Quartettsatz (Schubert)

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The Quartettsatz in C-moll (English: Quartet Movement in C minor), D. 703 was composed by Franz Schubert in December 1820. It is the first movement, of a Twelfth String Quartet which Schubert never completed. In addition to the opening movement, Schubert also composed the first forty bars of a second movement marked Andante. The unfinished quartet is regarded as one of the first products of Schubert's mature phase of composition.[1][2]


Schubert began work on his twelfth string quartet in early December 1820, shortly after a "Schubertiade" held at the home of Ignaz von Sonnleithner on the 1st of the month.[3] It was his first attempt at writing a string quartet since completing the String Quartet No. 11 in E major, D. 353 in 1817.

After completing the allegro assai first movement, Schubert wrote out the 41 bar exposition of the following andante movement before abandoning the work.[4]

As with the later "Unfinished" Symphony, there has been much speculation on why Schubert left the composition incomplete. One view, presented by Shore, is that Schubert put it aside to follow up another musical idea and never got back to it.[5] Arrebola speculates that the work (And several others written during the same period.) was put aside because it "...did not yet represent the great leap forward he was striving for."[6] It has also been speculated that the work was abandoned because Schubert having written a powerful first movement, was unable to come up with an effective following movement.[3]

Following Schubert's death the manuscript score eventually found its way into the ownership of Johannes Brahms.[7] The Quartettsatz received its posthumous premiere on 1 March 1867 in Vienna, with publication of the score, edited by Brahms, following in 1870.[7][8][9]

For a number of years it was believed that the Quartettsatz was an early work dating to around 1814 (perhaps a confusion with the Quartettsatz in C minor D.103).[10] In 1905, Edmondstoune Duncan wrote of the composition that it was "...fairly workman-like and effective, but is of little further consequence, and is only mentioned by way of completeness."[10] Later opinion established the work's true importance as a forerunner of the late string quartets which are amongst Schubert's greatest works. Four years after the Quartettsatz, Schubert returned to the genre to write the Rosamunde Quartet, D. 804, which was followed by the "Death and the Maiden" Quartet D. 810 and the Fifteenth Quartet, D. 887.


The composition consists of a single sonata form movement marked Allego assai and typical performances last around 10 minutes.

Modern completion[edit]

In 2004 the Oregon String Quartet premiered the Quartettsatz coupled with a completed version of the Andante composed by Livingston Gearhart in 1990.[11]

During 2012 the Brentano String Quartet performed the Quartettsatz as part of their Fragments Project, for this concert series the composition was paired with a work entitled Fra(nz)g-mentation by composer Bruce Adolphe that was based on Schuberts Andante sketches.[12]


  1. ^ (Shore 1950, p. 74)
  2. ^ (Arrebola 2012, p. 72)
  3. ^ a b (Rodda 2012, p. 12)
  4. ^ (Bromberger 2012, p. 3)
  5. ^ (Shore 1950, p. 75)
  6. ^ (Arrebola 2012, p. 73)
  7. ^ a b (Lackman 2012, p. 2)
  8. ^ (Mack 1999)
  9. ^ (Brodbeck)
  10. ^ a b (Duncan 1905, p. 185)
  11. ^ Program Notes for a Performance by the Oregon String Quartet. 2004. 
  12. ^ (Bergen 2012)

External links[edit]