Listening to Britten – Die forelle

Rainbow trout, courtesy of Wikipedia

Die forelle (The trout) – arrangement of Schubert’s song, D550, for voice and orchestra (June 1942, Britten aged 28)

Text Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart
Dedication not known
Duration 4′

Background and Critical Reception

The date of this arrangement is known through a letter from Britten to Pears in June 1942.

Britten’s love of Schubert is well-known, and he and Pears gave many performances of the song cycles Winterreise and Die schöne Müllerin. It appears they did record Die forelle in 1946 for Decca, according to and online Schubert discography, but that recording has not survived as far as Decca’s recent issue of Britten The Performer.


This is a simple, uncomplicated arrangement that delights with the clarinets gurgling in the middle foreground, part of Britten’s watery reproduction of the accompaniment to one of Schubert’s most popular songs.

The strings are mostly gentle and subdued, tracking the left hand part of the piano, but occasionally pop their heads above water with the going gets more turbulent.

Recordings used

Neil Mackie (tenor), Scottish Chamber Orchestra / Steuart Bedford (EMI)
Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo-soprano), Chamber Orchestra of Europe / Claudio Abbado (Deutsche Grammophon)

Both versions are delightfully sung, and convey the attractiveness of Britten’s arrangement.


The original version, recorded by Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake for EMI, can be heard here. Anne Sofie von Otter can be heard singing Die forellehere, as part of a disc of Schubert Lieder with orchestra.

Also written in 1942: Walton – ‘Spitfire’ Prelude and Fugue

Next up: Frühlingsnacht

This entry was posted in Arrangements and editions, Chamber or string orchestra, Listening to Britten and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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