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Now, this one gets a little complicated. Tracing the development of this piece can feel like being in a scene from the film Airplane!, where one character is called ‘Over’, another ‘Roger’ and someone else ‘Victor’.
Schubert wrote the original ‘Trout’ song (‘Die Forelle’). Schubart (Christian Schubart, a German poet) wrote the original lyrics. Then Schubert wrote a Trout Quintet, without Schubart’s help, different from the song, using the Schubert tune but not the Schubart lyrics. Clear?
The song was the work of the composer as a twenty-year-old; the quintet is from five years later. The fourth of the quintet’s five moments is essentially a set of variations on the composer’s own tune and has become one of the favourite moments in Schubert’s output. We have one Sylvester Paumgartner to thank for this. He was an amateur cellist whom Schubert met while on his travels with a friend in the Steyr region of Austria (not far from Linz). Paumgartner not only suggested the quintet, but he also suggested that one of the movements might be based on The Trout.
Illustration: Mark Millington