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Schubert’s “The Trout”, Lied to Quintet and back to Lied: a contextual analysis of the pair

Abstract : Franz Schubert wrote his masterpiece, the Lied Die Forelle, from the namesake light-hearted imaginative poem by C.F.D. Schubart, but by eliminating the last stanza from the Lied, he left the music and the text mismatched at the end and also left the fate of the trout in question. The Piano quintet in A “The Trout”, which was commissioned with the request that it be based on the Lied, was his answer to the above question. Indeed, the musical materials of stanzas #1 and 2, where the fish is joyously swimming, dominate the quintet, indicating that Schubert decided to let the fish escape and flourish in the quintet. He also used numerous musical formulations depicting the beauty of the watery world, formulations which were found in his many Lieder prior to the quintet. Moreover, a detailed analysis of the quintet, structurally and contextually, allowed us to suggest that Schubert formulated the quintet using the structure and narrative of the poem, which was transformed from the point of view of the poet to that of the trout. Thus the last stanza (#4) turned into an advice from the escaped trout to young female trout. Consequently quintet movements #1, 2, 3, and 4 corresponded to poem stanzas #1, 2, 3, and 4, respectively, followed by the last movement (#5) as the proverbial “they lived happily ever after”. Specifically, movement 4 (theme and variations) is suggested to be a musical depiction of the lecture given by the fish herself to the audience of young fish as follows: Thema (introduction), Variation I (my peaceful life in a brook), Variation II (the appearance of a fisherman), Variation III (teasing of the fisherman), Variation IV (getting caught, escaping and a long painful recovery), Variation V-Andante (the lesson I learnt and what I recommend, - and the audience responding), Variation V-Allegretto (fish dispersing, each vowing to be safe and free). It appears that Schubert took the terms of commission, - that the quintet was to be “based” on the Lied - very seriously. His effort resulted in a piece that is always enjoyable and can also be seen as a precursor to program music, which flourished much later in the Romantic period. Two years after the completion of the quintet, Schubert made the last revision to his Lied Die Forelle (version #5) with numerous changes which made the pair closely aligned to each other, opening the possibility of an integrated performance of the pair.
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Contributor : Yoshiaki Okita <>
Submitted on : Saturday, November 14, 2020 - 3:14:12 AM
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© Okita, St Ontario. Schubert’s “The Trout”, Lied to Quintet and back to Lied: a contextual analysis of the pair. Humanities and Social Sciences. Brock University, 2020. English. ⟨tel-03005335⟩

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