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Franz Schubert - String Quintet in C

Music > Chamber Music

String Quintet in C, D. 956

The Quintet in C op. 163, D. 956, Schubert’s last chamber work, composed not long before his death, is for many his crowning masterpiece, surpassing even the ‘Great’ C major Symphony. In fact the two have much in common, including their symphonic character, a foregone assumption in the latter case, perhaps something of a surprise in the former. The quintet’s unique sonority derives from Schubert’s choice of the cello as the ‘extra’ instrument (the normal combination being two violins, two violas and cello).

The ‘symphonic’ element here, however, has less to do with the volume of sound than with the breadth of the musical ideas and their development. This is a composer thinking big. At the same time, there is a sense of intimacy beyond the scope of ‘symphonic thought’. Perhaps the work’s most outstanding characteristic is the sheer immediacy of its ‘emotional grab’; yet here, possibly more than in any of his other works, the intensity, beauty and power of the emotions is greater than their specificity of character.

Again we have the simultaneity of expressive extremes; thus many musicians and music-lovers have held widely divergent interpretations, one finding desolating loneliness (slow movement) and defiant anger (scherzo) where another finds sweet serenity and exuberant jollity. Where all are agreed is that Schubert never wrote anything that surpasses it in emotional range, quality of material, and perfection of form.

Allegro ma non troppo ---->

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Allegro ma non troppo (part 2)

Adagio ---->

Adagio (part 2)

Andante Sostenuto

Allegretto

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