Dr Rita Steblin

Posted by Richard on  UTC 2019-09-13 10:13

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Dr Rita Steblin (22.04.1951-03.09.2019)

The Canadian musicologist Dr Rita Steblin died in Vienna on 3 September this year. Her death at only sixty-eight is a loss to Beethoven and Schubert scholarship, but she leaves behind a considerable corpus of archival research which has substantially advanced our understanding of these two composers in particular.

Her work was not without its controversies: her 2014 work on the identity of Beethoven's 'Elise' was not uncontested, but most of all, her rebuttal of the thesis that Schubert and some of his friends were part of a homosexual subculture brought her the opposition of its supporters – an opposition that has been fiercely pursued for nearly a quarter of a century now. In all this, a German saying comes to mind: Ein hoher Baum fängt viel Wind, 'A high tree catches the wind'.

One of the themes of her work was the lack of sound documentary scholarship on the women in the Schubert biography, particularly those in the immediate Schubert family. She did what she could to correct this deficiency, but there was (and still is) a mountain to climb. We were particularly looking forward to learning the results of her projected investigations into the sparsely documented lives of Schubert's mother Elisabeth Vietz and her sister Magdalena.

She recently collected much of her output and posted it to Academia (76 papers), where it is now publicly available.

She was extremely supportive of this website's offerings on Schubert themes. The scope of her knowledge was immense and it is sad to think that all that accumulated wisdom has now gone forever. Nor did she spare the rod when we went astray: one particularly egregious error in the transcription of a manuscript rightly brought a Steblin thunderbolt down on our heads – smoke is still rising from the impact crater.

A memorial service for her will take place on Friday 20 September at 17:00 in the Peterskirche am Graben.