String Quartet in D Minor, D. 810 ("Der Tod und das Mädchen")
Autograph manuscript, incomplete, 1824
The Mary Flagler Cary Music Collection
The nickname of Schubert's penultimate string quartet derives from the second movement, a theme with variations based on the piano accompaniment to his song "Der Tod und das Mädchen" (Death and the Maiden). After a private performance in the apartment of the composer Franz Lachner, the first violinist—who, owing to his advanced age, was clearly not up to the task—turned to Schubert and (according to Lachner) declared: "'My dear fellow, this is no good, leave it alone; you stick to your songs!' Whereupon Schubert silently packed up the sheets of music and shut them away in his desk forever—a self-denial and modesty that one would look for in vain in many a present-day composer."