The Art of Life: Music and Knowing Concert and Conversation
Forellenquintet (The Trout Quintet) Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Quintet for Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello and Double Bass in A Major, D. 667
I. Allegro vivace
III. Scherzo: Presto
IV. Andantino – Allegretto (Theme and Variations)
V. Allegro giusto
Amy Grinsteiner, piano; Elizabeth York, violin; David Arnott, viola;
Lucia Magney, cello; Josh Schwalbach, double bass
Responses to the performance and conversation about
Music and Knowing
Panelists: Vincent Smiles and Tony Cunningham
“Concert and Conversation” intends to go beyond performance to the art of contemplation and discussion. We have titled this event The Art of Life: Music and Knowing, because music is the art of knowing the ineffable mystery of life. In his historical novel Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier writes the following of one of his protagonists: “The music he had made up for the girl was a thing he had played every day since. He never tired of it and, in fact, believed the tune to be so inexhaustible that he could play it every day for the rest of his life, learning something new each time. His fingers had stopped the strings and his arm had drawn the bow in the shape of the tune so many times by now that he no longer thought about the playing. The notes just happened effortlessly. The tune had become a thing unto itself, a habit that served to give order and meaning to a day’s end, as some might pray and others double-check the latch on the door and yet others take a drink when night has fallen...One thing he discovered with a great deal of astonishment was that music held more for him than just pleasure. There was meat to it. The grouping of sounds, their forms in the air as they rang out and faded, said something comforting to him about the rule of creation. What the music said was that there is a right way for things to be ordered so that life might not always be just tangle and drift but have a shape, an aim. It was a powerful argument against the notion that things just happen. By now he knew nine hundred fiddle tunes, some hundred of them being his own compositions.”
Art is not just about subjective feelings. If that were the case, we would be able to say of Macbeth or Schubert’s Trout Quintet that it is ‘just’ whatever some individual says about it, and yet no one could agree to such a notion. Art is more than someone’s personal feeling about it. Art reaches out to the beauty of a reality that far escapes definition or measurement, but which we nevertheless know to be profoundly real – and real precisely in its beauty. Art is the ultimate demonstration that we know more than we can tell; it is the exploration and expression of reality, even of the divine. Art, like all other forms of knowledge (from physics to poetry), is an expression of the transcendent character of human minds, and beyond minds, of the transcendent beauty which has been built into the universe from its first moments. ~ Dr. Vincent Smiles
Franz Schubert, Forellenquintet (The Trout Quintet)
The genesis of The Trout Quintet stemmed from a place in which many creative projects originate—the entertaining of friends and the largesse of a patron. Though not the first composer to write for this instrumentation (violin, viola, cello, bass, piano), the combination has since become popular and groups such as the Schubert Ensemble of London have commissioned many works for this particular scheme. The “Trout” was written for friends who planned to play the Johann Nepomuk Hummel Quintet whilst on vacation in Upper Austria. It was Sylvester Paumgartner, an amateur cellist and local patron of the arts, who is responsible for the inclusion of Die Forelle as the theme for the fourth movement which is also where the nickname originates. Although The Trout Quintet is not considered to be a great piece of music in terms of formal construction or harmonic development, it is a work that found an immediate appreciative audience and it has been popular ever since it was published in 1829.
Movement I, Allegro vivace
A fairly-typical sonata-allegro form, this movement is characterized by varying the melody players and the accompaniment players. The viola and the bass pair off, the violin and the cello converse, the piano is an integral member of the ensemble in terms of distribution of material. The exposition moves as would be expected from A major to E major, though the development strays from typical keys as far away as Bb major, Eb major, and even G major.
Movement II, Andante
This movement is basically one single musical idea which is then repeated in its entirety in another key. Though the formal structure of A-A might seem a bit simplistic to our modern expectations, it is the harmonic intensification that elevates this movement. In each section, it moves through a variety of unexpected tonal centers and definitely displays undertones of impending Romanticism.
Movement III, Scherzo: Presto
This is a typical movement for the time in which it was written. Both Beethoven and Schubert commonly used the “scherzo” designation in their multi-movement works (“scherzo” being the Italian word for “joke.”). In this case, the scherzo is a replacement for the earlier tradition of including a minuet, which would have preceded the trio. Again, it is the harmonic language that is of interest in this movement, rather than the form. The Scherzo begins in A major and moves to C major (a median relationship). The trio begins in D major and spends some time in B minor. These are much less typical than the standard tonic, dominant, and perhaps relative minor choices made by lesser composers.
Movement IV, Andantino – Allegretto (Theme and Variations)
Schubert’s lied, “Die Forelle,” is the basis for this movement which consists of a theme, five variations, and a coda. Schubert set this movement in D major rather than the original key of the song (Db major), a decision for which string players are forever grateful.
The tune is present in each section and the variety is created by the orchestration of the accompaniments. Schubert again pairs the viola with the bass and the violin with the cello, and occasionally limits the piano to a single voice doubled at the octave. Though Schubert strays closer to home harmonically in this movement (D major, D minor, F major, Bb major, and a brief moment in Db major), each variation seems to have its own unique flavor. The “babbling brook” in the accompaniment is easily recognized and should make everyone think of a gently flowing river. It is not until the final section that Schubert presents the accompaniment in its original form from the song.
Movement V, Allegro giusto
The Finale consists of two symmetrical sections (three if the first section is repeated as indicated in the score). Though less chromatically intense than previous movements, Schubert does ‘break the law’ by moving down the circle of 5ths (from A major to D major) in the first section rather than up the circle of 5ths from A major to E major. Again it is the choice of key areas that give this movement its intensity rather than its simple formal construction. The babbling brook makes a reappearance in the accompaniment.
~Program notes by Dr. David Arnott, Associate Professor of Music, CSB/SJU
J. David Arnott (viola and violin) holds degrees from the Curtis Institute of Music, the Philadelphia College of Performing Arts, and the University of Southern Mississippi. Currently serving as Orchestra Director and Associate Professor of Music at The College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University, Arnott is the violinist of Trio Benedicta, a member of the viola section of The Duluth-Superior Symphony, and a member of Music Saint Croix. Dr. Arnott has extensive experience both playing and conducting. He is the director of the Upper Midwest String and Chamber Music Conference, a past-president of the Minnesota chapter of the American Viola Society and holds memberships in ASTA, MENC, and the Minnesota Music Educators Association.
Tony Cunningham is a first generation Irish-American, born and raised in New York City. A graduate of Colby College (B.A.) and the University of Pennsylvania (Ph.D.), he is a philosopher by trade, with specialties in ethics and literature. His books include The Heart of What Matters: The Role for Literature in Moral Philosophy (California) and Modern Honor: A Philosophical Defense (Routledge). He loves mountains and the ocean, and he writes fiction and plays an interesting hardanger d'amore fiddle, avidly but humbly. Sometimes he likes to make believe he's from Maine.
Amy Grinsteiner (piano) teaches piano and Music through History classes at CSB/SJU. She holds a BM degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder, a MM from the Eastman School of Music, a Performer’s Diploma and L.R.A.M. Teaching Certificate from the Royal Academy of Music in London, and a DMA from the University of Washington. Dr. Grinsteiner also serves as the Faculty Program Coordinator and Faculty for Session II of the Seattle Piano Institute, a summer program for aspiring young classical pianists at the University of Washington, Seattle. As a recipient of both the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar Award and the P.E.O. National Scholar Award, Dr. Grinsteiner has traveled extensively building awareness and appreciation for the arts.
Lucia Magney (cello) is Assistant Principal Cellist of the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra and the Minneapolis Pops Orchestra. She teaches Cello, Chamber Music and String Methods at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University where she has been a faculty member since 1990. She is a busy chamber musician, performing regularly with Music Saint Croix, Pentimento and Trio Benedicta. Her string quartet Pentimento has appeared in Theatre de la Jeune Lune's productions of Mozart's Don Juan Giovanni, Figaro, The Magic Flute and Cosi fan Tutti and recorded incidental music for the Guthrie Theater's spring 2007 production of Merchant of Venice. Lucia attended the Bernard Greenhouse Celebration in Greensboro, NC in 2005 and the Midori Community Engagement Seminar at USC in 2007 in support of her work as an artist/teacher. She holds degrees from the University of Minnesota and Manhattan School of Music where she was a student of Bernard Greenhouse.
Josh Schwalbach resides in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where he is a freelance bassist and teacher. He holds a DMA and MM in double bass from Stony Brook University in New York. Josh serves as assistant principal bass of the Mankato Symphony, performs regularly with the Rose Ensemble, is a member of The Neighborhood Trio, and frequently performs in musical theater productions around the Twin Cities. He is currently on faculty as professor of double bass and director of both the viola de gamba consort and bass ensemble at College of Saint Benedict & Saint John's University, and is on faculty at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and the University of St. Thomas.
Born and raised in England, Dr. Vincent Smiles got his passion for theology reading Vatican II documents in late 1960s and his passion for music from his dad listening to the BBC symphony on radio. Dr. Smiles earned his MA from the School of Theology at Saint John’s University in 1975, and his PhD from Fordham in 1989. He loves Scripture and the Science-Theology interface as well as puzzling over the mystery of knowledge, and why music (art) is a clue to the soul.
Elizabeth York lives in St. Paul, MN, and maintains a busy teaching and performing schedule. She plays baroque violin and viola with Lyra Baroque Orchestra, where she is also a board member. She also freelances on her modern violin, and is a substitute violinist for South Dakota Symphony Orchestra. Elizabeth is the applied upper strings faculty at North Dakota State University, and teaches violin and viola privately and at St. Barnabas Center for the Arts. Since 2013, she has spent summers as a violin teaching assistant for the Symphony Orchestra at Birch Creek Music Performance Center in Door County, Wisconsin. In 2013, Elizabeth earned a dual DMA in violin and viola performance from Stony Brook University, where she also completed a MM in violin performance. Originally from Greensboro, NC, she holds a BM in violin performance from East Carolina University. Her major teachers include violinists Ara Gregorian, Soovin Kim, and Phil Setzer, and violists Dan Panner, Nicholas Cords, and Larry Dutton.
Grinsteiner, Amy; York, Elizabeth; Arnott, J. David; Magney, Lucia; Schwalbach, Josh; Smiles, Vincent M.; and Cunningham, Anthony, "The Art of Life: Music and Knowing Concert and Conversation" (2017). Music Faculty Recordings.