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SIEGEL: This is one of the most famous and beautiful pieces of chamber music ever written, the "Trout Quintet."


SIEGEL: Franz Schubert composed it in 1819 for piano, violin, viola, cello and double bass. That's not a common ensemble, but Schubert evidently wrote it for a group of musicians who had gathered to play another composer's piece and those just happened to be their instruments. This is the "Fourth Movement," which consists of a theme and variations.


SIEGEL: The theme is the tune that Schubert had written earlier, an adaptation of a poem called "The Trout." It's about a cold-blooded angler hooking a merry fish. The cellist Jan Vogler, who is artistic director of the Moritzburg Festival in Germany, devoted some special attention to the "Trout" at this year's festival, and the result is a CD that begins with this traditional performance and does not stop there. Jan Vogler joins us from Dresden in Germany. Welcome back to the program.

JAN VOGLER: Hi, Robert. Nice to be here.

SIEGEL: And first, what was your idea with the "Trout," not just a performance of the "Trout Quintet" but some "Trout" variations?

VOGLER: Well, my first idea was we wanted to perform this piece in an ideal setting in Moritzburg with lots of rehearsal time. And because it's one of the most famous and most wonderful pieces, we wanted to give a good performance of the piece with international soloists joining together for this work. And then I asked all the musicians and said: Could you - each of you think up a version of the "Trout" song? So that we can give a personal note to it and can say: This is the way I see this song or this is maybe also where I come from or what interests me in life. So the listener can have the idea of who are these performers who come together for the "Trout Quintet," also can see that one can still write some variations on this wonderful song.

SIEGEL: Well, I want to play a bit of what I find to be the most surprising of all of these. And I suppose that if Schubert had intended to unveil the "Trout" at a recital that was attended only by a violist and a Norwegian hardanger fiddler, the result would have sounded something like this.


VOGLER: It does sound like in some Norwegian fjord, right?

SIEGEL: Yes. Exactly. It sounds like...


SIEGEL: ...a very lonely fisherman...

VOGLER: Echo, yeah.

SIEGEL: some fjord, yes. Tell me about the fiddler who's playing the folk instrument, the hardanger fiddle.

VOGLER: He's a very nice, simple boy, like maybe 21 years old and very friendly and has a spark in his eyes. And he, together with Lars Anders Tomter, who was the violist of the recording, they really created this version.


VOGLER: They did a wonderful job. They composed this whole thing and performed it.

SIEGEL: Yes, by the end of this track, you - it sounds like Schubert wrote a clog dancing piece or something.



VOGLER: But at first, the musicians were very skeptical. They all asked me: What do you mean my own version of the song? What do you want from us?


SIEGEL: It sounds like the kind of challenge that we associate - well, we associate more with, first of all, other art forms, with writing or drawing. And we associate it more with jazz or other kinds of popular music...

VOGLER: Right. Yeah.

SIEGEL: interesting challenge to a bunch of classical players.

VOGLER: Yeah. Absolutely.


SIEGEL: The last track on the CD is called "Forelle." Forelle, of course, is German for trout. That's the name of the piece "Blue."


SIEGEL: Now, because Schubert wrote it for this odd assortment of instruments, you either bring together a group to play the "Trout Quintet" or you're not going to play. It's not like a piece for a string quartet where that group of musicians will always be together.

VOGLER: Absolutely. And I think it really needs five soloists. The parts are extremely difficult. The piano part is - sounds very light and easy, but it's very, very difficult, and the same, the violin part. And I think it needs solo voices but also a sense of ensemble. And in Moritzburg, at the festival, we have the time in this idyllic surrounding. There's a lot of water, probably a lot of trout swimming around us to work on this and to create an ensemble out of these soloists.

SIEGEL: Given how popular this particular piece was to become, you don't think that Schubert had any sense of that, that he was composing something that 200 years later almost would be a staple of chamber music?

VOGLER: I think that for every artist, it's very important to have an output and to feel very strongly about the music you're producing. But I don't think this was in the reach of being imagined even, the popularity of this piece has today. And for us, also it was - there was the reason to say: Why shouldn't we add some variations? Why shouldn't we play with this song? And just show that we still, today, can see it also in an informal way, besides taking the music very seriously and also the interpretation of this piece.

SIEGEL: Well, Jan Vogler, thank you very much for talking with us once again.

VOGLER: Thanks, Robert.

SIEGEL: The CD that we've been talking about is "Schubert: Trout Variations."


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