FRANZ SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Death and the Maiden, D. 810 (1824)
(String quartet in D minor, arranged by Misha Rachlevsky)
Andante con moto
Scherzo: Allegro molto

Music aficionados might notice that we do not use Mahler's arrangement of Death and the Maiden for string orchestra, but my own. The reason is simple - the "divisi" (sub-division into two or more parts within one group of instruments) in Mahler's version clearly suggests large performing forces, as he had at his disposal. Other than that, Mahler's version deviates very little from the original, and mine is yet less so. Why then, one could ask, mention Mahler at all?

Well, because. While the practice of performing arrangements and, in this case, taking one of the true shrines of quartet literature and expanding it to full string orchestra, is becoming accepted on concert stages, it still has its detractors, and having protagonists such as Mahler and Bernstein (with Beethoven's Op. 131) certainly strengthens the position of the "pro-arrangements" clan.

As unbelievable as it seems to us now, this quartet, written in 1826, two years before Schubert's death, was rejected by the music publishers as uninteresting. The first performance took place in Berlin in 1833, five years after the composer's death; the reviewer wasn't kind to Schubert, criticizing the work's "irregular harmonic progressions".

Time did the justice to the work, however, and now Death and the Maiden is one of the most beloved works in repertoire. Incidentally, the piece was nicknamed after Schubert's death, based on the title of one of Schubert's songs which he had "re-arranged" (aha!) for the theme of the second movement.

And as for Mahler, although he finished an arrangement of the entire work (and even began arranging some of Schubert's other quartets), he conducted only one movement - the variations - in a single concert in Hamburg on November 19, 1894. Discouraged by the criticism that he deprived Schubert's quartet of its intimacy, he did not pursue performance of the complete work. This did not stop him, however, from reviving this practice four years later, when he moved from Hamburg to Vienna. There he completed the arrangement of Beethoven's Quartet in F minor, Op. 95, and performed it in its entirety.