Schubert Death and the Maiden Quartett for Strings39:55

Schubert Death and the Maiden Quartett for Strings

Schubert's "Death and the Maiden" quartet was written in 1824 after a bout of severe sickness which made him feel as though he would not be around much longer. This was in tribute to that feeling. The title comes from a lied which he wrote in 1817.


This is a four movement work:

  1. Allegro
  2. Andante con moto
  3. Scherzo: Allegro molto
  4. Presto

It is during the second movement where the melody from his lieder is quoted directly and put through variations. The movement starts as a sort of funeral march but unusually, the phrases end on a major chord. In the first variation, the violin starts with the theme representing the maiden's unease and fear of death; pleading for it to pass her by. The second variation has the cello leading while the upper strings play a repeated figure. Following that, the next variation has alterations of stormy and more peaceful phrases. The rhythms of eighth - 2 sixteeths is repeated through the variation. Now, the most drastic contrast is this major section. It's much more melodic than the previous variations and catches one off guard. The last two sections represent Death speaking the maiden, telling her that he is a friend offering peace and rest. 

Schubert is somewhat easy to see in terms of composition. He is a true transitional figure in that he composes using many late Classical/ early Romantic sounds. His writing is simpler and he tends to use many repeated figures, but he also uses very interesting harmonies. All in all, it's very clean composing. Schubert's writing in this piece sounds very full as he makes use of the instruments' double and triple stop capabilities rather than doubling notes. This makes the performers sound as if they were playing in a small orchestra. (String orchestra and other versions of this piece have been arranged).


Beethoven - String Quartet No. 14 in C# minor Op. 131

Happens to also be the composer's 14th string quartet. This is one of Beethoven's late works and shows a clear working toward the Romantic era. Beethoven's writing at this time seems to be more about expression than form and short melodies. Harmonies are far more developed than his earlier works which are clearly influenced by earlier classical music. This piece is actually 7 movements played attacca. Compare Cello sonata No. 1 (early) with No. 3 (Mid) and No. 5 (Late) to see how Beethoven's sound changes over time.

Score here:

Video here:

Robert Winter, et al. "Schubert, Franz." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed April 15, 2014, .

Amanda Glauert, "The Double Perspective in Beethoven's Opus 131." in 19th-Century Music Vol. 4, No. 2 (University of California Press, Autumn, 1980) , pp. 113-120 accessed April 15, 2014,

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