schubert, franz

Schubert, Franz (Peter)

(born Jan. 31, 1797, Himmelpfortgrund, near Vienna—died Nov. 19, 1828, Vienna) Austrian composer. He learned violin from his schoolteacher father and piano from his brother. He joined the precursor of the Vienna Boys Choir (1808), making such quick progress that Antonio Salieri undertook to guide his training (1810–16). At his family's insistence, he was trained as a schoolteacher. In 1815 he wrote 2 symphonies, more than 100 songs, and 4 stage works. In 1818, seeking independence, he quit teaching at his father's school to tutor Johann Esterházy's daughters. In 1819–20 he wrote the celebrated Trout Quintet and a mass. In 1821, 20 of his most popular songs were published with great success, and he wrote the three-act opera Alfonso und Estrella. Despite his first awareness of the disease (possibly syphilis) that would kill him, his amazing production continued in 1822, with the Unfinished Symphony and the Wanderer Fantasy. He was often ill during his last five years but continued his production of music, including the song cycles The Miller's Beautiful Daughter and Winter Journey, the last three piano sonatas, and the Great Symphony. His last years were made miserable by illness, not poverty; in fact, his greatness was widely recognized. He died at 31, having produced more masterpieces by that age than almost any other composer in history. His 600 songs made the lied a serious genre and sparked its great development in subsequent decades.

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The String Quartet in D minor was written in 1824 by Franz Schubert, just after the composer became aware of his ruined health. It is popularly known as the Death and the Maiden Quartet because the second movement is adapted from the piano accompaniment to Schubert's 1817 song (or lied), Death and the Maiden. In the numerical order of his quartets it is his String Quartet No. 14, and is D. 810 in Otto Erich Deutsch's thematic catalog of Schubert's works. The work is a string quartet in four movements:

  1. Allegro, in D minor and common time
  2. Andante con moto, in G minor and divided common (2/2) time
  3. Scherzo: Allegro molto, in D minor and 3/4 time
  4. Presto, in D minor in 6/8

The opening movement is, along with that of the preceding and next quartet and that of his string quintet, among the most extended and substantial in his chamber music output, if not in his output as a whole. It is a sonata form movement whose exposition encompasses three main key regions, D minor, F major and A minor.

The second movement is a theme — taken from his macabre song Der Tod und Das Mädchen (D 531 in Deutsch's catalog) — and five variations, with coda.

The third movement's main theme can also be heard in one of a set of piano dances; its lyrical D major trio varies its 'repeats'.

The relentless finale-tarantella is a sonata-rondo in form — a rondo whose first episode returns as the last, and whose central section contains elements of development. Its coda promises major-mode triumph, and snatches it away.


In 1878, Robert Franz transcribed the quartet for piano duet.

This is one of the quartet works, along with Beethoven's String Quartet No. 11 in F minor ("Quartetto serioso"), that Mahler arranged for use by a string orchestra, mostly by doubling some of the cello parts with double basses.

In 1930 the British composer John Foulds made a version "as a symphony" for full (classical) orchestra.

Appearances in film and television

Ariel Dorfman's 1991 play Death and the Maiden and its 1994 film adaptation (directed by Roman Polanski) take their names from the quartet.

Additionally, Schubert's quartet has been used in the score of at least the following:

External links

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