Saturday, 8 June 2013


“The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.” - Marcus Tullius Cicero

For Music Saturday a really beautiful chamber music piece by Schubert. This is his String Quintet in C major D956 op posth. 163, played by the Villa Musica Ensemble. This quintet was composed in the summer of 1828, just two months before Schubert’s death. Its first performance was on 17 November 1850 at the Musikverein in Vienna. It was not published till 1853. The work is considered by some to be one of the greatest compositions in all chamber music. 

The work is the only full-fledged string quintet in Schubert's oeuvre. It consists of four movements:

1) Allegro ma non troppo;
2) Adagio;
3) Scherzo. Presto – Trio. Andante sostenuto;
4) Allegretto.


It stands out for its somewhat unconventional instrumentation, employing two cellos instead of the customary two violas, the example set by Mozart. Schubert, like Luigi Boccherini before him, replaced the second viola with a second cello for richness in the lower register. However, Schubert’s use of the second cello is very different from Boccherini’s, who uses the additional cello to create an additional viola line.

The violinist Joseph Saunders had the second theme of the first movement carved on his tombstone. Arthur Rubinstein’s wish was to have the second movement played at his funeral. For John Reed the work appears to anticipate Schubert’s death mere months after its composition, ending as it does with D-flat followed by C, both in unison and octaves. As Browning’s Abt Vogler put it: “Hark, I have dared and done, for my resting place is found, The C major of this life; so, and now I will try to sleep.”

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