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Biography, Historiography, and the Beethoven/Schubert Mythology

Wiley, C (2004) Biography, Historiography, and the Beethoven/Schubert Mythology In: 2004 Joint Annual Meeting of the American Musicological Society and the Society for Music Theory, 2004-11-11 - 2004-11-14.

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From the early watershed biographies by Schindler (1840, 1860), Kreissle (1865), and Grove (1878, 1883) to the more recent research of Deutsch, Brown, and Solomon, the problematic issue of contact between Beethoven and Schubert has received extensive investigation, crystallizing around the contradictory accounts of visits in 1822 and 1827. However, these stories form part of a larger network of interrelated biographical myths advancing tenuous connections between the two composers, including Schubert's supposed toast to his own death following Beethoven's funeral, his inheritance from Beethoven of lyrics by Rellstab, and his thoughts of Beethoven during his final hours. This complex mythological nexus, whose constituent tales serve to reinforce one another, has received little critical attention, perhaps due to the general dearth of musicological scholarship on comparative biography. Through examination of major English and Continental European biographical writings of the last two centuries, this paper charts the evolution and historiography of the Beethoven/Schubert mythology, assessing its lasting importance to musical biography despite long-standing doubt over the veracity of individual stories. This extensive example of the unfounded association of two canonically-central figures – augmented by tension surrounding their being resident in the same city for many years yet apparently keeping their distance – has wider implications for the time-honoured tradition of writing music history around composers grouped (often unjustifiably) in pairs. It further calls into question the tendency in modern biographical and hermeneutical scholarship to continue to connect these composers, which practice betrays indebtedness to musical canon and therefore perpetuates outmoded nineteenth-century ideologies.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Department of Music and Media
Authors :
Date : 2004
Uncontrolled Keywords : music, music history, musical biography, Beethoven, Schubert
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 16 May 2017 15:26
Last Modified : 07 Mar 2019 10:50

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