Unfinished Schubert

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No, not the “Unfinished” Symphony No. 8, a piece which feels strangely complete at two movements. We’ll get to that masterpiece at some point, but today let’s listen to the unfinished C minor string quartet (Quartettsatz, D. 703) Franz Schubert began in December, 1820. Schubert completed the first movementAllegro assai. Interestingly, its opening bears a slight resemblance to the hushed, shivering string lines in the first movement of the “Unfinished” Symphony, which was started eight months later.

Schubert only completed 41 bars of the exposition of an Andante before permanently abandoning the work. Did he just get too busy with other projects? Or, as musicologist Javier Arrebola has speculated (citing other unfinished Schubert works from the same period), perhaps it “…did not yet represent the great leap forward he was striving for.”

Regardless, the greatest composers seem to innately know when the creative powers are speaking, or not. The C minor Quartet’s second movement remains a beautiful and intriguing fragment. The music simply trails off where Schubert stopped…

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