Franz Schubert

Franz Schubert

A Biography

Book - 1996
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Blackwell North Amer
Franz Schubert (1797-1828) was born in Vienna of immigrant parents. During his short life he produced an astonishing amount of music. Symphonies, chamber music, opera, church music, and songs (more than 600 of them) poured forth in profusion. His 'Trout' Quintet, his 'Unfinished' Symphony, the three last piano sonatas, and above all his song cycles Die Schone Mullerin and Winterreise have come to be universally regarded as belonging to the very greatest works of music. Who was the man who composed this amazing succession of masterpieces, so many of which were either entirely ignored or regarded as failures during his lifetime?
In her new biography, Elizabeth Norman McKay paints a vivid portrait of Schubert and his world. She explores his family background, his education and musical upbringing, his friendships, and his brushes and flirtations with the repressive authorities of Church and State. She discusses his experience of the arts, literature and theatre, and his relations with the professional and amateur musical world of his day. Schubert's manic-depressive temperament became of increasing significance in his life, and McKay shows how it was partly responsible for his social inadequacies, professional ineptitude, and idiosyncracies in his music. She examines Schubert's uneven physical decline after he contracted syphilis, traces its effects on his music, his hedonism, and sensuality, and investigates the cause and circumstances of his death at the age of 31.

Oxford University Press
In his short, tumultuous life, Franz Schubert (1797-1828) produced an astonishing amount of music. Symphonies, chamber music, opera, church music, and songs (more than 600 of them) poured forth in profusion. His "Trout" Quintet, his "Unfinished" Symphony, the last three piano sonatas, and above all his song cycles Die Schone Mullerin and Winterreise have come to be universally regarded as belonging to the very greatest works of music? Who was the man who composed this amazing succession of masterpieces, so many of which were either entirely ignored or regarded as failures during his lifetime? In this new biography, Elizabeth McKay paints a vivid portrait of Schubert and his world. She explores his family backround, his education and musical upbringing, his friendships, and his brushes and flirtations with the repressive authorities of Church and State. She discusses his experience of the arts, literature, and theater, and his relations with the professional and amateur musical world of his day. She traces the way Schubert's manic-depression became an increasingly significant influence in his life, responsible at least in part for social inadequacies, professional ineptitude, and idiosyncrasies in his music. And she examines Schubert's decline after he contracted syphilis, looking at its effect on his music and emotional life.

Publisher: Oxford : Clarendon Press ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1996
ISBN: 9780198165231
0198165234
Characteristics: xiv, 362 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., ports., music ; 24 cm

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StephenB
Sep 18, 2012

Good. The author is clearly intelligent and sophisticated and presents a reasonably complex and credible portrait that I found compelling. The man's apparent vices, i.e. drinking and probably consorting with prostitutes, are part of the picture. The author doesn't take sides on the question of his sexual orientation, though I got the impression she is unconvinced by the scholars who argue Schubert was gay. She makes a not very strong case that he may have smoked opium. The author clearly knows the music inside out, but this is primarily a biography with almost no technical music discussion. I found it satisfying.

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