Dan Sandman

36: Schubert: His Life And Times by Peggy Woodford

In Biography, Books, Non-Fiction on 06/09/2013 at 12:00 pm

Schubert His Life And Times by Peggy WoodfordI found this book for £1 in an excellent second-hand book shop just off Chalk Farm Road called Walden Books. First published in 1978, the book is divided by topic into twelve chapters. The sprightly prose is accompanied by many pictures, letter extracts and lyrical quotations. Schubert: His Life And Times will appeal to anyone with a broad interest in the composer Franz Schubert and the Austrian classical music scene.

The Vienna born composer was 31 years old when he died. He was officially diagnosed with  typhoid fever, but may have had syphilis. A lover of song, he left over 600 hundred fine examples, Schubert made the German language sound beautiful. He also composed symphonies, chamber music, piano pieces and some opera. Prolific in his short lifetime, Franz Schubert’s beautiful compositions have remained popular for almost 200 years.

Vienna during the early 19th early would have been a lively place for a classical musician to be. Taverns and theatres were filled with the sound of music. Private concerts were held at the homes of wealthy patrons. The Austrian city, most famous for the presence of Mozart and later Beethoven, was bustling with influential music makers and music teachers.

Schubert started out by following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a schoolmaster. Eventually, he gave up his teaching to focus purely on being a composer. Bad with money and often to be found in late night taverns with his artistic friends, Schubert only reached his status as one of the great composers posthumously. However, as this enjoyable biography makes clear, it is through the tales from tavern friends that we are given glimpses of the composer’s varied temperament.

Having read this biography and wheeled away the hours listening to many recordings, I can conclude the following about Franz Schubert: Right up until his untimely death, the curly haired composer enjoyed life’s rich tapestry and weaved some wonderful fabric from its fragile embers. From jolly and tuneful songs such as Die Forelle and Fischerweise to the perfectly balanced Piano Trio No. 2 In E Flat Major, the sheer depth of feeling expressed within the music is Schubert’s lasting legacy. Biographers will write, film makers will produce, legends will be created and destroyed, but beauty through music will remain steadfast and true.

Beauty is truth / Truth beauty


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