"Trout" Piano Trio in G Major, Op.330 No.2
Carl Bohm (1844-1920) was certainly very well-known during his life time. Yet today, his name brings nothing but blank stares. He was one of the leading German song writers of the 19th century and is regularly ranked among a select few after Schubert. Literally dozens of his songs achieved world-wide fame. Among them are such works as: Still as the Night, Twilight, May Bells, Enfant Cheri and The Fountain, just to name a few. Nowadays it is virtually impossible to find any information about him in the standard reference sources although the Oxford Companion to Music tells us, "A German composer of great fecundity and the highest salability...He occupied an important position in the musical commonwealth inasmuch as his publisher, Simrock, declared that the profits on his compositions provided the capital for the publication of those of Brahms."
Bohm, like Schubert, was far more than just a song writer, composing in most genres. His chamber music, mostly quartets and piano trios, were extremely popular not only amongst amateurs but also among touring professional groups who were always in need of a sure-fire audience pleaser. Bohm's specialty was music in a lighter vein and no one would ever confuse it with the dark, brooding and introspective works of Brahms. There is always something to be said for a work which listeners can immediately appreciate. The Piano Trio in G, Op.330 No.2 certainly fills this bill.
In three movements, the opening movement, Allegro moderato, has for its second theme the famous melody of Schubert's song The Trout. Is this a travesty? Hardly. Remember Brahms' response when an audience member ran up to him after a concert to chastise him for borrowing a theme from Mendelssohn. "Any fool can see that, but look what I did with it!", Brahms replied. Composers have, from time immemorial, been borrowing each others themes and Bohm's treatment is not a mere restatement of the melody. He takes it and teasingly varies it, eventually merging it into the buoyant main theme. The lovely and unusual second movement, Duo, Adagio molto espressivo, could just as easily have been vocal duet. The short but catchy finale, Allegro, is a lively affair which provides a satisfying denouement to this light-hearted but highly effective trio. This work will appeal to amateurs of all stripes and provides no technical difficulties. The first movement would make a suitable encore for professional trios.