Schubert - Erlkönig
Type of Spiritual Experience
The compositions of 1819 and 1820 show a marked advance in development and maturity of style. The unfinished oratorio Lazarus (D. 689) was begun in February; later followed, amid a number of smaller works, by the hymn "Der 23. Psalm" (D. 706), the octet "Gesang der Geister über den Wassern" (D. 714), the Quartettsatz in C minor (D. 703), and the Wanderer Fantasy in C major for piano (D. 760). Of most notable interest is the staging in 1820 of two of Schubert's operas: Die Zwillingsbrüder (D. 647) appeared at the Theater am Kärntnertor on 14 June, and Die Zauberharfe (D. 644) appeared at the Theater an der Wien on 21 August. Hitherto, his larger compositions (apart from his masses) had been restricted to the amateur orchestra at the Gundelhof, a society which grew out of the quartet-parties at his home. Now he began to assume a more prominent position, addressing a wider public. Publishers, however, remained distant, with Anton Diabelli hesitantly agreeing to print some of his works on commission. The first seven opus numbers (all songs) appeared on these terms; then the commission ceased, and he began to receive the pittances which were all that the great publishing houses ever paid him. The situation improved somewhat in March 1821 when Vogl performed the song "Der Erlkönig" (D. 328) at a concert that was extremely well received.
A description of the experience
Music by Franz Schubert. Poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (see below for translation).
Who rides so late through the windy night?
It is the father and his child.
He holds the boy,
Warm and safe.
Son, why do you hide your face in fear?
Father, do you not see the Elfking?
With his crown and train?
Son, it's just the mist.
Come with me, lovely child
We'll play games
There are flowers on the beach and
My mother has golden clothes
Father, can't you hear
What the Elfking is promising me?
Be calm, my boy --
It's only the wind in the leaves.
Lovely boy, will you come with me?
My daughters will wait on you
My daughters will sing and dance for you
and rock you to sleep.
Father, do you not see
The Elfking's daughters there?
Son, it's the old willows shining
In the moonlight.
I love you -- I'm aroused by your beautiful form
And if you won't come, I will take you by force
Father, father, he has grabbed me.
The Elfking has hurt me.
The father shudders. He rides fast,
the groaning boy in his arms,
Anxious, he reaches the farm.
In his arms, the boy is dead.
(Translation by Daniel Norman)