for string quartet and string orchestra
duration: 16 minutes
Commissioned by Symphony Australia.
Franz Schubert died in 1828, leaving a legacy of nine symphonies, fifteen string quartets, over a thousand songs as well as numerous piano, choral, vocal and other orchestral works. He was aged only 31.
Schubert died from syphilis, or possibly from its treatment (i.e. mercury poisoning). From all accounts he was in a large degree of pain ever since he contracted the disease in the early 1820s. One of the side-effects of syphilis is a gradual descent into insanity, though there do not seem to be any accounts of this happening to Schubert as it did to Robert Schumann.
The later works of Schubert are considered to be important in terms of closing the classical period of music and laying the foundation for future composers such as Liszt, Chopin and Schumann. His last string quartet, Quartet No. 15 in G Major, was composed from 20-30 June 1826 during a brief stay in the village of Waehring. It is a monolithic work, lasting over 60 minutes when all repeats are included. It neatly summarises many of the musical devices typical of Schubert’s writing, especially the mixing of major and minor modes. In string-playing circles this quartet is known as “the G major-minor”.
What sort of music would Schubert have written if he had been born in the late twentieth century instead of the late eighteenth? Of course we will never know, but perhaps the fact that he was so enamoured by the writing of lieder (songs) can suggest him straying towards writing popular music, as that is the dominant form of musically vocal expression in current culture. Maybe we would have a prolific “DJ Franz” writing techno-inspired electronica anthems for the clubs of Europe.
In The Rave and the Nightingale, these ideas are used as a starting point. The work was approached as if Schubert was granted aglimpse into the beginning of the twenty-first century, brought on by the syphilitic dementia he may have been suffering. The first four minutes of the piece are a direct quotation from the original quartet movement (with a cut to reduce its length). Upon the repeat of the exposition in the original quartet, the contemporary treatment begins and takes over, continuing until the end of the work. This “contemporary” filtering of the piece is easily recognizable in most cases. There are many string techniques that were not used during Schubert’s time, as well as a variety of rhythmic and harmonic figures that could be associated with aspects of popular music. However a lot of Schubert’s material has been integrated into the music. Sometimes this is obvious, sometimes less so.
The structure of The Rave and the Nightingale is again based upon Schubert’s original quartet movement, though again, deleting several sections for brevity. In broad terms, the movement follows the original Sonata form that was used by Schubert.
Schubert is also famed for his melodic writing. The role of the ‘nightingale’ has been assigned to this aspect of the original quartet movement. In truth, there is more “rave” than “nightingale” in this work, but the opposition between the two in intended to provide a degree of musical tension and contrast.
born 1968, aged 32
not having written 1/10th the number of works of Schubert
This piece was partly composed whilst I was composer-in-residence at the Peggy Glanville-Hicks House, Paddington.
“Musing on what a “DJ Franz writing techno-inspired electronica” might sound like, Matthew Hindson provides in his latest orchestral work, Rave and the Nightingale (sic) a light-hearted parody of Schubert’s last string quartet. It brought to mind those masters of spoof, PDQ Bach and Gerard Hoffnung.” – Robert Curry, The Australian, 30 July 2001
CD Recording Available?
- Not yet. However, a live recording of the piece is available through the