Schubert is known for his lieder (songs), Unfinished Symphony and Death and the Maiden string quartet. And there is a Cello Quintet (two violins, viola and two cellos) which is one of my most favorites.
The Octet is not played often, I think because of the duration and the instrumentation, but it is one of his masterworks. I'm so lucky to be involved in this project!
Written in 1824, the Octet was commissioned by Count Troyer who played the clarinet. Count Troyer requested him to model it after Beethoven's Septet (seven instruments), op.20. What he added was the second violin (so now eight instruments) and the length. It was premiered by some of the musicians who had premiered the Septet.
It is definitely not a serious piece like the Death and the Maiden quartet but more like a serenade or a divertimento (multi-instrument light music). In each movement you hear everyday-life in Vienna in the early 19th century. It was written in the Biedermeier period when the art reflected much of the middle-class happy life styles. So you will recognize folk melodies, tipsy drinking scenes at heuriger (wine tavern) or a happy relaxed time at a café etc, etc. It's all up to your imagination.
Schubert wrote it in a month and his friend, Schwind wrote "He has now been at work on octet with the greatest zeal. If you go to see him during the day, he says 'Hullo, how are you?... Good!' and goes on writing". According to some biographies, Schubert was starting to go through some sort of depression. I hope that this Octet, with its exuberance and beauty, lifted his spirit up.