String Quartet No. 13 (Schubert)

The String Quartet No. 13 in A minor (the Rosamunde Quartet), D 804, Op. 29, was written by Franz Schubert between February and March 1824. It dates roughly to the same time as his monumental Death and the Maiden Quartet, emerging around three years after his previous attempt to write for the string quartet genre, the Quartettsatz, D 703, that he never finished.


Starting in 1824, Schubert largely turned away from the composition of songs to concentrate on instrumental chamber music. In addition to the A-minor String Quartet, the Quartet in D minor, the Octet, the Grand Duo and Divertissement a la Hongroise (both for piano duet), and the Sonata for Arpeggione and Piano all date from that year. With the exception of the Grand Duo, all of these works display cyclic elements—that is, two or more movements in each work are deliberately related in some way to enhance the sense of unity. In the case of the A-minor Quartet, a motive from the third-movement Minuet becomes the most important melodic figure for the following finale (Chusid 1964, 37).

Schubert dedicated the work to Schuppanzigh, who served as the first violinist of the string quartet appointed by Beethoven. Schuppanzigh himself played in the premiere performance which took place on 14 March 1824.



The quartet consists of four movements which last around 30 minutes in total.

  1. Allegro ma non troppo
  2. Andante
  3. Menuetto: Allegretto – Trio
  4. Allegro moderato


The first movement opens with a texture reminiscent of the melancholic theme from one of Schubert's earliest songs, Gretchen am Spinnrade and also quotes "Schöne Welt, wo bist du?" The reference to Gretchen am Spinnrade is not a direct quotation, but rather is a similarity in the second violin’s restless accompanimental figuration, hovering around the mediant and underpinned by a repeated figure in cello and viola, which precedes the first thematic entrance. This also recalls the accompaniment to the first subject of the "Unfinished" Symphony (Westrup 1969, 31; Taylor 2014, 49).

It is the second movement, however, which has lent the Quartet its nickname, being based on a theme from the incidental music for Rosamunde (a similar theme appears in the Impromptu in B-flat written three years later). The dactyl-spondee rhythm pervading this movement unmistakably shows the influence of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony (Temperley 1981, 149). The form of this slow movement uses the same modified exposition-recapitulation form found in the slow movement of Schubert's "Great" C-major Symphony, where an ambiguity of formal definition is created by the introduction of a developmental passage shortly after the return of the primary theme in the recapitulation (Shamgar 2001, 154).

The minuet quotes the melody of another song by Schubert, Die Götter Griechenlandes, D. 677, from November 1819, a connection only first noticed more than a century after the work's composition by Willi Kahl (1930, 2:358). The opening of this melody recurs in inversion at the beginning of the trio, and is later echoed in the opening of the finale (Wollenberg 2011, 201–202, n11).


  • Brown, Maurice J. E. 1958. Schubert: A Critical Biography. London: Macmillan & Co. Ltd.; New York: St. Martin's Press.
  • Chusid, Martin. 1964. "Schubert's Cyclic Compositions of 1824". Acta Musicologica 36, no. 1 (January–March): 37–45.
  • Kahl, Willi. 1930. "Schubert". In Cobbett's Cyclopaedic Survey of Chamber Music, vol. 2, edited by Walter W. Cobbett, 352–66. London: Oxford University Press.
  • Shamgar, Beth [Friedman]. 2001. "Schubert's Classic Legacy: Some Thoughts on Exposition-Recap. Form". The Journal of Musicology 18, no. 1 (Winter): 150–69.
  • Taylor, Benedict. 2014. "Schubert and the Construction of Memory: The String Quartet in A minor, D. 804 (Rosamunde)". Journal of the Royal Musical Association 139, no. 1:41–88. doi:10.1080/02690403.2014.886414
  • Temperley, Nicholas. 1981. "Schubert and Beethoven's Eight-Six Chord". 19th-Century Music 5, no. 2 (Fall): 142–54.
  • Westrup, Jack A., 1969. Schubert Chamber Music. BBC Music Guides 5. London: British Broadcasting Corporation; Seattle: University of Washington Press. Reprinted, [London]: Ariel Music, 1986. ISBN 9780563205166 (pbk).
  • Wollenberg, Susan. 2011. Schubert’s Fingerprints: Studies in the Instrumental Works. Farnham, Surrey and Burlington, VT: Ashgate. ISBN 9781409421221 (cloth); ISBN 9781409434016 (ebook).

Further reading

  • Atanasovski, Srđan. 2011. "Schubert’s 'Original Voice' in Quartets for Schuppanzigh: On Learned Style and New Sonic Qualities". Musicologica Austriaca: Jahresschrift der Österreichischen Gesellschaft für Musikwissenschaft 30:43–56.
  • Bockholdt, Rudolf. 1998. "Die Kunst, heim zu finden: Über Schlüsse und Anschlüsse in Schuberts Instrumentalmusik". Musiktheorie 13, no. 2 (Franz Schubert: Jenseits des Jubiläums): 145–56.
  • Cullen, Adam. 2008. "Schubert's Chamber Music as a Road Towards the Symphony". Maynooth Musicology 1:99–120.
  • Cullen, Adam. 2009. "Dialectic Process and Sonata Form in Schubert's A Minor String Quartet, D 804". Maynooth Musicology 2:40–70.
  • Gingerich, John Michael. 1996. "Schubert's Beethoven Project: The Chamber Music, 1824–1828". PhD diss. New Haven: Yale University.
  • Hopkins, Robert G. 2013. "Multifunctional Codas in Sonata-Form Movements by Schubert". In Musical Implications: Essays in Honor of Eugene Narmour, edited and with an introduction by Lawrence F. Bernstein and Alexander Rozin, 191–223. Festschrift Series 25. Hillsdale, NY: Pendragon Press. ISBN 978-1-57647-159-3.
  • Rast, Nicholas. 2003. "'Schöne Welt, wo bist du?' Motive and Form in Schubert's A-minor String Quartet". In Schubert the Progressive: History, Performance Practice, Analysis, edited and preface by Brian Newbould, 81–88. Aldershot, Hants; Burlington, VT: Ashgate. ISBN 0-7546-0368-7.
  • Sobaskie, James William. 2003. "Tonal Implication and the Gestural Dialectic in Schubert's A-minor Quartet". In Schubert the Progressive: History, Performance Practice, Analysis, edited and preface by Brian Newbould, 53–79. Aldershot, Hants; Burlington, VT: Ashgate. ISBN 0-7546-0368-7.
  • Waidelich, Till Gerrit. 1997. "Weitere Dokumente aus 1828 und 1833: Ein unkorrigierter früher Abzug der 'Einladung' zu Schuberts Privatkonzert und Berichte über die Berliner Ur- und Erstaufführungen der Streichquartette in a-Moll D 804 und d-Moll D 810". Schubert durch die Brille: Internationales Franz Schubert Institut—Mitteilungen, no. 19:57–64.
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