Schubert’s music seems to to inhabit two worlds, on the one hand there’s the comfy/gemütlich music for which he was best known in his lifetime and, on the other there’s the much darker world of pieces such as the Winterreise cycle or this week’s quartet, the composer’s 14th in d, D.810, known – after the song that Schubert use as the basis of a series of variations in his slow movement – as Death and the Maiden.
Here’s the original song:
Der Tod und das Mädchen
Geh, wilder Knochenmann!
Ich bin noch jung, geh, Lieber!
Und rühre mich nicht an.
Gib deine Hand, du schön und zart
Bin Freund und komme nicht zu strafen.
Sei gutes Muts! Ich bin nicht wild,
Sollst sanft in meinen Armen schlafen!
Death and the Maiden
Pass by, ah, pass by!
Away, cruel Death!
I am still young; leave me, dear one
and do not touch me.
Give me your hand, you lovely, tender creature.
I am your friend, and come not to chastise.
Be of good courage. I am not cruel;
you shall sleep softly in my arms.
… and it’s not only the friendly death of Death and the Maiden that puts in an appearance in the piece: there’s also a brief visit from Goethe and Schubert’s arch-bogeyman, the Erl King in the wild tarantella of the finale.