for Vikram Seth's An Equal Music

Tononi violin (1735)

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

J.S, Bach (1685-1750)

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)

"Music, such music, is a sufficient gift."



1. Schubert, "Die Forelle" (2 minutes)

Ian Bostridge, tenor mp3
or Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone: Schubert, "Die Forelle"

musical score

"Die Forelle" is the tune on which the variations of the Trout Quintet are based. (See below.)
     "I am the trout, the angler, the brook, the observer." (An Equal Music, p. 5)

In einem Bächlein helle,
Da schoß in froher Eil
Die [launige]1 Forelle
Vorüber wie ein Pfeil.
Ich stand an dem Gestade
Und sah in süßer Ruh
Des muntern [Fisches]2 Bade
Im klaren Bächlein zu.
Across a clear brook gentle,
There shot in eager haste
The trout, so temperamental;
Quite arrow-like it raced.
I on the shore was gazing
And watched the brook disclose
The merry fish's bathing
To me in sweet repose.
Ein Fischer mit der Rute
Wohl an dem Ufer stand,
Und sah's mit kaltem Blute,
Wie sich das Fischlein wand.
So lang dem Wasser Helle,
So dacht ich, nicht gebricht,
So fängt er die Forelle
Mit seiner Angel nicht.
An angler's reel unrolled
From where he stood below.
He watched with blood most cold
The fish swim to and fro.
So long no stone or sod
Stirred up the water pure
The trout from line and rod
Would stay, I thought, secure.
Doch [plötzlich]3 ward dem Diebe
Die Zeit zu lang. Er macht
Das Bächlein tückisch trübe,
Und eh ich es gedacht,
So zuckte seine Rute,
Das Fischlein zappelt dran,
[Und ich mit regem Blute
Sah die Betrogene an.]4
At length the thief lost patience
And made the brook obscure
With crafty agitations,
And ere I could be sure
The rod had started curving;
The squirming fish was hooked.
With pounding blood observing,
At the betrayed, I looked.
Die ihr am goldenen Quelle
Der sicheren Jugend weilt,
Denkt doch an die Forelle,
Seht ihr Gefahr, so eilt!
Meist fehlt ihr nur aus Mangel
der Klugheit, Mädchen, seht
Verführer mit der Angel!
Sonst blutet ihr zu spät!
You, at the fountain golden,
Of youth, so free from doubt,
Be to the trout beholden;
At danger's sign, clear out!
'Tis oft for want of reason
That maids will shun the straight.
Beware the anglers' treason
Else you may bleed too late!

The Serpentine, London


2. Schubert, "Der Doppelgänger" (4 minutes, An Equal Music, p. 6 & p. 219)

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone: Schubert, "Der Doppelgänger"
musical score

"Der Doppelgänger" (poetry by Heinrich Heine) is one of six songs from Schubert's song cycle,
Die Schwanengesang (Swan Song).

Still ist die Nacht, es ruhen die Gassen,
In diesem Hause wohnte mein Schatz;
Sie hat schon längst die Stadt verlassen,
Doch steht noch das Haus auf demselben Platz.
The night is quiet, the streets are calm,
In this house my beloved once lived:
She has long since left the town,
But the house still stands, here in the same place.
Da steht auch ein Mensch und starrt in die Höhe,
Und ringt die Hände, vor Schmerzensgewalt;
Mir graut es, wenn ich sein Antlitz sehe -
Der Mond zeigt mir meine eigne Gestalt.
A man stands there also and looks to the sky,
And wrings his hands overwhelmed by pain:
Upon seeing his face, I am terrified--
The moon shows me my own form!
Du Doppelgänger! du bleicher Geselle!
Was äffst du nach mein Liebesleid,
Das mich gequält auf dieser Stelle,
So manche Nacht, in alter Zeit?
O you Doppelgänger! you pale comrade!
Why do you ape the pain of my love
Which tormented me upon this spot
So many a night, so long ago?

3. Schubert, "Gute Ruh, gute Ruh" ("Good rest, good rest" )

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone: mp3

"Gute Ruh, gute Ruh" (poetry by Wilhelm Müller) is the last of 20 songs in Schubert's song cycle, Die Schöne Müllerin (The Beautiful Mill Maid). It is a lullaby. (An Equal Music, p. 219)


4. Schubert, "Die Liebe" D. 522 ("Love" )

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone: mp3

"Die Liebe" with poetry by Gottlieb von Leon.
musical score

"Without "Die Liebe", without the help of my friends, how would I have recollected myself?" ( (An Equal Music, p. 242-3)


         Musikverein, Vienna


Bach, Violin Partita #3 in E major, BWV 1006, Preludio (first 4 minutes) Bach, Partita #3
musical score
(An Equal Music, p. 6 )
Partita #3 consists of dance movements that are mostly French in origin: Preludio, Loure, Gavotte en Rondeau, Menuet I and II, Bourrée, and Gigue. The Preludio, which was adapted by Bach for use in two of his cantatas, proceeds almost entirely in brilliant sixteenth notes.

Brahms, String Quartet #1 in C minor, Opus 51
     Allegro Brahms, Quartet #1
"Like many composers of his generation, Brahms held Beethoven in awe, claiming to hear "the footsteps of a giant" behind him. It is in part owing to his consciousness of Beethoven's achievement that he was forty before he published a single symphony or string quartet. The prevalent character of the quartet as a whole is restless and intense. The first movement has an underlying rapid 8th-note motion that persists almost without pause. This rhythm contributes to the questing, somewhat driven quality of the movement." (Misha Amory)

     "I feel no affinity for Brahms, Piers can't stand him, Helen adores him, Billy finds him 'deeply interesting'..." (An Equal Music, p. 11 & p. 290)

Beethoven, String Quintet in C minor, Op. 104
     Allegro con brio mp3
     Andante cantabile con variazioni mp3
     Menuetto: Quasi allegro mp3
     Finale, Prestissimo
The Quintet was originally Piano Trio #3 and later arranged for string quintet. "From the very outset, it sets foot into the turbulent world that Beethoven would later explore in such works as the "Pathétique" Sonata and the Fifth Symphony." (Howard Posner, program notes)
(See An Equal Music, p. 34ff.)


Watson Music Library, Manchester


"It's the weirdest thing, a quartet. I don't know what to compare it to. A marriage? a firm? a platoon under fire? a self-regarding, self-destructive priesthood?      (An Equal Music, p. 199)


CONCERT IN LONDON by the Maggiore Quartet:     (See An Equal Music, p. 59 & 85-90.) Each piece has a fugal movement.

"It is immensely frustrating — a wonderful performance, and not a scrap of newsprint to tell the world it happened." (An Equal Music, p. 91)


1. Haydn, String Quartet in A major, Op. 20 #6
     Allegro di molto e scherzando
     Adagio: Cantabile
     Menuetto: Allegretto
     Fuga a 3 soggetti: Allegro
"The Opus 20 set of quartets was written in 1772 as the composer was coming into his full powers, and is commonly held to be his breakthrough work in the genre he pioneered. In the music of the greats, contrapuntal complexity seems to fill an emotional need (such as emotional intensity in Beethoven, or exultant joy in Mozart). In Haydn, Opus 20, the fugues are reserved for the fourth movements, and create a sense of energy and power, adding emotional and intellectual weight to the finale, which in his previous quartets had been more lightweight." (John Sichel, program notes)

"I love every part of the Haydn... The headlong happiness of the allegro; the lovely adagio...the contrasting minuet and trio, each a mini-cosmos...and the melodious, ungrandiose, various fugue—everything delights me." (An Equal Music, p. 86)



2. Mozart, String Quartet in G major, K.387 ("The Spring"
Allegro vivace assai mp3
     IV. Molto allegro
Composed in 1782 in Vienna, this is the first of the 6 quartets dedicated to Haydn, considered the "father" of the string quartet. As mentioned in An Equal Music, the first movement is surprisingly chromatic, and has a minuet as a second movement (instead of the usual third) with the slow movement third. The fugal theme of four whole notes in the finale points ahead to the finale of Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony of 1788, a movement which also begins with four whole notes that are used in a fugal fashion, in the coda,

"In the fugal — or, rather, fugue-ish — last movement, it's the non-fugal bits that really come alive, and...take flight." (An Equal Music, p. 87)



3. Beethoven, String Quartet #14 in c-sharp minor, Opus 131 mp3
     1. Adagio ma non troppo e molto espressivo

     2. Allegro molto vivace
     3. Allegretto moderato — Adagio
     4. Andante ma non troppo e molto cantabile—Piu mosso—Andante moderato e
          lusinghiero – Adagio – Allegretto – Adagio, ma non troppo e semplice – Allegretto

     5. Presto
     6. Adagio
quasi un poco andante   
     7. Allegro
Of the 16 quartets by Beethoven, this is one of the most beloved of the late quartets, the composer's favorite, and the last music Schubert wanted to hear before he died, saying, "After this, what is left for us to write?" The fourth movement is a set of variations, and the final movement quotes the fugue theme from the first movement, foreshadowing late 19th century cyclical works. "Beethoven seems to have designed Op. 131 to embrace a vast range of forms, textures and feeling, ranging from the unearthly elegy of the opening fugue to the street tunes and knockabout humour of the Presto, from the gliding, quizzical second movement to the truculence and lyrical pathos of the finale." (Richard Wignmore)



4. (encore) Bach, Contrapunctus 1 from the Art of the Fugue, BWV 1080
string quartet: 4-voice fugue in 3 minutes (An Equal Music, pp. 61, 89, 111, 301ff, 343, 368, 380) mp3
     or on organ contrapunctus 1
     musical score
     Summary analysis of Art of Fugue including contrapunctus 1

"...we practise the four-minute encore for more than an hour. We sink into its strange, tangled, unearthly beauty. At times I cease to breathe. It is unlike anything we as a quartet have ever played before." (An Equal Music, p. 61)


Wigmore Hall, London



Mozart, Sonata for piano in C major, K. 330
     II.  Andante cantabile

"With the first four notes, I am taken back to the student concert in Vienna where we first met." (An Equal Music, p. 133)


Mozart, Sonata for violin & piano in e minor, K. 304/300c
 Allegro mp3
     II. Tempo di Menuetto

K. 304 was composed in 1778 while Mozart was in Paris. The piece was written during the year when Mozart's mother died, and the mood of the sonata is a reflection of this. The piece also shows a new interest in balancing the violin and piano as equal partners; in earlier music the piano dominated.
(An Equal Music, p. 135-6)
Musical Score



CONCERT IN VIENNA by the Maggiore Quartet:
(See An Equal Music, pp. 238ff.).


1. Schubert, Quartettsatz in c minor, D 703
     Allegro assai mp3
      (9 minutes)
Ushering in the set of three great string quartets Schubert wrote at the end of his life is an unfinished work, the Quartettsatz (quartet movement) in c minor, written in 1820. This powerful movement was originally intended to be the first movement of a full quartet, and there exists a sketch for the opening of a second movement as well. It is not known why Schubert never completed the work, but the movement he did write is a masterpiece fully worthy of being in the company of the later, last three quartets." (Mark Steinberg)

"...we are shimmering away like manic bees at the start of the Quartettsatz." (An Equal Music, p. 238)



2. Schubert, Piano Quintet in A major, D 667 "The Trout"
     Allegro vivace
     Scherzo: Presto
     Theme and Variations: Andantino mp3    (Compare with the song, "Die Forelle")
     Finale, Allegro giusto

The "Trout" Quintet was written in 1819 when Schubert was 22 but was not published until after his death. Instead of piano with string quartet (2 violins, viola and cello), this piece is for piano, violin, viola, cello, and double bass. It is also unusual in having five movements instead of the usual four.
(An Equal Music, pp. 191ff, p. 239-40)

" ...and from all five of us the first glorious chord of the Trout Quintet sounds out into the hall... And now this last movement which Billy says can only work through frenzy."



3. Schubert, String Quintet in C major, D 956
     I. Allegro ma non troppo mp3
     II. Adagio mp3
Scherzo: Presto — Trio; Andante sostenuto
     IV. Allegretto
The great C major quintet, Schubert's only string quintet and probably his greatest chamber work, is often described as "sublime," especially the slow second movement which is nothing short of magical. It is unusual in having two cellos instead of two violas, giving it a darker quality than if it had two violas. The piece was written in 1826, two months before Schubert's death and was not performed or published until the 1850s.

"The last glimmer of the day is extinguished with the slow, grave trio. Noble, brooding, sorrowful, it helps one bear the world, and all fear of what may come in the sunless night." (An Equal Music, pp. 242)


Musikverein, Brahms Saal, Vienna



Vivaldi, "Manchester Sonata" #1 for violin and piano in C major, BV 3
     III. Largo

"Discovered by Michael Talbot in 1973, the 12 sonatas of the Manchester manuscript are generally considered the high point of the composer's chamber music. Talbot reckons that Vivaldi assembled them to present to Cardinal Ottoboni, the great Roman patron of the arts on the occasion of the cardinal's visit to Venice, his birthplace, in 1726." The four movements would have been played by violin and continuo (harpsichord and a bass instrument such as cello).
(An Equal Music, pp. 176, 269, 359)

"We play a couple of Vivaldi's Manchester Sonatas together. My Tononi sings them ecstatically, as if to say it remembers these well from the days when it played in Vivaldi's own concerts. ...nothing lovelier has ever been written for the instrument, and my violin clearly feels it has been written personally for it — for it to play here." (An Equal Music, pp. 176 & 269)


Vaughan Williams, The Lark Ascending (16 minutes) mp3
The Lark Ascending was written in 1914 and was voted Britain's most popular piece of classical music in 2014. (Read article in The Guardian about the piece.) It was inspired by the poem of George Meredith of the same name and is essentially a one-movement concerto for violin and orchestra with many rhapsodic interludes for solo violin.
Also note the quotations of first Wordsworth's "To a Skylark" and then Shelley's "Ode to a Skylark" and the beginning of Meredith's "The Lark Ascending" (given complete below) on p. 319 of An Equal Music plus a final reference to the piece on p.379.
lark songs

He rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound

Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake,
All intervolv'd and spreading wide,
Like water-dimples down a tide
Where ripple ripple overcurls
And eddy into eddy whirls;
A press of hurried notes that run
So fleet they scarce are more than one,
Yet changingly the trills repeat
And linger ringing while they fleet,
Sweet to the quick o' the ear, and dear
To her beyond the handmaid ear,
Who sits beside our inner springs,
Too often dry for this he brings,
Which seems the very jet of earth
At sight of sun, her musci's mirth,
As up he wings the spiral stair,
A song of light, and pierces air
With fountain ardor, fountain play,
To reach the shining tops of day,
And drink in everything discern'd
An ecstasy to music turn'd,
Impell'd by what his happy bill
Disperses; drinking, showering still,
Unthinking save that he may give
His voice the outlet, there to live
Renew'd in endless notes of glee,
So thirsty of his voice is he,
For all to hear and all to know
That he is joy, awake, aglow,
The tumult of the heart to hear
Through pureness filter'd crystal-clear,
And know the pleasure sprinkled bright
By simple singing of delight,
Shrill, irreflective, unrestrain'd,
Rapt, ringing, on the jet sustain'd
Without a break, without a fall,
Sweet-silvery, sheer lyrical,
Perennial, quavering up the chord
Like myriad dews of sunny sward
That trembling into fulness shine,

And sparkle dropping argentine; Such wooing as the ear receives
From zephyr caught in choric leaves
Of aspens when their chattering net
Is flush'd to white with shivers wet; And such the water-spirit's chime
On mountain heights in morning's prime,
Too freshly sweet to seem excess,
Too animate to need a stress;
But wider over many heads
The starry voice ascending spreads,
Awakening, as it waxes thin,
The best in us to him akin;
And every face to watch him rais'd,
Puts on the light of children prais'd,
So rich our human pleasure ripes
When sweetness on sincereness pipes,
Though nought be promis'd from the seas,
But only a soft-ruffling breeze
Sweep glittering on a still content,
Serenity in ravishment

For singing till his heaven fills,
'T is love of earth that he instils,
And ever winging up and up,
Our valley is his golden cup,
And he the wine which overflows
To lift us with him as he goes:
The woods and brooks, the sheep and kine
He is, the hills, the human line,
The meadows green, the fallows brown,
The dreams of labor in the town;
He sings the sap, the quicken'd veins;
The wedding song of sun and rains
He is, the dance of children, thanks
Of sowers, shout of primrose-banks,
And eye of violets while they breathe;
All these the circling song will wreathe,
And you shall hear the herb and tree,
The better heart of men shall see,
Shall feel celestially, as long

As you crave nothing save the song.Was never voice of ours could say
Our inmost in the sweetest way,
Like yonder voice aloft, and link
All hearers in the song they drink: Our wisdom speaks from failing blood,
Our passion is too full in flood, We want the key of his wild note
Of truthful in a tuneful throat,
The song seraphically free
Of taint of personality,
So pure that it salutes the suns
The voice of one for millions,
In whom the millions rejoice
For giving their one spirit voice.

Yet men have we, whom we revere,
Now names, and men still housing here,
Whose lives, by many a battle-dint
Defaced, and grinding wheels on flint,
Yield substance, though they sing not, sweet
For song our highest heaven to greet:
Whom heavenly singing gives us new,
Enspheres them brilliant in our blue,
From firmest base to farthest leap,
Because their love of Earth is deep,
And they are warriors in accord
With life to serve and pass reward,
So touching purest and so heard
In the brain's reflex of yon bird;
Wherefore their soul in me, or mine,
Through self-forgetfulness divine,
In them, that song aloft maintains,
To fill the sky and thrill the plains
With showerings drawn from human stores,
As he to silence nearer soars,
Extends the world at wings and dome,
More spacious making more our home,
Till lost on his aërial rings
In light, and then the fancy sings.


Bach, Contrapunctus 1 from the Art of the Fugue, BWV 1080 (piano: same 4 -voice fugue as above) mp3
     musical score
     Summary analysis of Art of Fugue including contrapunctus 1
     (An Equal Music, pp. 61, 89, 111, 301ff, 343, 368, 380)

Canal, Venice
                         "Vivaldi's Church", Venice


Carpaccio, Vision of St. Augustine, Venice (An Equal Music, p. 278)


detail of Maltese dog





Musical Scores: All the music here (except the Vaughan Williams) is in the public domain and available for free online. One excellent resource is the Petrucci Music Library (http://imslp.org).

Further reading: A wonderful non-fiction book is Indivisible by Four by Arnold Steinhardt, the brilliant first violinist of the Guarneri String Quartet, who writes wonderfully about the quartet's musical life, rehearsing and touring the world. Some of their adventures (especially one in Russia) are very funny.