Emory Chamber Music Society's quintet brings Franz Schubert's 'The Trout' to the Georgia Aquarium

The Emory Chamber Music Society of Atlanta takes Viennese composer Franz Schubert's "Trout" to the Georgia Aquarium. (Photo courtesy Emory Chamber Music Society)

A couple centuries before Hootie and the Blowfish, or even Phish, the Viennese composer Franz Schubert had a hit with “The Trout.” Now, the Emory Chamber Music Society of Atlanta is taking Schubert’s “Trout” to the Georgia Aquarium. Professor Will Ransom, pianist and artistic director of the Chamber Music Society, joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to share his excitement for this upcoming perfect pairing of delights for the eyes and ears.

Interview highlights:

Schubert’s poetically-minded composition that flows like a river:

“It began life as a song that Schubert wrote, one of many, over 600, songs that he wrote. They just flowed out of him, like water, shall we say, like a river. And this one originally had a different meaning — the poem itself — than it came to be,” said Ransom. “It was more about, I believe, a lover leaving another. But Schubert wanted to focus just on the trout himself, and wrote this wonderful song with an accompaniment in the piano that you just cannot listen to without hearing the water flowing. It’s just extraordinary how he was able to paint that in sound.”

An oddity in the evolution of chamber music:

“After that, he was with a gathering of friends, with an interesting instrumentation of friends, including a string bass player, which you don’t generally find in chamber music, except for a handful of pieces. Because Schubert, at that time, loved to party. His ‘Schubertiades’ were basically parties, where they would play his music. And just for friends, he put together this wonderful quintet for piano, one violin, one viola, one cello, and the string bass.”

“One of the unusual aspects of it is that it’s not a four-movement piece, which most of these kinds of works are, but he had an extra movement just so he could showcase the variations on his beautiful ‘trout’ theme. And it’s one of the most beloved pieces of chamber music or music of any kind that’s ever been written.”

A dream come true for music lovers and aquaria enthusiasts:

“As a kid, I actually had aquariums myself. I had three or four big ones, and I loved raising all sorts of tropical fish … and I’m a standing member of the Georgia Aquarium as well. I thought it was so special when it was announced that it was going to come to Atlanta, and to be able to bring music there, and of course, what could be better than bringing ‘The Trout’ to the Aquarium? It was a dream that I’ve wanted to realize for a long time,” said Ransom.

“When you walk in, there’s a huge kind of atrium or lobby area, and then you go off into the various exhibits, and we’ll be right there in the middle. There’s a little fountain up there, and almost a stage-looking place, where the piano will be brought in and set up. They’ll turn the fountains off for us, of course, so you can hear the music. And I’m also thrilled that before we perform the quintet, that we’ll have Atlanta’s favorite tenor, Timothy Miller, [who] will sing the original song as well.”

The Emory Chamber Music Society’s quintet will perform Franz Schubert’s “The Trout” at the Georgia Aquarium on Oct. 2. More information is available at www.georgiaaquarium.org/events/event/schuberts-trout.