He was educated at Rugby and at University College, Oxford, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1856, a Master of Arts in 1858, and was awarded a Doctorate in Divinity in 1883.
He additionally translated oratorios by Beethoven, Brahms, Dvořák, Gounod, Liszt, Saint-Saëns, Schumann and Weber, as well as operas by Mozart, Gluck and Wagner. He is interred in the cloisters in Westminster Abbey. Troutbeck had a plaque erected in the Troutbeck Chapel at Street Mary's on the Hill, Chester, acknowledging ancestors buried there, inter alia Sir William Troutbeck, Chamberlain of Chester.
John Troutbeck was the son of George Troutbeck of Dacre, Cumberland.
Troutbeck was ordained in 1855. His clerical career included appointment as Precentor of Manchester Cathedral, 1865–1869, as a Minor Canon at Westminster Abbey, from 1869, and as Chaplain in Ordinary to Queen Victoria.
Troutbeck was also Secretary to the New Testament Revision Company (1870–1881). Troutbeck has been credited as a "prolific" and "indefatigable" translator of continental European oratorio and opera texts into English.
All of Bach’s major choral works, including the Christmas Oratorio (1874), the Magnificat (1874), and the Street Matthew and Street John Passions (1894 and 1896 respectively), were translated by him, for the music publisher Novello.
Until 1999 Troutbeck’s Christmas Oratorio (1874) was the only complete English version. The same pertained to the Magnificat until a new edition was published in 2000. Also brought by Troutbeck to English-speaking singers and audiences were, amongst others, Beethoven’s Mount of Olives, Karel Bendl"s Water Sprite"s Revenge, Brahms’s Song of Destiny, Félicien David"s The Desert, Dvořák’s Mass in Doctorate, Patriotic Hymn, Spectre"s Bride and Street Ludmilla, Gounod’s Redemption, and Weber’s Jubilee Cantata.
His opera translations included Mozart"s Cosi fan tutte and Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Gluck"s Orfeo, Iphigénie en Tauride, and Iphigénie en Aulide, and Wagner"s Der fliegende Holländer.
Troutbeck was also a compiler of psalters and hymnals including the Manchester Psalter and Chant Book (1867), the Westminster Abbey Hymn Book (1883) and the Catholic Paragraph Psalter (1894). John Troutbeck’s son, also named John Troutbeck, was the Westminster Coroner who opened the inquest, in October 1888, on the remains of a woman discovered in a vault of a new police office on the Thames Embankment – the case known as the Whitehall Mystery.