>> Thursday, October 28, 2010
Franz Schubert composed his Lied, "Der Erlkönig", for solo voice and piano in 1815, setting text from the Goethe poem. Schubert revised the song three times before publishing his fourth version in 1821 as his Opus 1; it was cataloged by Otto Erich Deutsch as D. 328 in his 1951 catalog of Schubert's works. The song was first performed in concert on December 1, 1820, at a private gathering in Vienna, and received its public premiere on March 7, 1821, at Vienna's Theater am Kärntnertor.
The four characters in the song — narrator, father, son, and the Erlking — are usually all sung by a single vocalist; occasionally, however, the work is performed by four individual vocalists (or three, with one taking the parts of both the narrator and the Erlking). Schubert placed each character largely in a different vocal range, and each has his own rhythmic nuances; in addition, most singers endeavor to use a different vocal coloration for each part.
The Narrator lies in the middle range and is in minor mode.
The Father lies in the low range and sings both in minor mode and major mode.
The Son lies in a high range, also in minor mode, representing the fright of the child.
The Erlking's vocal line undulates up and down to arpeggiated accompaniment resulting in striking contrast and is in the major mode. The Erlking lines are typically sung pianissimo.
A fifth character, the horse, is implied in rapid triplet figures played by the pianist throughout the work, mimicking hoof beats.
Who rides, so late, through night and wind?
It is the father with his child.
He has the boy well in his arm
He holds him safely, he keeps him warm.
"My son, why do you hide your face so anxiously?"
"Father, do you not see the Erl king?
The Erl king with crown and tail?"
"My son, it's a wisp of fog."
"You lovely child, come, go with me!
Many a beautiful game I'll play with you;
Many colourful flowers are on the shore,
My mother has many golden robes."
"My father, my father, and don't you hear
What Erl king is quietly promising me?"
"Be calm, stay calm, my child;
The wind is rustling through withered leaves."
"Do you want to come with me, dear boy?
My daughters shall wait on you fine;
My daughters will lead the nightly dance,
And rock and dance and sing you to sleep."
"My father, my father, and don't you see there
Erl king's daughters in the gloomy place?"
"My son, my son, I see it clearly:
The old willows they shimmer so grey."
"I love you, your beautiful form entices me;
And if you're not willing, I shall use force."
"My father, my father, he's grabbing me now!
Erl king has done me some harm!"
The father shudders; he swiftly rides on,
He holds the moaning child in his arms,
is hardly able to reach his farm;
In his arms, the child was dead.
I have recently been introduced to a new baritone (actually, he's not new, only new to me), who in my humble opinion rivals the great German baritone, Fisher Dieskau. Romanian baritone, Dan Iordachescu, was in his prime at the same time as Dieskau, but because of the political situation in Romania at the time, his opportunities for world recognition were extremely limited. Through the miracle of Facebook, I have recently met one of his lovely daughters, Cristina, who is quite a singer in her own right and when she first sent me this YouTube video of her father singing Der Erlkönig, I was simply blown away.