“In einem Bächlein helle…” Should you ever hear someone sing this song outside a concert hall, have a close look: It might well be me. I love this song written by Franz Schubert. My daughter loves this song. Sometimes we sing it as a duet. But most often I hum it for myself. And one thing is perfectly clear: That specific song is an irrefutable proof that I am in an excellent mood. So, if you hear someone – ask. If it is me I will buy you a coffee!
Schubert was furious
No less than five versions of the song “Die Forelle” (The Trout) Op. 32, D. 550 exist. We will discuss the one for orchestra and voice here as well as the piano version. And when the composer played it to his friends for the first time, one of these friends said it reminded him of someone else’s composition. Schubert was furious and it took the joint effort of his friends to prevent him from tearing the score apart. That would have been truly tragic. Because – but listen to the recording by Anne Sofie Ott and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe or to the piano version performed by Fritz Wunderlich and Herbert Giesen.
The composer wrote this song in D flat between the end of 1816 and July 1817 upon a text by the German poet, organist, composer and journalist Christian Schubert who lived in 18th century. Some of the versions were written as late as 1821. The poem itself is trivial: A man or a woman stands by a river and observes a trout. A young lad walks up to the place and tries to catch the trout. Initially he fails, but then he has the idea to mud the water. The trout cannot hide anymore and gets caught. It is as simple as that. But the way Schubert expresses the rapid movements of the trout in the piano score or in the orchestra score (played by the clarinet) – amazing!
Bertrand Chamayou – a delight
There is another song written by Schubert that touches the subject of water: “Auf dem Wasser zu singen” (To be sung on the water) D.774. Schubert composed it in 1823 in A flat, and here I suggest you listen to the recording by the French pianist Bertrand Chamayou. No words shall distract you from the exquisite beauty and the captivating melody. You will see the water ripple below you, millions of illuminated dots dancing on the waves – unparalleled.
It is not easy for a pianist to cast a spell on my with a Schubert song since I have venerated this composer for many years. But I can listen to Chamayou’s recording of that song again and again. He is a master at expressing that perfect Romantic idea of aesthetics that Schubert set to music and I often have the feeling that it actually is Schubert who plays that song himself. I guess, there can be no bigger compliment for a pianist!
© Charles Thibo