"Schubert's Unfinished Fifth"

Mabor Gelegh

One of the most lesser-known Hungarian artists of all time, Gelegh had at an early age mastered the difficult art of using watercolors on sheets of tin, which lent them a delightful evanescence, especially as the Gelegh family were gypsies and lived outdoors much of the time. After every rainstorm his "canvases" were blank again, so the bulk of his work has been lost, or, rather are in small colorful puddles somewhere in the Carpathians.


More interesting than the artist in this case is his subject, Maxwell Schubert, identical twin brother of Franz Schubert the unfinished composer.¹ Maxwell had no musical talent, but was as vain as his brother Franz was shy. After every concert Franz was mobbed by paparazzi from the tabloids as he left the theater, all of them sketching, painting or engraving furiously as they did in the era before photography. This embarrassed Franz no end, until he hit on the idea of using his indolent twin brother as a stand-in. 


This solution was brilliant. Franz could work safely out of the limelight, while Maxwell basked in it. The latter loved to have his portrait painted, because he made good money just by sitting stock-still, now and then taking a sip of bourbon to steady his nerves. He was a very nervous man apparently, as several portraits show only his feet sticking out from under a piano.


All went well until the day after Franz's death by typhoid and subsequent funeral, when Maxwell absent-mindedly showed up for a pre-arranged portrait sitting. It took thirty men and a team of horses to get him re-buried.

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¹Symphony #1 -- "Well Begun is Half Done" 

Symphony #2 -- "When I Get a Round Tuit" 

Symphony #3 -- "The Procrastinator" 

Symphony #4 -- "Maybe Later" 

Symphony #5 -- "Missa Interruptus"

Symphony #6 -- "Fantasia on a theme by I O U Bach" 

Symphony #7 -- "The Missing" 

Symphony ##8 -- "The Unfinished" 

Symphony ##9 -- "The Incomplete" 

Symphony #10 -- "Someday Soon"

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Acquisition made possible by a grant from Seagram's. "When in Doubt, Take the Fifth"ˢᵐ

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