Title: Shadowy fish
I mysterious, hypnotic, entrancing
II slow, with a heavy heart
III delicate, mysterious
One of my favourite pieces of music as a child – and I still love it – was Schubert’s ‘Trout’ Quintet. It was partly the wonderful music, of course, so light-hearted and joyful on the surface, yet with twists and turns and murky depths of feeling too. But I also liked the picture of a trout on the album sleeve – such beautiful creatures! Last year, while resident at the Villa Concordia in Bamberg, as I took daily walks along the Regnitz river, I observed the trout as they calmly hovered and swayed in the shallows… But if they felt my shadow they were gone in a split second! If you ever get a chance to look closely at brown trout you see that they are covered in myriad brown/red spots of varied sizes; camouflage I suppose. Now those patterns seem to be mixing in my mind with the shifting colours of the spectral arpeggios that flow through this little piece.
It’s a watery piece, with rippling waves, shimmering surfaces and textural veils around the melodies which flow through it. But it also takes inspiration (and it’s title) from a Pablo Neruda poem: the third stanza of Every Day You Play includes the line “The sky is a net crammed with shadowy fish”. There’s no singer, but I imagine an invisible or imaginary voice somewhere behind (or beyond) the music, and so the score includes a melodic setting of the text. Even though this is not performed by a voice, the melody is always played by the ensemble – especially high register cello – making the piece something like the inverse of a ‘song without words’.