Posted by Richard on  UTC 2016-02-07 16:50

The biography of a poem

Each of the poems that Franz Schubert set to music has a tale behind it. Many of these tales are mundane episodes in the writer's life, only of interest to the philologists whose job it is to obsess about such things.

A few of these tales are illuminating; some are interesting in themselves, none more so than Schubert's popular song Die Forelle, The Trout D 550.

We are charmed by Schubert's bright music, the piano accompaniment twisting and darting like the fish itself.

We are even more charmed by the variations of the theme of the song in the fourth movement of the forbiddingly named Piano Quintet in A opus (post.) 114, D 667, much better known because of that movement as the Forellenquintett, the Trout Quintet. Even this work has a characteristic Schubert tale to tell.

In the song the bright rustic idyll of the first two verses darkens when, by a subterfuge, the angler catches the fish. This dark event hints at a much darker event in real life. What follows is the biography of the poem behind the song. It is indeed a dark tale.

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