The Quartet No. 15 in G major (1826), the last of Schubert's string quartets, stands alongside the famous D minor Quartet ("Death and the Maiden") as proof that the composer was well on his way to writing large-scale works in all genres. Symphonic in organization and structure, it achieves a depth of sound that often belies the presence of only four musicians. In its scope and difficulty, it typifies Schubert's later works.
The first movement, over twenty-three minutes in length, features a near-symphonic introduction which substantially delays the appearance of the first theme. Characterized more by rich complexity than by the composer's characteristic rhythmic drive, this theme at several points decreases dynamically to near silence, while the rhythmic motion comes to a complete stop at least twice.
Though about half as long as the first, the second movement, Andante un poco moto, is no less richly crafted. While stylistically consistent with the previous movement, it is more lyrical and somewhat darker in character. It also makes use of the composer's distinctive "hairpin" maneuver -- complete stops after which the music resumes on a different rhythmic and dynamic plane.
The Scherzo, less complex than the preceding movements, is marked by a previously absent rhythmic insistence. A driving motive in triplet rhythms assumes the fore until a contrasting lyrical center section intrudes. Eventually, the initial energy returns, and the movement ends aggressively.
The finale features an alternation between two rhythmic devices: a dotted eighth note followed by a sixteenth, and groups of triplets. Within the symphonic scope of the quartet the finale is the grandest movement of all, powerful and complex, constantly building and changing, until drawing to a surprising close.