Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Death and the Maiden

Dr. Bob Prescribes: Schubert, String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, “Death and the Maiden”

Today is Halloween. Surprise, right?  As if you didn’t know. For today’s Dr. Bob Prescribes, I had considered recognizing the date by writing a post on “appropriately ghoulish concert works for your Halloween party.”  I began assembling a list of the usual horrific suspects – Hector Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique, movements 4 and 5 (respectively entitled “March to the Scaffold” and “Dream of a Witch’s Sabbath”); Camille Saint-Saëns’ Dance Macabre; Franz Liszt’s Totentanz; the theme song from Petticoat Junction (“and there’s Uncle Joe, he’s-a movin’ kinda slow, at the Junction . . .”; damn, but that’ll send shivers up your spine!); and so forth.   However, I soon realized that I was contemplating not a Dr. Bob Prescribes-type article, but rather, the sort of post for which the internet was invented: top ten (or twenty or thirty) liszts (yes, that was intentional) that present us with an array of items even as those items are trivialized by appearing on the list and by the minimal bit of explanation that accompanies them. As a public service, then, I have reviewed an all-too-large number of such “Halloween concert music” posts on the internet, and would recommend the following as the best of the bunch, […]

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Music History Monday: Death and the Maiden

192 years ago today – on January 29, 1826 – Franz Schubert’s String Quartet No. 14 in D Minor, better known as Death and the Maiden, received its premiere at the home of Karl and Franz Hacker in Vienna. The quartet comes by its nickname honestly, as its second movement is a theme and variations form movement based on a song entitled Death and the Maiden, a song Schubert had composed in 1817 when he was twenty years old. The song sets a poem by Matthias Claudius, in which Death comes to claim an adolescent girl who is not prepared to go quietly. In the first stanza she sings: Pass by, alas, pass by! Go, you savage skeleton! I am still young, go, oh dear! And do not touch me. In the second stanza, Death seeks to calm her and allay her fears: Give me your hand, you fair and tender creature; I am a friend and do not come to punish you. Be of good cheer! I am not savage, Gently you will sleep in my arms. The song begins and ends with a slow, solemn, march-like passage played by the piano. At the beginning of the song, it […]

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