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Schubert String Quartets

Bill continues his in-depth look at the string quartet's history with the music of Franz Schubert.  His quartets are unique and remarkable. From his early teens, Schubert loved composing quartets with surprising key relationships and complicated rhythms. These “tone puzzles” can be heard within quartet movements and throughout the complete piece. On Friday’s program Bill adds an extra cello to feature Schubert’s final chamber work, the String Quintet in C Major. This “Cello Quintet” was composed just a few months before Schubert’s death.

Program 1

Our focus is on Franz Schubert and his work with string quartets. The son of a schoolteacher, Schubert joined a chapel choir at the age of eleven, just as Napoleon reached Vienna. When he lost his youthful singing voice in 1812, Schubert began composing in earnest. Bill plays Schubert’s String Quartet no. 2, composed at age fifteen, as well as excerpts from quartets no. 4, 5, 6, 9 and 10, all composed in Schubert's teens.

Franz Schubert: String Quartet No. 2 in C Major, D. 32, I & II
Leipzig Quartet
MDG 307 0609

Schubert: String Quartet No. 5 in B-flat Major, D. 68, II 
Leipzig Quartet
MDG 307 0608

Schubert: String Quartet No. 10 in E-flat Major, D. 87, II 
Leipzig Quartet
MDG 307 0605

Program 2

Bill skips past the years in which Schubert put aside string quartets for operas and moves ahead to the 1820s. At this time, Schubert had already contracted syphilis, and Bill posits that the string quartets of Schubert’s later years give us a glimpse at the composer’s struggles. We hear the string quartet nicknamed Rosemunde, as well as an excerpt from Quartettsatz.


Franz Schubert arr. Franz Liszt: “Der Müller und der Bach” for Piano, S. 565 No. 2
Evgeni Kissin, p.
DG 445562

Schubert: String Quartet No. 13 in A Minor, Op. 29, D. 804, Rosamunde, I & II, III (excerpt)
Hagen Quartet
DG 419 171
20:26, :40

Schubert: String Quartet No. 13 in A Minor, Op. 29, D. 804, Rosamunde, III & IV
Hagen Quartet
DG 419 171

Schubert: Quartet for Strings No. 12 in C Minor, Op. posth., D. 703, Quartettsatz
Vermeer Quartet
Teldec 8.42868
:57, 9:09

Program 3

Bill opens with Schubert’s “Der Tod und das Mädchen,” a song with piano and contralto, written at age twenty. We then hear the string quartet Death and the Maiden before we end with a Schubert notturno to lighten the mood.


Franz Schubert: “Der Tod und das Mädchen,” Op. 7, No. 3
Marian Anderson, contralto; Franz Rupp, piano
RCA 63575

Schubert: Notturno In E-Flat Major, Op. 148, D. 897
Edward Dusinberre, v.; Andras Fejér, vc.; Andreas Haefliger, p.
London 452 854

Program 4

We first hear a string quartet from Beethoven. Bill plays the original ending to Beethoven’s opus no. 130, which Schubert once heard in concert. It inspired Schubert’s final string quartet before his death, which Bill plays in its entirety.


Ludwig van Beethoven: String Quartet No. 13 In B-flat Major, Op. 130 (excerpts from V & VI) 
Emerson String Quartet
DG 447075
3:30, :56

Program 5

Bill finishes the week on Franz Schubert with a string quintet. Inspired as a child by a quintet from Mozart, Schubert tried his hand at the form with an added cello to create a unique sound. Just two months after the composition, Schubert passed away.

Franz Schubert: String Quintet In C, Op. 163, D. 956 
Emerson Quartet; Rostropovich, vc.
DG 289 459 151
29:03, :35, 19:20, 1:34


The Exploring Music streaming website is supported by Mr. & Mrs. William Gardner Brown and the Richard P. and Susan Kiphart Family.  
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