|Genre Categories||Quartets; For 2 violins, viola, cello
The String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, known as Death and the Maiden, by Franz Schubert, is one of the pillars of the chamber music repertoire. Composed in 1824, after the composer suffered through a serious illness and realized that he was dying, it is Schubert’s testament to death. The quartet is named for the theme of the second movement, which Schubert took from a song he wrote in 1817 of the same title; but the theme of death is palpable in all four movements of the quartet.
The quartet was first played in 1826 in a private home, and was not published until 1831, three years after Schubert’s death. Yet, passed over in his lifetime, the quartet has become a staple of the quartet repertoire. It is D. 810 in Otto Erich Deutsch‘s thematic catalog of Schubert’s works.
Original manuscript of Lied Death and the Maiden
1823 and 1824 were hard years for Schubert. For much of 1823 he was sick, some scholars believe with an outburst of tertiary stage syphilis, and in May had to be hospitalized. He was broke: he had entered into a disastrous deal with Diabelli to publish a batch of works, and received almost no payment; and his latest attempt at opera, Fierabras, was a flop. In a letter to a friend, he wrote,
“Think of a man whose health can never be restored, and who from sheer despair makes matters worse instead of better. Think, I say, of a man whose brightest hopes have come to nothing, to whom love and friendship are but torture, and whose enthusiasm for the beautiful is fast vanishing; and ask yourself if such a man is not truly unhappy.”
Yet, despite his bad health, poverty and depression, Schubert continued to turn out the tuneful, light and gemütlichmusic that made him the toast of Viennese society: the song cycle Die schöne Müllerin, the octet for string quartet, contrabass, clarinet, horn and bassoon, more than 20 songs, and numerous light pieces for piano.[3
|Alban Berg Quartett|
|Members||Günter Pichler (violin)
Gerhard Schulz (violin)
Isabel Charisius (viola)
Valentin Erben (violoncello)
|Past members||Klaus Maetzl (2nd violin, 1971-1978)
Hatto Beyerle (viola, 1971-1981)
Thomas Kakuska (viola, 1981-2005)