In a two week period in 1824, Schubert started and completed three of his greatest chamber works – the string quartets in A
minor D804 and D minor D810 (Death and the Maiden), and the F major Octet. All three of the works from this short burst of creativity use material Schubert had used elsewhere – the song ‘Death and the Maiden’ in the D minor quartet, and themes from Rosamunde in the A major quartet. For the Octet he quotes from an Ave Maria from the following year, and in the fourth movement an aria from his opera ‘Die Freunde von Salamanka’ is used for the variations.
In mood the Octet is the sunniest of the works from this period, and even though Schubert wrote that he was full of happiness for ‘the ray of sunlight for the past sweet days’, all the other works contain moments of darkness and foreshadow in places the bleakness that dominates the later piano sonatas, Winterreise and for example the slow movement of the sketched Tenth Symphony . The Octet was premiered in 1827, but not published until 1853.
- Performed by members of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.