Work

Quatuor no 8 en si bémol majeur, D 112, op posth 168, D 112, op posth 168 (1814)

Franz Peter Schubert

string quartet

Movements

  • 1. Allegro ma non troppo
  • 2. Andante sostenuto
  • 3. Minuetto allegro — Trio
  • 4. Presto

Performances

  • 15 Mar 2007 8:00 pm
    Montréal
    Barry | Schubert | Skempton
  • 10 Oct 2007 7:30 pm
    Borås
    Ny Musik — Fall 2007
    Beethoven | Schubert

Program Notes

Evoking the name of Schubert invariably causes the music lover to bitterly regret his precipitous death at the age of 31. In 1814, though, Schubert was not thinking about death, but rather of his art and his career. He was hoping above all to escape the narrow path set forth by his father, which was to lead him to the teaching profession. To achieve this, he attempted what he thought was the quickest route to success, and set himself to composing an opera, Des Teufels Lustschloss (The Devil’s Pleasure Palace), completed in October 1814. This was to no avail, as the work was to remain unperformed. However, he had better luck with his first complete Mass, in F major, finished during the summer of that year, and performed twice that October.

Although he was quite occupied with these vocal works, Schubert did find the time-and he needed little of it-to compose his String Quartet in B flat Major, D. 112. He had started work on the first movement on September 5 and finished it on the same day, “in 4_ hours,” as he noted at the bottom of the score. Schubert, it is true, had begun this movement as a Trio, which must have simplified his task when he set to work on the Quartet; yet it is extraordinary to witness him able to “compose as fast as he can copy,” as Alfred Einstein puts it in his book on Schubert. In the short development section of this Allegro ma non troppo, there is a striking example of that eminently Schubertian trait, where each phrase in the major is immediately repeated in the minor. Written from the 6th to the 10th of September, the Andante sostenuto, in G minor, permeates the air with a clouded serenity that a few happy moments cannot dissipate. Here, one recognizes certain echoes from the slow movements of Mozart’s ‘Dissonance’, K. 465 and ‘Hoffmeister’, K. 499 quartets. The Menuetto that follows was completed in one day, on September 11; its Trio, in recalling the first movement and somewhat announcing the last, makes for a valuable unifying element. In fact, the entire quartet has a certain sameness of tone, that sort of slightly sombre tranquillity from the second movement, which hints to Schubert’s serious approach to the work. The final Presto, finished on September 13, tries as best it can to shed that heavy cloak by its spirited and brisk composure. Remarkably, it also anticipates certain elements of his ’Great’ C Major Symphony. This quartet was published only in 1863.

Jacques-André Houle [iv-07]