Schubert: The Music
and the Man
by Brian Newbould
My love for Schubert is a very serious one, probably just because it is not a fleeting fancy. Where is genius like his, which soars aloft so boldly and surely, where we then see the first few enthroned? To me he is like a child of the gods, who plays with Jupiter's thunder, albeit also occasionally handling it oddly. But he plays in such a region, at such a height, to which the others are far short of raising themselves... [Letter from Brahms to Schubring, June 1863]
Today is the anniversary of Franz Schubert's birth. Schubert's short life was filled with music and his legacy to us is a wealth of melody and exceptional music spanning most of the forms of classical music. In Brian Newbould's comprehensive biography he explores the context for this beautiful music that was so rapidly created over less than three decades. Schubert seems an intuitive composer whose technique continued to grow into his final year. The biography is divided into two sections with the first focused on Schubert's life and the second surveying in more detail his compositions by genre. The compulsion of Schubert's genius and the resulting music is evident on every page.
Schubert attempted to write music of all types and only Opera eluded him. While his symphonies, piano and chamber music are appealing, the form in which he made his greatest contribution was the song. Within his hundreds of lieder are some of the best ever written. In the last year of his life, 1828, he wrote the fourteen lieder subsequently known as the Schwanengesang in addition to five others. Listening to these songs one wonders what was lost in Schubert's passing, but we can take joy in the songs and all the other fine music he bequeathed to us.
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