String Quartet in G major D.887

Composer: Franz Schubert (b. 1797 - d. 1828)
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Composer: Franz Schubert (b. 1797 - d. 1828)

Performance date: 06/07/2017

Venue: St. Brendan’s Church

Composition Year: 1826

Duration: 00:49:56

Recording Engineer: Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm

Instrumentation Category:String Quartet

Artists: Pavel Haas Quartet (Veronika Jarušková, Marek Zwiebel [violins], Radim Sedmidubský [viola], Peter Jarušek [cello]) - [quartet]

extraordinary quartet stands at the very pinnacle of the repertoire
alongside Beethoven’s C sharp minor that was composed at exactly the
same time. Both players and audience have to delve much deeper to
comprehend this music, so far ahead of its time. Schubert’s original
plan back in 1824 was to write a set of three quartets dedicated to
Ignaz Schuppanzigh, the famous violinist and leader of the
Schuppanzigh Quartet.

monumental work opens in a remarkable fashion – a quiet G major
chord grows into a fortissimo G minor chord followed by conclusive
aftershocks. This is the first theme, this major key – minor key
altercation in a jagged rhythm with violent dynamics. A second idea
follows quickly, building fragments from this chaos into a gentle
singing over a hushed tremolo in the lower instruments. The savagery
of the opening then returns as a third section in this first subject
group. The second subject begins
with a gentle theme in thirteen bars. This is immediately repeated
with a shimmering triplet violin figure dancing above. Then a
larger, more vigorous variant is presented and the two ideas are
alternated so you get something approaching a theme and variations
acting as the second subject group. The exposition is repeated.

development is reached after an extended tremolo and the same
material is worked through again. However when we reach the tremolo
transition section, it is enormously expanded using material from the
third section of the opening. When we finally reach the
recapitulation, the opening figure moves from the minor key to the
major and instead of the fortissimo outburst there is a
Everything is changed now, the jagged edges are smoothed over and
where there was aggression there is now hesitancy – all the
material is now viewed through this perspective. The coda revisits
the opening for one last time.

Andante is perhaps not as famous as the Adagio in the C major
Quintet, but it can move us even more. The cello’s expansive main
theme foreshadows the journey of the wanderer in
it is as if the cello is trying to hold onto his mood of weary
resignation. This mask however is savagely ripped off by an outburst
of manic violence with ostinato-like dissonances whose brutality
seems to anticipate Bartók. In these terrifying outcries that keep
returning to rock the foundations of this movement we hear the
sentence of death that Schubert was struggling to escape.

Scherzo has a Mendelssohnian lightness of touch and though we are
still in a minor key, the doom-laden mood of the opening movements is
lifted. The Trio is vintage Schubert with the cello leading the
Ländler, whose major-key dance-steps are all the more precious as we
know their transience. More dancing follows in the last movement as
Schubert returns to the hectic pace of the whirlwind tarantella that
he had used in the D minor Quartet – the sheer drive and energy of
this wild dance is almost enough to keep the shadows at bay, as if
Schubert is saying that so long as the music keeps playing the
darkness will stay away.