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Franz Schubert


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Table of Contents

1: Song of Immigrants (1797-1808) 2: School Days (1808-1813) 3: Student and School-teacher (1814-1816) 4: Opportunities (1817-1819) 5: La Dolce Vita (1820-1822) 6: Two Natures 7: Fight against Illness (1823-1824) 8: An Expanding World (1825-1826, Part I) 9: Friends, Publishers, the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde (1825-1826, Part II) 10: Gloom and Creativity (1827) 11: Success and Sickness (1828) 12: The Final Illness 13: Burial and Memorials Select Bibliography Music Index General Index

About the Author

Elizabeth Norman McKay was formally Tutor in Piano and Visiting Professor at the Birmingham Conservatoire, and is the author of several publications on Franz Schubert and his music.


Franz Schubert produced an enormous body of work in his short lifetime, including chamber music, symphonies, choral works, and music for solo piano. He is best known, however, for his contribution to German lieder‘he composed more than 600 songs‘many using texts by great literary figures like Goethe and Schiller. McKay, formerly a visiting professor at the Birmingham Conservatoire and author of several publications on the music of Schubert, far exceeds her modest objective to "enhance the reader's pleasure in and understanding of, Schubert's music." Arriving in time for the bicentennial of his birth, her new biography examines the composer's personal life, his education, his friends and supporters, his struggles for recognition, and the unfortunate choices that led to his death at the age of 31. The author offers a detailed look into the cultural and political life of Vienna in the early 19th century and paints an unforgettable picture of a genius who was painfully human. Highly recommended for both academic and public libraries.‘Kate McCaffrey, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, N.Y.

One of the great German Romantic composers, Schubert has recently been the center of a scholarly debate over whether or not he was gay, and how that might have affected work from his String Quintet to his song cycles Die schöne Müllerin to Winterreise. Sadly, this new biography adds nothing new to available data and still manages to confuse the picture. McKay, a piano teacher from England who has also written some articles and a technical book about Schubert's piano music, mentions the words "manic," "depressive" and "syphilis" on nearly every page of this ponderous yet superficial study, but she cops out on Schubert's sexuality by saying the subject has been "exhaustively debated" elsewhere. Schubert's works are dealt with in very summary fashion (with no musical examples), and his life becomes a mass of clichés, apart from the idea that Schubert smoked opium before writing his famous account of a dream (Mein Traum). Although she admits that this silly idea is based almost entirely on the singular pipe in "smoked our pipe," she is still so attached to it that she includes Thomas de Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium Eater to an otherwise scanty bibliography. It's hard to say why a reader should spend the time on this biography when Otto Deutsch's documentary biography or Maurice Brown's critical one are available. If another biography is called for, it would have made more sense to translate Brigitte Massin's fine synthesis of Schubert's life and works from the French, a recent and worthy addition to the list of books on Schubert, who "dreaded the commonplace and boring" and probably would have dreaded this book as well. (Oct.)

`an eminently recommendable account of the vicissitudes of what must be the shortest and yet most productive of all musicians' careers. She has been very thorough in assessing the virtues and failings of earlier studies ... there is a wealth of fascinating, often unfamiliar information to absorb; this is a sane, humane, sympathetic and readable book.' Peter Branscombe Austrian Studies 10 `a readable and current account of the composer's life. Probably the book's greatest contribution is to offer the nonspecialist, English-language reader ready access to the most up-to-date scholarly work on him ... it may well be where most musicians and general readers wish to start their exploration of Schubert's life ... McKay has done the English-language musical world a considerable service. She has provided a highly readable narrative of Schubert's life that collects in readily usable form current evidence, knowledge, and opinion about Schubert's life ... The book's well-organized index of names and subjects will make it a compact and useful reference tool for nonspecialist and specialist alike ... Many ... will profit from McKay's book and refer to it frequently.' Thomas A. Denny, The Opera Quarterly `presents a Schubert far removed from the popular idea of the blithe, easy-going songmaker. This is an important book, which strips away sentimental falsehoods.' Michael Kennedy, The Sunday Telegraph `Her book explores in geat depth and fascinating detail almost every facet of Schubert's life ... McKay's biography is full of poignant recollections ... Further weight is added with McKay's enthralling account of his determination and resilience in the painful, final stages of his life. By the end of the book, Schubert has ceased to be a remote figure ... a fresh look at his impact on the Romantic era and beyond, and a welcome re-evaluation of Schubert in the two centuries since his birth.' Matias Tarnopolsky, The Literary Review `an admirable, no-nonsense book which eschews detailed musical analysis in favour of an easy to read account of Schubert's troubled life' The Express `her biography is an intelligent, provocative and scrupulously researched attempt to make sense of the fragmentary mosaic of the composer's life' Richard Wigmore, BBC Music Magazine, October 1996 `Elizabeth Norman McKay has created a biography of amazing proportions. The detail and research which is so evident throughout the book takes the reader to the heart of Schubert's world and is life in Vienna in the early years of the 19th century. McKay is a sympathetic biographer and charts his descent into hedonism with great restraint. His biography makes fascinating reading.' Philippa Boston, Oxford Times `McKay gives an admirable account of the 'Bildung Circle' to which Schubert belonged as a young man.' The Musical Times/November 1997 `a painstaking, lucid and sober biography which should be valued by both the general reader and the specialist...The great strength of McKay's biography lies in its ability to temper a formidable assembly of meticulously researched facts with gentle interpretation of them, born of obvious long thought and considerable intuitive empathy.' Gramophone `a no-nonsense survey of his life, can be recommended to anyone with an interest in the composer, whether well-versed in music or excellent book that, at 350 pages, is also a masterpiece of compression.' The Daily Telegraph `a fascinating read and a book that is likely to remain the standard English-language life of Schubert for the forseeable future.' Opera

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