Franz Schubert

String Quartet No. 14 in D minor ("Death and the Maiden"), D. 810

    Description by Rovi Staff

    As morbid as it may seem today, preoccupation with death was quite fashionable in the nineteenth century. The Romantic movement in music, drama, art, and literature embraced the idea of death as transcendent and fulfilling rather than fearsome. Medical science was still in its infancy, and the only real cure for many illnesses was the end of life. Death was gentle. Death was peace. Death was an end to suffering.

    In this light, Franz Schubert's own fascination with death was neither unusual nor inexplicable. In March 1824, having endured the symptoms of syphilis for nearly two years, he wrote, "Each night when I go to sleep, I hope never to wake again, and each morning serves only to recall the misery of the previous day."

    Since the still-youthful composer was not yet consigned to the grave, he continued to develop his musical genius, and in this same month he completed the original version of the String Quartet in D minor, "Der Tod und das Mädchen" (Death and the Maiden). Based on the opening theme from his song of the same name (1817), this quartet clearly illustrates Schubert's sympathy, even longing, for death. By appropriating the music of the song, Schubert also imbues the quartet with the sentiments of the original text, in which Death urges a frightened maiden to trust him: he means her no harm, and she will sleep soundly in his arms.

    This work is significant for several reasons. It is considered one of Schubert's finest chamber works, and it has always occupied a favored spot in the string quartet repertory. Its frankly programmatic content connects it with later nineteenth century works, in which structural concerns yielded to extramusical and dramatic influences. Finally, the quartet is a striking reminder to those who like to pigeonhole Schubert as a miniaturist or as a "song composer": it stands alongside the "Unfinished" Symphony and the Wanderer-Fantasie as a testament to his sense of large-scale organization and to the promise unfulfilled as a result of his early death.

    The work begins aggressively, with full-throated gestures that establish both the thematic and rhythmic structure of the first movement. Schubert makes use of one of his signature rhythmic devices, a quarter note followed by triplet eighths. The second theme is sweetly lyrical, joyful and upbeat, full of life and energy. The movement ends breathlessly but sweetly.

    The second movement, a fourteen-minute Andante con moto, introduces the "Death" theme, which corresponds to the opening piano introduction of "Der Tod und das Mädchen." Five variations on the theme follow, all of which vary only slightly from the original, as if Death is insistent -- not swayed or deterred.

    At less than four minutes, the third-movement scherzo is abrupt and puzzling, as if its only function is to serve as prologue to the driving, almost demonic finale. It is rhythmically challenging, and features unexpected accents and cadences.

    In the final movement, Schubert applies his customary momentum and drive to first establish and then build an inexorable rush. The figure of a dotted eighth note followed by a sixteenth note is used throughout as the driving force, though it is frequently interrupted. In the end, Death is relentless, and the movement swirls to a massive but abrupt conclusion.

    Parts/Movements

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

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2017 Channel Classics CCS 39417
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4795982
    2016 LSO Live LSO 0786
    2016 Brilliant Classics 94468BR
    2016 Alpha 265
    2016 Onyx Classics ONYX 4163
    2016 CuGate Classics CGC 011
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4795545
    2016 Warner Classics 557828
    2016 RCA Red Seal 88985321742
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4795448
    2015 Warner Classics 0825646019311
    2015 Divine Art DDA 25125
    2015 Harmonia Mundi HMX 290873335
    2015 Miró Quartet Media
    2015 Warner Classics 0825646123476
    2014 Phaia Music PHU 046
    2013 Naxos 8501064
    2013 Longhorn LHM 2013002
    2013 Supraphon SU 41102
    2013 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099973587
    2013 Audite AUDITE 21428
    2013 2L 2L93SABD
    2012 CAvi-music AVI 8553259
    2012 Gall (formerly Gallo) CD 1347
    2012 Camerata Records CAM 28203
    2012 Nimbus / Nimbus Alliance NI 6189
    2012 MDG / Zebralution
    2012 MDG / Zebralution
    2012 Haenssler / Haenssler Classics 94607
    2012 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2012 Chandos CHAN 10737
    2012 Warner Classics 2564664232
    2012 Warner Classics 662378
    2012 Virgin Classics / Warner Classics
    2012 Erato / Virgin Classics 5099960251
    2012 Brilliant Classics 94424
    2012 Warner Classics 662255
    2012 Teldec 2564662270
    2012 Dorian Sono Luminus DSL 92152
    2011 Apex 4674298
    2011 Decca
    2011 Newton Classics 8802089
    2011 Decca
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Haenssler 93706
    2010 DA Records / Zebralution
    2010 Hyperion 30019
    2010 Laborie LC 06
    2010 CAvi-music 8553154
    2010 Decca
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099996702
    2010 Cascavelle VEL 3115
    2009 Ricercar 272
    2009 Documents / Membrane 231055
    2009 Haenssler 98546
    2009 Naxos 8572051
    2009 Tudor Records 7070
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Audite 92507
    2009 Brilliant Classics 93807
    2008 Brilliant 93163
    2008 ZYX Music 10323
    2008 Berlin Classics 0013232
    2008 Harmonia Mundi 901990
    2008 Maestro Music 4695655
    2008 Urania 22357
    2008 JVC Compact Discs 24034
    2008 EMI Music Distribution 3615882
    2008 Brilliant 93673
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 4717402
    2008 Classics for Pleasure
    2008 Union Square Music SIMPLYCD057
    2008 MSR Classics 1269
    2007 Brilliant 93181
    2007 Kuk 66
    2007 Elatus
    2007 Forlane 16764
    2007 Biddulph Recordings 80223
    2007 Arte Nova 592200
    2007 Brilliant Classics 93304
    2007 EMI Music Distribution 385853
    2007 Decca 4758542
    2006 Capriccio Records 71098
    2006 Deutsche Grammophon
    2006 Deutsche Grammophon 459187
    2006 Coviello Classics COV 30201
    2006 Orfeo 371961
    2006 MDG 9011315
    2006 Resonance 3036
    2006 EMI Music Distribution 361589
    2006 Analekta 23129
    2006 Hyperion CDA67585
    2006 EMI Classics
    2006 Cyberchambermusic
    2006 Wigmore Hall Live 10
    2005 Andante 2160
    2005 Brilliant 99599
    2005 Opus KURA 2051
    2005 Music & Arts CD1181
    2005 Orfeo 17821
    2005 MDG 6011315
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 47333
    2005 Cascavelle 1045
    2005 EMI Classics 5661442
    2005 Gega New 286
    2004 Artemis Classics 1197
    2004 Philips 475 439-2PM2
    2004 Rca Red Seal 60871
    2004 EMI Music Distribution 85526
    2004 Decca 4263832
    2004 Decca
    2004 Audite 97507
    2004 Brilliant 92288
    2004 Deutsche Grammophon 000247302
    2004 ASV / Sanctuary 403
    2004 Deutsche Grammophon
    2004 Brilliant 92394
    2004 Universal Classics 000173802
    2004 Dutton Laboratories 9743
    2004 Deutsche Grammophon 474730
    2003 Preiser Records 90530
    2003 BIS 1201
    2003 Telarc Distribution 60610
    2003 Telarc Distribution 80610
    2003 Preiser Records 90549
    2003 EMI Classics
    2003 Vox 90119
    2002 CBC Records 1149
    2001 Vox 5179
    2001 Harmonia Mundi 1951408
    2001 EMI Music Distribution 569689
    2001 ASV / ASV/Living Era 243
    2001 Aura Classics 0196
    2000 Praga 250140
    2000 Amadis 7114
    2000 Haenssler 98160
    2000 Capriccio Records 10744
    2000 Parnassus Records PRNCD 96024
    2000 Haenssler 98152
    2000 EMI Classics / EMI Music Distribution 56470
    2000 Decca 467417
    1999 Arts Music 47514-2
    1999 CPO 999660
    1999 Angel Records 56813
    1999 Deutsche Grammophon 431814
    1999 Claves 509620
    1999 Deutsche Grammophon
    1999 Deutsche Grammophon 459151
    1999 Deutsche Grammophon
    1999 Penguin Classics 460650
    1998 Telos 11
    1998 Chandos 9616
    1998 Praga 250125
    1998 Calliope 6617
    1998 Camerata Records 30
    1998 Teldec 18253
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 449 746-2GOR
    1997 NPR Recordings 3/4
    1997 Camerata Records 25CM1
    1997 Koch Discover International DICD920495
    1997 Calliope 9234
    1997 Arabesque 6687
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 453 669-2GFS
    1997 Arkadia 78502
    1997 CPO 999409
    1997 Nimbus 1770
    1997 Nimbus NI1766
    1997 Boston Skyline 145
    1996 Praga 250091
    1996 Testament 1081
    1996 MDG 3070604
    1996 Sony Music Distribution 61970
    1996 Novalis 150125
    1995 Pearl 9141
    1995 Silver Doubles 68935
    1995 Berlin Classics 0010642
    1995 BIS 674
    1995 ZYX Music 4164
    1995 Art of Classics 885912
    1995 RS 636708
    1995 Novalis 150058
    1995 Nimbus 5438
    1995 Philips 446 163-2PM2
    1994 Naxos 505021
    1994 Centaur Records 2186
    1994 Harmonia Mundi 3903025
    1994 ASV 6150
    1994 Naxos 550590
    1994 Nimbus 5048
    1993 Sony Music Distribution 52582
    1993 Collins Records 10742
    1993 Arabesque 6536
    1993 Teldec 76260
    1993 ASV CDDCA 560
    1993 ASV 417
    1992 Chandos 8928
    1992 RCA Victor 60988
    1992 Harmonia Mundi 901408
    1992 Vox 7207
    1991 Sony Music Distribution 46343
    1991 CBS Records 45617
    1989 Deutsche Grammophon 427215
    1988 Deutsche Grammophon 423398
    1988 Capitol 69795
    1988 London 417459
    RCA 7990
    Lydian 18114
    Testament 1373
    All Russia
    IMP Classics 35
    Sony Music Entertainment 46343
    Teldec 18961
    World Class Tapes
    EMI Music Distribution 747354
    Naxos 550221
    Deutsche Grammophon 410024
    Philips Classics 412127
    RS Applausi 636708
    RCA 60988
    EMI Music Distribution 47354
    Medici Quartet 9001
    Meridian Records 84178
    Platz 579
    Lodia Compact Discs 7700
    Sony Music Distribution 45696
    Donau 8114
    Denon Records 7546
    Vox 5022
    Denon Records 8005
    BBC Music Magazine 55
    Brilliant 99599/1
    Brilliant 92394/10
    Brilliant 93673/10
    Brilliant 93163/4
    Brilliant 93181/11
    Vox 9001
    Teldec 74783
    Chambermusik Records 52523
    Enterprise 931
    Brilliant Classics 93807/6
    Meadows School of the Arts