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The winter of 1827 in Vienna was savage and relentless, and life in his tiny apartment had become almost unbearable for him. On occasions, even the ink froze in its pot and he would be driven back into his bed in a desperate attempt to keep warm. The little money he had received for the first set of twelve songs had long gone, and he was now without food, without heating, and several weeks in arrears with his rent.

Schubert's dear friend, Vogel, had called to encourage him, to set down his quill for a while, and join friends in the coffee house. And after some persuasion, he had reluctantly agreed. In the Cafe Adler, he found warmth and jollity with his friends, but his mind was tormented by the song he had been working on, bouncing from the walls of his creative genius demanding to be set free. Schubert did his best to relax and participate, but his friends soon realised what was happening; they had seen this happen before. Vogel left the group and after a brief conversation with the cafe owner, returned to the table with a quill and ink pot, and set them down in front of his friend. Schubert smiled, picked up the quill, dipped it carefully into the ink pot, and set to work on the tablecloth.

The fascinated silence that had fallen around the table, as Schubert scratched frantically at the cloth was abruptly shattered as the cafe door burst open, and a blast of winter air heralded the arrival of Beethoven. Squat, gaunt and totally deaf, Beethoven shuffled off into a corner completely oblivious of his surroundings and demanded coffee of the approaching waiter. As the waiter scurried away, Beethoven dropped a pile of manuscripts onto his table and began scowling at them through his eyeglasses.

Vogel looked across the room at Beethoven, now totally immersed in his manuscripts, looked back at his friend Schubert, now similarly immersed in a world of his own and smiled at his fellow witnesses. They all instinctively recognised an utterly unique moment in history when two of the greatest composers the world would ever know were sitting feet apart, totally immersed in their work and totally oblivious of each other. Unknown to everyone, both were beginning their final Winter journeys.

Some days later, Franz Schubert wearily climbed the steps to the second floor apartment of his publisher, Tobias Haslinger. It was yet another bitterly cold February morning; his threadbare clothing totally inadequate for such conditions. He had been working frantically through the night; wholly possessed by the desire to commit his latest composition to manuscript. He had no time for sleep, or for food, or for any other mortal pleasure. Though, racked by illness, hunger and cold, his tiny frame had been cocooned from earthly trauma by an inner serenity; a serenity he had been blessed with since birth. This tiny, insignificant, unkempt, and mortally ill genius was again delivering heavenly music from the angels.

'My dear Schubert,' gasped Haslinger as he opened his door, 'you look absolutely dreadful. Come in; come in, and set yourself by the fire.'

Schubert, more than grateful to do so, perched himself carefully by the roaring log fire, taking an instant, yet dulled pleasure from its welcome heat. He set down his battered manuscript case against his feet, and with a corner of his worn cravat, slowly began to cleanse his tiny rimless spectacles of their condensation.

'I see you bring me more of your joyful and heavenly music, Franz. Dare I hope that you have completed the second twelve songs of your 'Winter Journey'?'

Schubert carefully replaced his tiny frameless spectacles and stared into the fire. His frozen features had now slowly melted into a distant expression of absolute contentment.

'Herr Haslinger, my long and often painful 'Winter Journey' is finally completed. I fear that I have said everything that our good Lord will permit.'


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