Schubert’s birthplace—is a green “tower,”
obviously pornographic, labeled “Neu Lerchenfeld” (see Figure 7b). This
was the suburb where Josef Kupelwieser—a notorious womanizer—lived,
in the house “Roter Stiefel” (Red Boot), as is indicated by the caption
“Die Wiesen des Koppers Wohnung” (The Meadows of Kopper’s Residence), with its wordplay on his name, Koppel meaning a fenced-in grazing
meadow. Fortress was a term used for a prostitute in Schubert’s (and
Beethoven’s) Vienna, and the erect green tower indicates the promised
land next to the Egyptian desert of Hernals, another of Vienna’s suburbs. I suspect that Schubert’s Lied Auf der Riesenkoppe (D611), which
translates as “On the giant peak” and which he set to a text by Theodor
Körner in March 1818, may have been inspired by this map. The song
begins: “High on the summit / Of your mountains / I stand and marvel
• 20 •

Rita Steblin

/ With glowing fervor, / Sacred peak, / You that storm the heavens.”38
Schubert may have been spoofing Josef ’s prowess with women here.
(Later, in 1823, Josef would suddenly abandon his Court Theater position to run after the actress Emilie Neumann, with disastrous results for the
planned production of Fierabras.)
Swimming from the Spittelberg next to the “Narrenhaus” (House
of Fools, the Viennese insane asylum), is a fish wearing eyeglasses—
Schubert. He is about to swallow the name “Antifi,” which as we will see
has musical significance. The island in the middle of the map is labeled
“Landstrasse” and contains a cage with a rooster on top—the regular
meeting place of the Nonsense Society. Under the cage is a beckoning
finger. This clue, together with the throne topped by a crown and the
letter S already mentioned, again point to Schubert’s important role in
the society. The newsletters often parodied the works of the popular
Viennese theater writer Joachim Perinet (1763–1816), whose hit piece
at the time was the travesty opera Aschenschlägel, a Cinderella story with
the genders reversed. Schubert, perhaps not surprisingly, was the club’s
Cinderella. One of the lines in Perinet’s play reads: “Aschenschlägels
Ebenbild ist ein unschuldiger Schwann” (Cinderella’s image is an innocent swan). He sits at the hearth baking buns—hence the necklace of
buns which Schnautze wears in his second individual portrait, the one
with the gesturing finger (Figure 3). But, instead of losing a slipper, this
male Cinderella finds a glove (lost by Insanius, the club’s God). This story
line is especially evident in the children’s ballet Insanius on Earth featuring the half-god Hymen (Schubert). Scene 6 contains this passage:
Hymen and the children as geniuses. They have ABC books
in their hands and are supposed to learn how to read. They
refuse and Hymen gets mad. The children throw their books
at his head. Hymen runs around the theater like a fool [Narr]
and looks for his stick. He finds Insanius’s glove and dances a
minuet with the children who are so astonished that they run
away. Hymen alone. He studies the glove and recognizes it.
He is happy that Insanius is also here.
An armchair (like the throne on the map) also makes an appearance in
the play about Hymen; it is transformed into a tree trunk (that is, wood).
Returning to the map and another favorite writer parodied by the
club, Friedrich von Schiller, in particular his poem “Der Handschuh”
(The Glove): among its opening lines are the phrases: “Saß König Franz /
Und wie er winkt mit dem Finger, / Auf tut sich der weite Zwinger” (King
• 21 •


Franz sat / And as he gestured with his finger, the distant prison cell
opened). Thus, in this cleverly encoded way, the club joked that Schubert
was their “King Franz.” The upper left-hand corner of the map shows
a woman sitting in front of a three-legged object that looks remarkably like a spinet. Next to a keg of wine is a man dancing the Austrian
“Schuhplattler”—a courtship dance in 3/4 time in which the man slaps
the sole of his shoe. Thus, we have here the nonsensical version of “wine,
women, and song”—with “song” being replaced by “dance.”39
A similar scenario to the Rossau map is suggested by a two-part tale
written by Eduard Anschütz, “Die Fee Musa oder Die verwandelten
Jünglinge” (The Fairy Musa or The Transformed Youths) that appeared
in the newsletter on 10 and 17 September 1818.40 This fairy tale relates that
two members of the Nonsense Society had been so mesmerized by the
sensuous charms of the water-nymph Aqualine that they abandoned the
virtuous Musa for damp, swampy regions. The two youths were transformed into a fat singing frog (Schubert) and a tall, eloquent carp (Schober),
and were so delighted with catching flies in the water that they refused to
be rescued by their draisine-riding friends (led by Leopold Kupelwieser).
The serialized tale was accompanied by two illustrations: the first one,
showing the frog and carp diving into the swamp, was painted by August
Kopisch (1799–1853). This young painter and poet from Breslau, whose
code name was Galimathias Hirngespinst (Gibberish Headspinner),
would later become famous for discovering the Blue Grotto of Capri
(in 1826) and for penning the tale about the “Heinzelmännchen of
Cologne” (in 1848)—the elves who worked secretly in the night for the
tailor, the baker, etc. The second illustration is by the landscape painter
Tobias Raulino (1785–1839)—code name Bubone di Stivali (Bubo of the
Boots)—and depicts the frog and carp cavorting in an accurate representation of the swimming pool in Vienna at the time. Both pictures also
show the incensed Musa and the enticing Aqualine. This illustrated tale
is actually a moral message presaging the upright Josef Kenner’s later
report to Ferdinand Luib about Schober’s “lasting and pernicious influence over Schubert’s honest susceptibility,” and how this “false prophet,
who embellished sensuality in such a flattering manner” helped to drag
the composer’s “soul down to the slough of moral degradation.”41
The illustrations that accompany Schnautze’s tale about Musa and the
transformed youths are full of sexual innuendos. Clever wordplay clearly
identifies Schubert and Schober as the frog and the carp. For example,
such words as écossaise, Posaune, Flötentöne, and Genius are used in connection with the fat singing frog, while the carp is described with such terms
as alles Reden (full of talk) and Krümmungen seines Schweifes (his crooked
• 22 •

Rita Steblin

tail)—referring to Schober’s reputed eloquence and bowed legs. The
mysterious appearance in the tale of an antagonist—the coach-driver
“Sepperl” (the name is a diminutive of Josef)—is probably a reference
to Josef Kupelwieser and his rivalry with Schober. In my opinion, many
other words—some of which are associated with Schubert elsewhere
in the newletters—point to the composer: Auge (eye), Zedernholz (cedar
wood), Fuß (foot), Musik, Aqualine’s enticing singing “mit bezaubernder
Laubfroschstimme” (with a spell-binding tree frog voice), Stiefel (boot), ein
dummer Spitzbub (a silly rascal), Zauberstab (magical stick), and so forth. And,
the words Persian and Chinese in the subtitle of the tale “Fragment eines
persischen Mährchens aus dem chinesischen übersetzt” (Fragment of
a Persian Fairy Tale, Translated from the Chinese) point to the exotic
lady’s man: Schober. Since wordplay was such a favorite pastime in the
Schubert circle, in particular, the making up of poems or short stories
on a set number of given words, I believe that Schubert’s later allegorical tale “My Dream” (1822) may have been written as part of such a
game.42 Indeed, it is not hard to determine what might have been the
given words, for example: Bruder, Vater, Liebe, Lustgelage, Speise, Schmerz,
Tod, Leiche, Augen, Garten, Jungfrau, Seligkeit.

Schubert’s Friends
Franz Schubert is not, of course, the only person of interest in the pages
of the Archiv des menschlichen Unsinns. We have already seen open allusions
to two friends well known to Schubert research, Leopold Kupelwieser and
Franz von Schober, but there are others whose presence in the composer’s
life was previously unknown and who add to our picture of the Viennese
cultural scene in sometimes surprising ways. Carl Friedrich Zimmermann,
who had come to Vienna from Berlin in 1816 to study at the Art Academy
and who roomed with August Kloeber, likewise from Berlin, painted the
final group scene for the New Year’s Eve’s party in 1817, signed with his
code name Aaron Bleistift.43 As mentioned, this image (Figure 1) shows
Schubert in a brown suit next to two young women and the artist himself as
a duel-fighting roughneck. Earlier in the evening, however, Zimmermann
had worn a different costume and, in my opinion, had come disguised as
Schubert (see Figure 8). This double portrait, painted by Kloeber, shows
Aaron Bleistift on the left as a fine gentleman with curly hair, clad in a
brown suit and peering through double glasses at Leopold Kupelwieser.
A conspicuous handkerchief hangs from the gentleman’s suit tail—similar
to the piece of linen wrapped around the tail of the fish with eyeglasses
• 23 •


Figure 8. Play with Double Glasses. Carl Zimmermann (as Schubert) and Leopold
Kupelwieser, 31 December 1817. Watercolor by August Kloeber (Goliath Pinselstiel).

• 24 •

Rita Steblin

Figure 9. Franz Schubert. Oil portrait attributed to Josef Abel, ca. 1814.

swimming toward the Rossau in the Windhosen map—and he wears exaggerated signet rings at his waist.
I believe these valuable items were meant to parody Schubert as he
was depicted in the oil portrait attributed to Josef Abel (1764–1818),44
which shows the nearsighted composer, gripped by inspiration while
seated at a fortepiano, with a number of signet rings at his waist (Figure
9). The dress, the glasses, the hair reproduce the Abel portrait with stunning accuracy. Perhaps the pencil (Bleistift) placed so prominently on the

• 25 •


piano even became an inside joke, associating Aaron Bleistift—whose
father in Berlin was actually a “Holz-Inspector”—with Schubert, who as
we have seen is often connected with wood in the newsletters. In the
Abel portrait, a name is inscribed on the fortepiano with the decipherable
letters reading “[?]enie.”45 I now believe that the artist, who was famed
for incorporating symbolic attributes in his paintings, meant the nameplate to indicate: Genie, a designation that finds prominent mention in
the newsletters in association with Schubert.
Zimmermann, who painted four surviving pictures for the society,
was a popular member, praised for his artistic talent and teased for his
pursuit of women. One of the newsletter reports, titled “Psychologische
Beobachtungen” (Psychological Observations) and dated 2 April 1818,
begins with an obscene spoof on pretentious intellectual writing, using
passages in pseudo-Yiddish, and then describes Zimmermann proudly
riding a horse down the Rotenturmstrasse. The article ends with the following passage mentioning a shoemaker apprentice named “Hansel”—
that is, Schubert:
But let us consider a small group of shoemaker boys, full of
innocence. . . . He [Zimmermann] stops suddenly in front
of a house in the Rotenturmstrasse and his whistling mouth
closes in silence. His eyes are directed upwards and he smiles
gently. What is the object of his fixed gaze? It is a maid, washing the windows on the second floor. To balance herself, she
has stretched out her right leg rather carelessly into the
street. The shoemaker apprentice, absolutely delighted, calls
to one of his comrades: Hansel, stop! Here you can see the
whole city of Paris!
The double mention here of shoemaker and Hansel, implying Ritter
Juan, reinforces the connection made in the double portrait between
Zimmermann and Schubert. The artist’s unexpected death in 1820 in a
drowning accident, soon after he had married a member of the extended
Mendelssohn family, was a tragic loss to art: his stunning illustrations of
Goethe’s Faust are the visual counterpart to Schubert’s 1814 masterpiece
in song: Gretchen am Spinnrade (D118).46
Since Eduard and Gustav Anschütz have scarcely been mentioned
previously in the Schubert literature, it is worth devoting a few lines
to them here.47 Among the pictures in the Wienmuseum are individual
portraits of the brothers, showing how they were dressed for each of the
celebratory events. Figures 2 and 3 depict the younger brother, Eduard,
• 26 •

Rita Steblin

the club’s leader and newsletter editor. In each portrait he holds a
staff or scepter topped by a rooster. The club’s Stammlokal (regular
haunt), where the members met every Thursday evening, was the inn
called the Roter Hahn (Red Rooster)—still standing today as a hotel with
that name—in the suburb of Landstrasse just southeast of the inner
city. (Although Schubert was working at his father’s school in 1817,
he would normally have had Thursday afternoons and evenings free.)
Eduard was a poet—in 1816 the Vienna Theaterzeitung published a poem
by him criticizing the Italian prima donna Angelica Catalani for her
vanity—and he later pursued a career as an actor.
Gustav Anschütz (1793–1839) used the code name Sebastian Haarpuder.
In the portrait depicting his costume for the New Year’s Eve party, he
wears a late Baroque outfit, including a wig from which a sign hangs
reading “Extra fein Haarpuder” (Extra fine hair powder), and he is deep
in discussion with a portrait of Pythagoras (see Figure 4). Since he grew
up in Leipzig, his code name probably had some connection with Johann
Sebastian Bach, especially since the “mathematical” Bach wore a powdered wig. It has also been argued that Bach composed the Art of the
Fugue to display Pythagorean principles, including mirror images.48 Was
Gustav aware of this inside information? Gustav later worked as a jeweler and was a passionate dancer. At his death in 1839 he was survived
by his wife, who taught singing, and his two young children. Since his
brother Eduard died unmarried, the question arises: Who inherited the
still-missing Nonsense Society materials? Perhaps they will be found one
day, owned by descendants of either Gustav or Heinrich Anschütz.
In the context of this predominantly male society of close friendships
it would be remiss to disregard the question of sexuality, especially in
light of the plethora of contributions to this topic in recent Schubert literature. Indeed, even a casual glance at the newsletters and watercolors
at times suggests feminine allures and cross-dressing among some of the
members of the club. Closer inspection, however, reveals a rather more
heterosexually oriented form of banter. A case in point is Smirsch, alias
Nina Wutzerl (see Figure 10).49 Although this member took on a woman’s
role in the club and was teased for his “tender” traits, the hat he wore
decorated with peacock feathers represented his teaching specialty at
the Polytechnical Institute: painting flowers and feathers. (Smirsch later
sang with the Wiener Männergesangverein, amassed a huge fortune as
a financier, and married his longtime cook at the age of seventy-seven.)
He is featured in a picture, Nina’s Triumph, attached to the newsletter
dated 12 November 1818. This sacrilegious triptych spoofs a barbershop
scene in which Nina introduces an untutored new member to culture.
• 27 •


Figure 10. Nina Wutzerl. 31 December 1817.
Watercolor by Johann Nepomuk Hoechle (Kratzeratti Klanwinzi).

• 28 •

Rita Steblin

This member, named “Alebrand,” as well as a witness to the scene named
“Mordschlag” are still unidentified. The text describing the picture
explains that it was painted by Rafaele van der Riso di Zaardam (Carl
Peter Goebel, a prize-winning student at the Vienna Art Academy) as a
form of penance for his having produced bad art for the society. In an
earlier newsletter, Riso di Zaardam had been punished by Zeisig with a
disciplining stick for being lazy in his creative efforts. The stick would
seem to be an allusion to Schubert and his high artistic ideals.
An earlier picture, attached to the newsletter dated 23 July 1818,
shows another sacrilegious scene: a parody of Da Vinci’s The Last
Supper, with the club gathering for their Thursday meeting in a shed
topped by a huge red rooster, thus representing their Stammtisch. This
picture was painted by Goldhann, who included himself, his wife, and
two young daughters as a family of golden chickens in the left foreground. A chicken in a fancy hat decorated with colorful feathers—
Nina—stands in front of a music stand and sings. Goldhann, who also
wrote the accompanying text, explains that we see in this pretty bird
“the unfortunate capon [eunuch] whose single pleasure is in singing
and whose only listener is the splendidly dressed-up gallus galinaceus
or turkey.” This turkey, who judges the singer, is obviously meant to
represent Schubert. He is placed right in the middle of the picture,
directly under the huge red rooster, but faces in the opposite direction, thus suggesting a “verkehrte Welt” (topsy-turvy world), another
favorite theme, in addition to the “ship of fools,” that characterized
this society.
There is also the case of the super-macho former soldier Ferdinand
Dörflinger (1790–1818), the author of many unsavory articles in the
newsletters about cooking and prostitutes.50 He had adopted the persona
and dress of the notorious actress Elise Hahn, who had cuckolded her
husband, the famous poet Gottfried August Bürger. Dörflinger’s hasty
marriage on 14 September 1817—his bride was already pregnant—
served as the butt of many jokes, including Schnautze’s literary parody
of Schiller’s poem “Hektors Abschied” with the travestied title “Lisels
Abschied, als sie Mariage machte” (Lizzy’s Farewell, as She Got Married),
and Nina Wutzerl’s painting of a Parisian fashion plate of fancy hats
dedicated to “her” disreputable girlfriend “Elise Gagarnadl von Antifi.”
The Windhosen map (dated 20 November 1817) shows the voyage of a
fish wearing eyeglasses—Schubert—swimming from Spittelberg, with its
loose women, toward the Rossau with its piles of wood. The fish, with a
piece of (dirty?) linen wrapped around its tail, is about to swallow the name
“Antifi.” In December 1817 Schubert composed the original (longer)
• 29 •


version of Das Dörfchen (The Little Village, D598) for four unaccompanied male voices in what I believe is the musical counterpart to the
earlier literary and painterly jokes on “Elise.” Schubert must have chosen this text—the author of the poem is none other than Bürger—not
only because of the connection to Elise Hahn, but also because of the
wordplay (Dörfchen) on Dörflinger’s name. The absolute giveaway is
Schubert’s selection of several verses mentioning “Elise”—for example,
“Schön ist die Flur; / Allein Elise / Macht sie mir nur / Zum Paradiese”;
that he omitted these humorous verses, with their private message, when
he published the work later in 1822, in the shorter, better-known version
of the work in Op. 11, No. 1 (D641) is itself revealing.
Schubert likely composed other works “für Elise,” including the Lied
fragment Entzückung eines Lauras Abschied (Delight at the Departure of
Some Laura, D577), on a text by Schiller, in August 1817. The title is
not a mistake, as Deutsch had thought, but a deliberate attempt to spoof
“some kind of woman’s” pending farewell. The Schiller text “Elysium”
(D584), which Schubert set in September 1817, ends with the celebration
of an eternal wedding feast: the word ewig (eternal) is stretched out in
an exaggerated word parody for an incredible ten bars. Since it is set for
high tenor voice, I suspect that Schubert sang this himself at a wedding
party for Dörflinger, hosted by the club.
Johann Nepomuk Hoechle became famous as the painter of battle scenes for Emperor Franz—and is still remembered today for his
Beethoven depictions: these include an ink wash drawing of the composer
walking in the rain, the well-known music-studio scene painted on 30
March 1827 with the bust of Schubert in the window, and a quick sketch
of Beethoven’s funeral procession.51 Under his code name Kratzeratti
Klanwinzi, Hoechle drew eleven surviving pictures for the Nonsense
Society, including the group scene Zur Unsinniade—2ter Gesang, an “action
shot” of the New Year’s Eve party, and the illustration “Zebedäus” in His
Studio in the newsletter dated 8 October 1818. This image makes fun of
the extremely old director of the Vienna Art Academy, Martin Fischer
(1741–1820), identified in the double wordplay: “Mr. Zebedäus from
Fisher Alley.” The name of the biblical fisherman Zebedee is reinforced
by the name of the street where he lives. A similar kind of wordplay
points to Schubert: for example, in the reports about a musician who
lives in the “ABC house” or a curly-headed “Jean” who lives at Erdberg
(where Schubert stayed with the Watteroth family in 1816).52 Hoechle’s
picture shows old Fischer making some anatomical investigations of
a woman’s bottom, the same theme found in the tale about Chevalier
Touchetout pulling out some socks. This in turn reflects the mention of
• 30 •

Rita Steblin

Ritter Cimbala in the poem “Impromptu” about a sock, in the newsletter
dated 12 February 1818. The poem follows immediately a tale about a
fortepiano signed by Quanti Verdradi (whom I assume to be Franz von
Schober), and which reads as follows (note the double wordplays):
Fortepiano to play out. A completely new played-out Fortepianoforte,
fitted with many notes and provided with a quantity of fine and
coarse [grob] strings, as one would wish to have it, and which
in addition has already been admired by many admirers, is to
be had by a certain gentleman for playing purposes—because
the drums and trumpets produce tones by themselves when
one presses the so-called Turkish Turkish [!] music stops up
and down with one’s foot. The beginning of this play is on the
third of this [month] in the house of the person playing. Quanti
The mention of grob here was probably a deliberate reference to Therese
Grob (1798–1875), Schubert’s beloved singer, whom he had hoped to
marry in 1816.53
In mid-November 1818, after Schubert returned to Vienna from his
five-month stay in Zseliz, he abandoned his teaching position and moved
into an apartment with the older poet Johann Mayrhofer (1787–1836).54
A lengthy account written by Josef Kupelwieser for the newsletter dated
26 November 1818 spoofs Mayrhofer’s daytime job with the government
police office as a censor of books. Here are a few excerpts:
Advertisement. The following prohibited and permitted works
are on public sale at the editor’s publishing house:
1. Prohibited
Multiplication tables from 1 to 1000 and back again in
reverse order.
ABC book with pictures by a priest of the Jacobin order. . . .
2. Permitted Books
Introduction to the art of revolution. Paris 1792. . . .
On the art of deceiving the course of nature, for the benefit
of the population, by a misanthrope. . . .
Introduction to the art of defrauding people, along with
thorough instructions on how to declare a false bankruptcy.
Vienna, Police House, 1818.

• 31 •


Among the clues pointing here to Schubert and his roommate are
“ABC book” and “Jacobin order”—the house where Schubert now
lived, Wipplingerstrasse 2, had originally been occupied by the
Jacobins.55 In addition, there is the reference to a “misanthrope,” a
word used to describe Mayrhofer’s character.56 There is no evidence
that the poet himself belonged to the Nonsense Society—membership
in such a secret society would have been extremely dangerous for someone working for the police—but his biographer, Ernst von Feuchtersleben,
reported that “every morning [Mayrhofer] entered into his diary the
jokes of one such instinctive, humorous, natural person [Schubert], who
was the soul of wit of a merry evening society.”57

Although the episodes recounted in this overview point to the presence
of the composer, one should keep in mind that there are many other passages where we are left, at best, to interpret. Certain words appear over
and over again in what I believe are encoded references to Schubert. One
of these is Schuh (shoe)—also found in combinations, such as Handschuh
(glove)—as well as various appearances of Auge (eye), Brille (eyeglasses),
or Glas. The words Fest (festival) or Festung (fortress/prostitute) also seem
to be associated with the composer. I have already discussed such words
as Holz (wood) and various items made of wood, including sticks—Stab,
Stock, etc. I assume that the many references to music, to dance (especially the écossaise), and to musical instruments (especially the Posaune)
refer to Schubert. Since he most likely composed the music for Feuergeist,
the many jokes about Feuer (fire) probably involve him as well—as do the
frequent occurrences of ABC (standing for the primary school class
that he taught). A wonderful example of word combinations pointing
to Schubert is the expression “handfester Holzhacker” used to describe
the person who lives “beym goldnen A B C” (at the golden A B C) and
who is studying Beethoven’s fantasies and variations (newsletter of 23
October 1817). I also believe that variants of the name Juan—for example, Johannis, Hans, Hansel, Jean, etc.—may as well refer to Schubert.
Other members are also associated with particular words or concepts:
Leopold Kupelwieser, for example, is represented by the draisine, swimming, and comets. And, if I am correct in assuming that Schubert’s close
friend Franz von Schober was regarded as the enemy—or at least as a
rival to Josef Kupelwieser (in writing librettos for the composer)—then
he appears everywhere in the newsletters not only as the evil Turk, Arab,
• 32 •

Rita Steblin

or Chinaman, but also as the stupid traveler to the topsy-turvy world,
“Ulf Dalkensohn,” the dumbbell with a Swedish sounding name. Schober,
who was born in Sweden, is thus the “Dummkopf ” (blockhead) who leads
the “Narr” (innocent fool), that is, Schubert, on sexually promiscuous
adventures, for instance to Aqualine’s swamp, as told in the long tale
about Musa and the transformed youths.
We can only also guess at the extent of the direct impact of this social
circle on Schubert’s musical output, although some works in particular
suggest a strong connection to his participation in the Nonsense Society:
Der Feuergeist, an early version of Die Zauberharfe (D644); Entzückung eines
Lauras Abschied (D577); Elysium (D584); Das Dörfchen (D598); Auf der
Riesenkoppe (D611); Variations on a French Song, Op. 10 (D624).58 There
is also much more to discover in the annals of the Nonsense Society
beyond Schubert: how a young generation of Viennese artists understood their world in the late 1810s, their awareness of current events and
scientific discoveries, their view of morality and sense of humor, their
artistic talents and mutual admiration. That Schubert was an integral
part of this circle only adds to the richness of this discovery in the history of art and social interaction. As I expressed in 1997 in “Schubert
Through the Kaleidoscope,” my first English-language article describing
this new material:
This documentary find will not only open up new perspectives for research on the composer, it will also give new
impetus to the fields of literature, art and theater, in particular as they relate to the sociological and cultural study of the
Biedermeier period. I hope then that the future collegial
work on this material by serious scholars in many fields will
add innumerable splendid colors—kaleidoscope-like—to
our current picture of Schubert and his Viennese circle of
The time is still ripe for other scholars to be enticed by this rich and fascinating material and award it serious attention.

• 33 •

This is a heavily edited version of the article I wrote in November 2012 for the Bard
Music Festival of 2014. That article provided a more detailed account of how my research
progressed and highlighted my new, unpublished ideas on this topic and was published, in its original form, in late 2013 as “New Thoughts on Schubert’s Role in the
Unsinnsgesellschaft,” Schubert: Perspektiven 10/2 (2010): 191–223. It can be consulted
there for comparative purposes.
1. All the surviving materials created by the Nonsense Society, including seventythree watercolor pictures, have been interpreted and published in my book Die
Unsinnsgesellschaft: Franz Schubert, Leopold Kupelwieser und ihr Freundeskreis (Vienna, 1998),
490 pages. As yet, little of this material has been examined by other scholars. The present
article, in English, summarizes my findings.
2. My project to conduct new research on Schubert iconography was initially suggested by Ernst Hilmar, founder of the International Franz Schubert Institute in Vienna,
and was later supervised by Gerhard Stradner, director of the Collection of Ancient
Musical Instruments in Vienna. Funding was provided by the Austrian National Bank,
Jubiläumsfonds, with two research grants, 1994–97.
3. These documents had been purchased by the museum in 1943 from the Viennese
antiquarian dealer Gilhofer but were mistakenly identified as belonging to the
Ludlamshöhle, a different club—with older members—that was also founded in 1817.
For a discussion of this second club, which was raided by the police in April 1826 just
as Schubert was about to become a member, see Alice Hanson, “The Significance of the
Ludlamshöhle for Franz Schubert,” in Essays on Music and Culture in Honor of Herbert
Kellman, ed. Barbara Haggh (Paris, 2001), 496–502.
4. For the record, these illustrations do not have titles. I devised the titles referred to
here from the captions on the individual portraits and group scenes, as well as from the
written explanations in each newsletter, titled “Zum Kupfer” (About the Copperplate).
5. Rupert Feuchtmüller made a valiant attempt to explain this material in his book
Leopold Kupelwieser und die Kunst der österreichischen Spätromantik (Vienna, 1970), 14–15, but
he confused the Nonsense Society with the Ludlamshöhle. He also published two of the
costumed portraits on pages 84–85 with the following identification: “Josef Kupelwieser/als
Mitglied der Unsinnsgesellschaft/Blasius Lecks/1818” and “Leopold Kupelwieser [sic] /
als Mitglied der Unsinnsgesellschaft/Gallimatias Hirngespinst/1818.” The second picture
shows August Kopisch, not Leopold Kupelwieser, whose code name was Damian Klex.
6. I wish to thank Morten Solvik for showing me the book by Gerhard Renner, Die
Nachlässe in der Wiener Stadt- und Landesbibliothek: Ein Verzeichnis (Vienna, 1993), that led
me to make the discovery of Nonsense Society materials located in Vienna’s City Hall.
These items, divided according to year, have the call numbers Jb 86.125 (for 1817) and
Jb 86.126 (for 1818).
7. The vice-editor’s real name was Franz Zöpfl (ca. 1791–1871), a bookkeeper who
later became an official at the Austrian National Bank. I wish to thank Michael Lorenz
for establishing the biographical connection between Zöpfl and Marie Schuster, the person who sold the twenty-nine newsletters to the Vienna City Library in 1937 (see Steblin,
Die Unsinnsgesellschaft, 8). These surviving issues make up only about one-third of the
original number of weekly newsletters that must have been created (between April 1817
and the end of 1818), and it may be that Eduard Anschütz, the editor, took the other
two-thirds (about 58 issues). These newsletters are still missing. The material in the
Wienmuseum apparently once belonged to Josef Kupelwieser, who penned the poems
called “Unsinniaden” for the New Year’s Eve celebration in 1817. However, both the
poem and the picture belonging to the third “Unsinniade” are missing.
• 34 •

Notes to


8. In 1997 I read a paper at the American Musicological Society Meeting in Phoenix
titled “Leks, Schmecks and Klex: Three Kupelwiesers and Franz Schubert in the
Unsinnsgesellschaft” devoted to these three brothers: Josef Kupelwieser (1791–1866), Johann
Kupelwieser (1794–1856), and Leopold Kupelwieser (1796–1862).
9. Heinrich Anschütz, Erinnerungen aus dessen Leben und Wirken (Vienna, 1866),
264–65, cited in Otto Erich Deutsch, Schubert: Memoirs by His Friends, trans. Rosamond
Ley and John Nowell (London, 1958), 222–23; translation amended by Christopher
Gibbs. Deutsch commented that by the Nonsense Society “Anschütz probably meant ‘Die
Ludlamshöhle’ to which Anschütz, though not Schubert, had belonged” (224).
10. For a facsimile of this list of Nonsense Society members, see Steblin, Die
Unsinnsgesellschaft, 9.
11. Deutsch, Schubert: Memoirs, 32.
12. Otto Erich Deutsch, Schubert: A Documentary Biography, trans. Eric Blom (London,
1946), 338–40. The letter is discussed in Christopher Gibbs’s essay in this book as well as
in John Gingerich’s.
13. See ibid., plate 18, Game of Ball at Atzenbrugg, facing page 465.
14. According to my research on Ludwig Kraißl, funded in 2000 by a Social Sciences
and Humanities Research Council SSHRC grant administered by the University of
Victoria, B.C., Canada, this member of the Schubert circle was christened on 11 December
1792 (Vienna, Pfarre Maria Rotunda, Taufbuch Tom. I, fol. 125). He died on 10 February
1871 in Klagenfurt, where he had lived since 1824 as a painter employed by the wealthy
family of the industrialist August von Rosthorn.
15. See Steblin, “Schubert durch das Kaleidoskop” (Schubert Through the Kaleidoscope), Österreichische Musikzeitschrift 52/1–2 (Schubert Special Issue 1997): 52–61.
16. For the original German, see Steblin, Die Unsinnsgesellschaft, 335–36, which reprints
the newsletter dated 16 July 1818. Since such information can readily be found in my
book under the date of the newsletter (as well as through the footnotes of my articles), I
will dispense with further references here.
17. The kaleidoscope could now be associated with Schubert’s music, as I suggested in
“Schubert Through the Kaleidoscope” in 1997: “The inexhaustible variety of his melodic
invention and in particular the sudden, abrupt changes between harmonic motives and
keys have a kaleidoscopic effect about them” (56). My idea was then further developed by
Brian Newbould in his article “Schubert im Spiegel,” Musiktheorie 13 (1998): 101–10, esp.
105. I later expanded this thought, connecting it with Donald Tovey’s term “star clusters”
and Richard L. Cohn’s discussion of this term, in my article “Schubert‘s Pepi: His Love
Affair with the Chambermaid Josepha Pöcklhofer and Her Surprising Fate,” The Musical
Times 149 (Summer 2008): 47–69, esp. 52–53.
18. This passage by Wilhelm von Chézy was discovered by Till Gerrit Waidelich and
published in his book Rosamunde: Drama in fünf Akten von Helmina von Chézy. Musik von
Franz Schubert. Erstveröffentlichung der überarbeiteten Fassung (Tutzing, 1996), 53–54.
19. Franz Lachner told the following anecdote about Schubert’s strict discipline:
“Once, when with a group of friends, Schubert told of a sweetheart, who left him for the
reason that she wanted to avenge herself for the beatings he had given her in the ABC
class when he was a schoolteacher. He added: ‘It is quite true; whenever I was composing,
this little gang annoyed me so much that the ideas always went out of my head. Naturally
I gave them a good hiding then.—And now I have to suffer for it!’” See Deutsch, Schubert:
Memoirs, 292.
20. Steblin, Die Unsinnsgesellschaft, 375.
21. Ibid., 214–15. The theater announcement is signed with another code name for
Eduard Anschütz: “Michael Karthaunerknall Schauspieler.” Knall (bang, explosion) refers
to the meaning of his real name Schütz (shot), and Schauspieler (actor) refers to his profession.
22. Steblin, Die Unsinnsgesellschaft, 195.
23. Ibid., 190.
• 35 •

Notes to


24. See Otto Erich De