Haydn String Quartet Op. 76, #2 “Quinten” (1796) and Schubert String Quartet #14 in D minor “Death and the Maiden” (1824)
Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) was a prominent and prolific Austrian composer of the Classical period. His contributions to musical form have earned him the epithet "Father of the Symphony and the String Quartet." Haydn spent much of his career as a court musician for the wealthy Esterházy family at their remote estate. Until the later part of his life, this isolated him from other composers and trends in music so that he was, as he put it, "forced to become original." Yet his music circulated widely and for much of his career he was the most celebrated composer in Europe. The Op. 76 quartets are among Haydn's most ambitious chamber works, deviating more than their predecessors from standard sonata form and each emphasizing their thematic continuity through the seamless and near-continual exchange of motifs between instruments. “Quinten” refers to the falling perfect fifths at its start.
Franz Peter Schubert (1797-1828) was an Austrian composer who died before his 32nd birthday, but was extremely prolific during his lifetime. Schubert is ranked among the greatest composers of the late Classical and early Romantic eras and is one of the most frequently performed composers of the early nineteenth century. “Death and the Maiden” is one of the pillars of the chamber music repertoire. Composed in 1824, after the composer suffered through a serious illness and realized that he was dying, it is Schubert's testament to death. The quartet is named for the theme of the second movement, which Schubert took from a song he wrote in 1817 of the same title, but the theme of death is palpable in all four movements of the quartet.