Schubert String Quintet in C
Franz Schubert was an incredibly prolific composer, particularly of chamber music. Yet it is one of his final pieces in the genre - published posthumously and written just a couple of months before his death - that is one of his most beautiful. The String Quintet in C is regarded by many as one of the greatest chamber music compositions ever written.
First performed in Vienna's concert hall on 17 November 1850, the piece had been ignored by Schubert's publisher in 1828 when he had just finished it. They asked to see more popular piano music instead, revealing that even at this late stage in his career, Schubert continued to be regarded as a composer of songs and piano pieces - definitely not taken seriously as a chamber music composer.
In one of those ironies typical of the history of classical music, it is this piece more than any other from Schubert's repertoire that has touched the hearts of generations. The violinist Joseph Saunders had the second theme of the first movement carved on his tombstone while the great pianist Artur Rubenstein has expressed his wish to have the second movement played at his funeral. This connection between the piece and mortality extends from the final part of the work, in which the C major chord is heard against a dissonant D-flat; some believe this to be recognition by Schubert himself of the impending end of his own life.
Enjoy this truly remarkable quintet with its moments of pure delight, intense turbulence and otherworldly tranquility.
Discover one of the many compositions inspired by this piece, Brahms' Piano Quintet, with our feature on this brilliant work. Alternatively, read more about the great teacher and pianist Artur Rubenstein.