The small public which surrounded the composer during the first years of his musical activity, consisting only of his family, some of his classmates and a few friends who already recognized the master in the boy, gradually increased.Josef von Spaun, 1829 (SMF 20)
Vienna's golden musical age drew its glory from transplanted genius. Gluck, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, not to mention such lesser lights as Salieri, Gyrowetz, and Hummel, all gravitated to this celebrated musical city, capital of the Austrian Empire, which was and is so attractive to immigrants generally. Alone among the great composers of this era, Franz Schubert was born there, on 31 January 1797, where his parents had settled two decades earlier.
Of Schubert's first years we have scant knowledge, although some revealing information can be gleaned from parish records and other documents. A marriage register in Lichtental, the modest suburb not far outside the city walls, near where Schubert would be born twelve years later, records on 17 January 1785 that “Franz Schuberth [sic], a school instructor, native of Neudorf in Moravia, farmer's son, Lichtental No. 152, Catholic, 25 years old, single” married “Elisabeth Vitzin [Vietz], native of Zuckmantel in Imperial Silesia, master lock-smith's daughter, Lichtental No. 152, Catholic, 28 years old, single.” One of their two witnesses was the bridegroom's brother, Karl Schubert, who seven years later married Elisabeth's younger sister Magdalene. A birth-register entry less than two months later casts some further light on this union: the birth of a son, Ignaz Franz. We also learn that Schubert's father was not twenty-five at the time of his marriage, but twenty-two, nearly seven years younger than his pregnant bride. During the next three decades, the hard-working Franz Theodor Florian Schubert built a distinguished career as an educator, while Elisabeth was consumed with annual pregnancies and with needy young children who were frequently ill.