Why Is Schubert’s Quintet Called the Trout?

Have you ever wondered why Schubert’s quintet is called the Trout? This beloved piece of chamber music has captured the hearts of audiences for centuries. In this article, we will explore the origins and significance of its peculiar name.

The Composer

Franz Schubert, an Austrian composer, is best known for his contributions to the classical and romantic periods of music. Born in 1797, he was a prolific composer who created over 600 works in his short life.

The Quintet

Schubert’s “Trout Quintet” refers to his Piano Quintet in A major, D. 667. Composed in 1819 when Schubert was just 22 years old, it is one of his most famous chamber works.

The Story Behind the Name

Contrary to what many may think, the name “Trout” does not refer to any particular fish or aquatic creature within the composition itself. Instead, it stems from a song that Schubert wrote earlier.

Before composing the quintet, Schubert wrote a lied (German art song) called “Die Forelle” (“The Trout”) in 1817. The lyrics depict a fisherman catching a trout in a stream but ultimately letting it go because it outwitted him. The catchy melody and playful nature of this lied inspired Schubert to incorporate it into his quintet.

The Musical Connection

Schubert used the theme from “Die Forelle” as the basis for the fourth movement of his Piano Quintet. By doing so, he gave homage to his earlier work while also infusing new life into its melody.

This decision transformed the quintet into a vibrant and lively piece, evoking the playful spirit of the trout swimming freely in the stream. The melodic theme is woven throughout the movement, creating a sense of unity and coherence.

The Legacy

Schubert’s “Trout Quintet” has remained popular throughout the years due to its catchy melodies, intricate harmonies, and the seamless integration of piano and string instruments. The name itself adds an element of intrigue and curiosity that draws listeners in.

In conclusion, Schubert’s quintet is called the Trout because it incorporates a melody from his earlier song “Die Forelle.” This musical connection adds depth and charm to the composition, making it a beloved piece in classical music repertoire. Whether you are an avid classical music enthusiast or simply curious about its origins, exploring the story behind the name adds another layer of appreciation for this stunning work of art.

Photo of author

Michael Allen