…the moment is supreme.” – Franz Schubert
Franz Schubert wrote a huge range of classical music during his short lifetime (1797-1828). There are two chamber pieces I would like to highlight in this post.
Why have I picked these out of the many hundreds I could have chosen? I think they represent a fascinating contrast between lighter and darker moments and moods.
The first is the Piano Quintet in A Major, D667, more famously known as the ‘Trout Quintet’. Scored for piano, violin, viola, cello and double bass, Schubert wrote this in 1819 at the age of 22, although it was not to be published until 1829, the year after his death. The Wiki entry on this work is pretty comprehensive about the technical aspect of the work, if you would like to explore this aspect in more depth. This link also includes an explanation for the work’s nickname.
What I like so much about the composition is the light, playful tone of the piece. It has plenty of lush melodies and rich chords. But overall, there is air within the music. Even in the slower second movement (Andante), there is no sense of weight, simply languid lingering.
Here is a sparkling performance by Das Forellen Quintett:
The second piece for your consideration is Schubert’s final chamber work – the String Quintet in C Major, D965 (Op Post 163). Again, this Wiki entry is impressive in its analysis. As it points out, this work is often regarded as Schubert’s finest chamber piece, and indeed many see it as the finest composition in the whole of the chamber music genre.
When you listen to this stunning performance by the Afiara Quartet (including a very interesting interview with Joel Krosnick), bear in mind that Schubert was just months away from death when he completed it. We cannot know if he knew or even suspected his fate. But it seems to me that at the very least this work is laden with the wisdom of the ages, compared with the Trout, which is full of optimism and hope.
I always admire the ability of a single individual to produce such a range of work. As such, I would suggest that there is no choice between these two pieces. Both compositions are ones to treasure in your music collection, to bring out often, and enjoy as sublime examples of the heights to which the greatest composers can soar.