Schubert, Franz: D709 ‘Quartettsatz’

The Quartettsatz of Franz SchuberT is the first movement from an unfin- ished quartet. But it is an explosively complete work, surrounded as it is at start and finish by malevolent parentheses of C minor. The music between these epi- sodes is peculiarly wandering – ranging widely from a fantastically sweet melody which seems loathe to end itself, to outbursts of something like rage, to over-harmonized and diaphanous chorales. It also has a weirdly unsuccessful development section; perhaps, given the force of its beginning, an even greater travel in the outer sections can be felt by contrast with the architectural absence in the middle.

There exists a sketch for a second movement, but it trails off before it gains much direction. Surely Schubert had a solution in mind, but, for whatever reason, he left the project behind. The first movement alone, however, leaves both listeners and performers with an odd sense of absolute completion, and a range of expression extraordinary for any composer — it is a dense example of so much of the lyricism and formal adventurism which belonged especially to Schubert.

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