Rellstab was born in Berlin son of a music publisher and composer. He studied music under
his father and two prominent composers of the day, Ludwig Berger and Bernhard Klein.
He remained conservative in his musical appreciation, however, preferring Bach, Handel,
Gluck, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven to most of the contemporary composers where he
confined his appreciation mainly to Weber, Mendelssohn and Meyerbeer.
He entered military service in his mid teens until his early twenties subsequently writing
musical criticism for the Vossische Zeitung where he was well known for his stringent views.
He wrote prolifically publishing several prose works including a successful novel entitled
'1812', several translations into German of Meyerbeer libretti and a libretto of his own,
'Dido'. His autobiography, 'Aus meinem Leben', appeared posthumously.
He also wrote several poems which he passed to Beethoven, whose Sonata, opus 27.2, he had
enduringly named 'Moonlight'. Beethoven's secretary is thought to have passed them
to Schubert upon Beethoven's death. Seven of them feature in Schubert's Schwanengesang
but some were also later set by Liszt.
Rellstab showed little appreciation of Schubert's work but it is mainly through the
latter's lieder settings that he is remembered.