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Classics on Sunday: Schubert’s Rosamunde


A NUMBER of composers were not averse to re-using tunes in different settings, sometimes many years apart, and a good example is Schubert’s Rosamunde theme.

The melody made its first appearance in Schubert’s incidental music to Rosamunde, Fürstin von Zypern (Rosamunde, Princess of Cyprus), a play in four acts by the female writer Helmina von Chézy which premiered in Vienna’s Theater an der Wien on 20 December 1823, when Schubert was 27 years old. It was a flop and closed after two nights (Schubert made 20 attempts at opera and stage works, all of which failed for a variety of reasons) but its name lives on through the music. Schubert wrote ten pieces for it and this is Entr’acte 3 in B flat major (an entr’acte being performed between acts of a play).

The following year, 1824, Schubert composed his String Quartet No 13 in A minor, D 804, Op 29. It is nicknamed the Rosamunde Quartet because the second movement is based on the Entr’acte 3 from the play.

You can hear the complete work here.

and here is the score (the second movement starts at 14’18”).

The last time the tune is heard is in Schubert’s Impromptu in B flat major from Opus 142. This is a set of four works for solo piano which Schubert wrote in 1827, when he was 30, the year before his tragically early death. They were not published until 1839. This, the third in the set, is a set of variations on a main theme which is very similar to that of Entr’acte 3 in Rosamunde.

Here is it performed by the Ukrainian pianist Valentina Lisitsa, who says in a note on YouTube: ‘One freezing human in this video . . . my new old piano is in but there is not heat in the house and it is 10F outside. That’s why I am “dressed” in whatever warm I could find – no pink dress here LOL.’

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Margaret Ashworth
Margaret Ashworth
Margaret Ashworth is a retired national newspaper journalist. She runs the Subbing Clinic in a hopeless attempt to keep up standards, and co-runs A & M Records where she indulges her passion for 60s pop.

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