SCHUBERT: A Biography by George R. Marek

SCHUBERT: A Biography

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There is certainly room for a new short biography of Schubert--Otto Deutsch's Documentary Biography is only a source-book, Maurice Brown's critical study is demanding, Fischer-Dieskau's Schubert's Songs is narrowly focused--but Marek's chatty, casual style, which suited Cosima Wagner so well, is ill-suited to the sketchy, delicate material that's available re Schubert. Marek, attempting ""to correct the legend,"" stresses that Schubert wasn't dirt-poor, didn't compose in a happy-golucky fashion, wasn't entirely unpublished or ignored or friendless during his lifetime. As for Schubert's empty love-life, Marek eschews ""ye olde Oedipus complex,"" opting instead for ""an almost frantic desire for freedom, a wish to remain emotionally unencumbered."" As for the limited publication of his works, Marek suggests a link to Schubert's minor political troubles with the police (via chum Johann Senn), making him ""no longer persona grata to the authorities."" And, as for the Unfinished Symphony, Marek borrows (without credit) Maurice Brown's theory--which posits that the symphony became repugnant to Schubert because it coincided with the onset of his eventually fatal syphilis. Otherwise, Schubert's music--including the ""mystery"" of his opera failures--receives humdrum, nontechnical, often fatuous appreciation. (Noting that scholar Brown was critical of the Wanderer Fantasy, Marek pouts, ""Oh Maurice--how could you!"") The ups and downs of his short career are treated to the tritest sort of TV-documentary-style narration. (""And the sand in the upper part of the hourglass was thinning. . ."") So, though Marek does include lengthy excerpts from the extant letters and digests much recent scholarship, the result here has all the defects of informal, popular biography with few of its narrative, involving strengths.

Pub Date: Jan. 31st, 1984
Publisher: Viking