The schoolhouse years (1813-16)
For the next three years, while the long war moved on to its dramatic concluding stages and the map of Europe was redrawn, Schubert lived quietly at home in the schoolhouse on the Säulengasse. In 1814 he attended the teachers training school of St Anna, and in August passed the examination to qualify as a primary teacher. Thereafter he took over responsibility for the infants' class in the Liechtental school, teaching the youngest children their letters. According to family tradition he made an impatient schoolmaster, not above administering an occasional slap in the interest of good discipline.
For this period at any rate Grove's dictum is true: 'his life is all summed up in his music.' The biographical details can all be recounted in few words. Schubert fell in love, and like many another found that there was no future in the affair. His first complete mass was performed, and made an impression. His circle of friends and admirers grew, and his genius as a songwriter of exceptional power and originality began to be recognized. For the rest he taught, and he composed. For his services in school he received eighty florins a year. As for the compositions, the statistics are formidable. Nearly half of the works listed in the thematic catalogue compiled by Otto Erich Deutsch belong to the three years which followed his leaving school. They include five symphonies, four masses, six operas, four string quartets, not to mention a vast number of smaller pieces and about 270 songs!
This creative explosion could only have been possible if his school duties left him with a great deal of spare time and energy. The probable explanation is that the youngest children attended only for a few hours each day, so that Schubert could devote the major part of the day to composing. The point needs to be borne in mind before we dismiss his stipend of eighty florins a year as an outrageous insult. The myth of Schubert's lifelong poverty dies hard. The true value of historical incomes is indeed difficult to assess; but if we remember that the annual salary of a qualified teacher or junior civil servant in those days was only about 450 florins, we may concede that a youth of seventeen, not yet fully qualified and living at home, was not perhaps doing too badly with eighty.