Cover image for The life of Schubert
The life of Schubert
Gibbs, Christopher Howard.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xiii, 211 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm.
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Call Number
Material Type
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ML410.S3 G53 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Franz Schubert's tragically short life was spent in one of Europe's most richly musical cities: a Vienna that worshipped Beethoven, adored Rossini, and thrilled to Paganini. Schubert, with the help of supportive friends who were themselves immersed in the arts, won fame for himself through songs and dances while aspiring to succeed with larger operas and symphonies. Christopher Gibbs considers how and what Schubert composed, taking a fresh look at this misunderstood figure, particularly the unfolding of his professional career, his relationship to Beethoven, the growth of his reputation and public image and the darker side of drinking, depression and sexual ambiguity. This searching and sympathetic biography questions the customary sentimental clichés and the recent revisionist views concerning this elusive genius.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In his short life, Franz Schubert (1797^-1828) established the German lied as the song form of the Romantic period. His lieder reflect his many moods, from happy, joyous spirits to deep despondency. Basically, Gibbs relates Schubert's artistic life through his songs, choral works, and stage music, much of which was first performed privately during "Schubertiades" held in friends' salons, where the musicians and singers present would perform it for their own enjoyment. Schubert's closest friends were poets, artists, and musicians, among whom the shy, introspective composer felt most comfortable. Not until after his death was much of Schubert's music publicly performed and promoted by Brahms, Liszt, and Schubert's brother Ferdinand. Touted as the successor to Beethoven, Schubert owes much to him but is remembered best as the progenitor of Romantic music. Besides the music, Gibbs draws on Schubert's letters and the recollections of his close friends but avoids musical analysis. One of the best concise depictions of the man Schubert. --Alan Hirsch

Library Journal Review

Here, Gibbs (music, SUNY at Buffalo; editor, The Cambridge Companion to Schubert) focuses on the relationship of Schubert's music to his brief life (he died at 31 of unknown causes) and vice versa, with background on friends, teacher Antonio Salieri, and the social scene in 18th-century Europe. Along the way, he analyzes the copious biographical material on Schubert, acknowledging some of the more sensational issues (his sexual orientation) and critical evaluations (superficiality of his output). But rather than take sides, Gibbs carefully assesses the evidence, and, for the most part, allows the reader to make judgments. The organization is more or less chronological, paced by the compositions. Explorations of individual compositions rarely resort to technical analysis; instead, Gibbs is more interested in discussing each work's aesthetics and relating it to Schubert's life. Although clearly a fan, he does not gloss over Schubert's human frailties. The net result is a well-researched, warmly written, and refreshing new look at the Austrian composer. [Other recent books on Schubert include Elizabeth Norman McKay's Franz Schubert (LJ 10/1/96) and Brian Newbould's Schubert: The Music and the Man (LJ 3/15/97).DEd.]DTimothy J. McGee, Univ. of Toronto (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Gibbs's excellent, compact, and readable biography summarizes most of the last 20 years' research and new interpretations of Franz Schubert's life and career. Gibbs (SUNY, Buffalo) challenges both the "warm fuzzy" and "poor victim" images of Schubert, projected by early-20th-century works, with a more realistic assessment that congratulates the composer for his successes rather than focuses on his failures. The book presents an evenhanded evaluation of the controversies surrounding Schubert's sexuality, mental health, and illness. It also pays special attention to his reverence for Beethoven, citing more evidence about quotation and structural borrowing. Though this biography offers fewer details and less exhaustive bibliography when compared to biographical works on the composer emanating from the UK in the 1990s--e.g., Brian Newbould's Schubert: The Music and the Man (CH, Sep'97), Elizabeth McKay's Franz Schubert (CH, Apr'97), John Reed's Schubert (CH, Nov'97), and Peter Clive's biographical dictionary Schubert and His World (CH, Nov'97)--it better presents a wide range of issues in more informal, yet compelling, language. Recommended for all academic and public collections. A. M. Hanson; St. Olaf College

Table of Contents

Prologue: Schubert yesterday
1 Representing Schubert: A life devoted to art
2 Young Schubert: The master in the boy
3 Ingenious Schubert: The price of song
4 Popular Schubert: The turning point
5 Dark Schubert: A black-winged demon of sorrow and melancholy
6 Poor Schubert: Miserable reality
7 Late Schubert: Who shall stand beside Beethoven?
8 Immortal Schubert: +Composing invisibly
Epilogue: Schubert today
Further reading