written at a time when he knew his health was damaged beyond repair.
Earlier in the spring of 1824 he had poured out his heart to one of
his friends, quoting Gretchen
one of his most famous songs – Meine
Ruh ist hin, mein Herz ist schwer, ich finde sie nimmer und
nimmermehr. Imagine a man, his
letter went, whose
most brilliant hopes have perished, to whom the felicity of love and
friendship have nothing to offer but pain at best… His
illness often forced him into isolation and it even affected his
ability to sing and to play the piano. But it did not, to our lasting
benefit, stop him from composing.
like a song with a gently rocking accompaniment figure in the lower
strings over which the first violin sings the song. This hypnotic
accompaniment figure is very close to the famous spinning wheel
accompaniment to Gretchen;
in his D minor Quartet which followed soon after, Schubert is
recalling the songs he wrote in his youth and seeing them in a very
second subject, also a notable theme but dwarfed by Schubert’s
obsession with his song melody, is distinguished by the trill on its
second note, which persists even when the theme changes its shape.
The short development concentrates exclusively on the magical opening
theme culminating in a tough exercise in counterpoint. This leads to
an appalled throbbing in the cello while the theme floats consolingly
above. The coda returns a last time to his song as if he cannot bear
to leave it.
tranquil theme of the Andante
is familiar from the Rosamunde
incidental music, which had been put together in a great hurry the
previous December. Although this Quartet was not finished until March
1824, it seems more likely that Schubert plundered his half-written
Quartet for the incidental music than the other way around. The form
of this movement is as simple as the tune, ABABcoda, where the coda
combines both themes. The Rosamunde
theme takes so long to present and the second theme flows so
naturally out of the first, that this movement also takes on the
appearance of being as monothematic as the preceding one. Just once
the drama of the composer’s life bursts through the tranquillity
but without succeeding in disturbing the overall mood.
Welt, wo bist du?” is
the question asked by the song from which Schubert took the theme for
his minuet. The cello keeps on putting the question to the other
instruments, whose swaying rhythm provides an inconclusive answer.
The Trio is a gentle major-key interlude. The only answer to
Schiller’s and Schubert’s question lies of course in the beauty
of the poetry and the music.
A major Rondo stays with this questioning mood despite the apparently
jovial nature of the main theme. There are many hesitations as well
as a minor key second subject that hint at the underlying uncertainty
and the coda also avoids any easy affirmation.