Franz Schubert

Quartet No. 14 in D Minor (“Death and the Maiden”)
by Franz Schubert


Excerpt from Death and the Maiden by Gerald Elias

            "Jacobus joined in this time.  Playing the first-violin part he had learned so thoroughly in what seemed a lifetime ago, the music was etched in the muscle memory of his fingers.  Though now slowed by age and infirmity, his hands led him unhesitatingly, and as the two of them soared together through the movement’s five variations, no violinist could have been more expressive.  Finally, the music evaporated into the ether from which it had emerged.  A life cycle.
            “So?” he asked.
            “Yes,” Yumi said.  “She offers him [Death] her hand.  She resists at first, but at the climax of the fifth variation, she gives him her hand, doesn’t she?  And then the movement ends so peacefully, in G Major.  She accepts him and then there’s no more struggle.  Is that right, Jake?  Do we embrace Death when it arrives, or do we struggle to live?”
          “How the hell do I know?”

Franz Schubert Quartet No. 14 in D Minor
"Death and the Maiden"

performed by the Abramyan String Quartet


Music from Death and the Maiden
Quartet No. 14 in D Minor (“Death and the Maiden”)
by Franz Schubert

Andante con moto
Scherzo: Allegro molto

For a composer of over six hundred—mostly brief—songs, Schubert’s sense of structure for orchestral works was monumental by comparison.  Each of his final symphonies, piano trios, quartets, quintets, and piano sonatas, when played with all his designations for repeated sections, lasts upward of forty to forty-five minutes.  This makes his achievement with the string quartet in D Minor all the more remarkable, for the ferocious energy in Schubert’s confrontation with death in this masterpiece never falters or flags.  A performance of this quartet, from a composer not yet thirty years old, leaves both the performers and audience exhausted yet profoundly moved.  And to think that all of this inspiration came from a song of no more than three minutes duration!  (The song, Death and the Maiden, serves as the basis for the theme and variations in the second movement.) This quartet rightly takes its place alongside the greatest of Beethoven, Mozart, and Bartok at the pinnacle of the chamber music repertoire.

Movement 1
Movement 2
Movement 3
Movement 4