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String Trio in B flat major, D581

'Schubert: 'Trout' Quintet' (CDA67527)
Schubert: 'Trout' Quintet
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Movement 1: Allegro moderato
Movement 2: Andante
Movement 3: Minuetto: Allegretto
Movement 4: Rondo: Allegretto

String Trio in B flat major, D581
The four-movement Trio D581 was composed in 1817. Schubert was clearly still experiencing difficulty with this most exacting of mediums, and he undertook a subtle but thorough-going revision of the score. As a result, this is one of his very few large-scale works of which we possess two different versions. The alterations in the second version consist largely of the occasional refashioning of the melodic line, redistribution of the part-writing, or smoothing over of transitions. At the end of the opening movement’s exposition, for instance, Schubert seems to have been dissatisfied at having allowed two static chords to disrupt the music’s flow, and in his second version he papered over the crack by means of a violin arpeggio. He also made a substantial change to the Allegro moderato’s closing bars, where he replaced the very rapid demisemiquaver figuration of the original, which the players must have found tricky to negotiate if they had chosen a suitably flowing tempo for the piece as a whole, with notes of twice the value.

Both the slow movement’s siciliano-like main theme and its mysterious minor-mode episode originally had a single-note upbeat, but Schubert removed this— perhaps because the manner in which the theme’s return was approached during the course of the piece rendered its subsequent inclusion impracticable in any case. As for the minuet, Schubert altered the shape of its opening melody to render it less repetitious; and he interpolated a pause before the final reprise of the theme of the trio—essentially an accompanied viola solo—in order to allow the music a moment’s breathing-space.

The gently ‘trotting’ theme of the rondo finale originally had a rather inelegant second phrase, which had the music turning back squarely onto the tonic. Schubert’s revised version substitutes an answering phrase that mirrors the opening bars more closely, while at the same time lending the theme a more graceful lilt. If the work as a whole hardly belongs among Schubert’s profoundest utterances it has an undeniable charm all of its own, and in the adventurousness of its sudden switches of key it shows him beginning to find his own distinctive voice.

from notes by Misha Donat © 2006

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Details for CDA67527 track 7
Allegro moderato
Recording date
7 June 2005
Recording venue
Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Simon Eadon
Hyperion usage
  1. Schubert: 'Trout' Quintet (CDA67527)
    Disc 1 Track 7
    Release date: March 2006
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