Classical Sunday: Schubert’s “Der Tod und das Maedchen”

“Death and the Maiden” in the long and the short version.

Death and the Maiden” – String Quartet No. 14 in D minor by Franz Schubert

I. Allegro 0:00
II. Andante con moto 11:47
III. Scherzo 27:01
IV. Presto 30:59

The String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, known as Death and the Maiden, by Franz Schubert, is one of the pillars of the chamber music repertoire.  Composed in 1824, after the composer suffered through a serious illness and realized that he was dying, it is Schubert’s testament to death.  The quartet is named for the theme of the second movement, which Schubert took from a song he wrote in 1817 of the same title (see below); but the theme of death is palpable in all four movements of the quartet.

The quartet takes its name from the Lied “Der Tod und das Mädchen” (D.531), a setting of a poem of the same name by Matthias Claudius which Schubert wrote in 1817.  Here a 1965 recodring of the Lied (not even three minutes long) featuring Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau:

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau “Der Tod und das Mädchen”; Franz Schubert

Das Mädchen
Vorüber! Ach, vorüber!
Geh wilder Knochenmann!
Ich bin noch jung, geh Lieber!
Und rühre mich nicht an.

Der Tod
Gib deine Hand, Du schön und zart Gebild!
Bin Freund, und komme nicht, zu strafen.
Sey gutes Muths! ich bin nicht wild,
Sollst sanft in meinen Armen schlafen!


Featured: Detail of Marianne Stokes  “Death and the Maiden” (1900)

Author: Anne

~ In the right order of nature, the flesh is subject to the spirit and not the reverse. ~ The Cloud of Unknowing

3 thoughts on “Classical Sunday: Schubert’s “Der Tod und das Maedchen””

  1. Each element in this choice of music has enriched me today. Franz Schubert, Dietrich Fischer-Diskau, the melody of the song and the string quartet. But the subject matter? I don’t think that I will ever be entirely at peace with that. Each day I place my daughters into God’s hands but I fear for them too. Last week a friend took me to a performance of Brahms German Requiem when I was working in Munich, performed by the wonderful Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Bernard Haitink. I was deeply moved by Brahms’ own struggle towards peace and his achievement of it. The last chord sounds like a a gentle sigh and Maestro Haitink held the audience in silence for some time afterwards, by keeping his hands raised, before quietly but deliberately closing his score. It was as if he was saying to us that this story is ended and all is at peace.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That being said, Schubert strikes me as a profoundly melancholic man. If one needs a good cry for one reason or another, Schubert is a good choice to support such an endeavor.

      Liked by 1 person

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