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Franz Schubert: Erlkönig

(Arranger: Max Reger)

  • in G minor
  • for medium voice and orchestra
  • 1 1 2 1 - 2 0 0 0 - timp, str
  • Duration: 4’
  • Instrumentation details:
    1. clarinet in B
    2. clarinet in B
    1. horn in F
    2. horn in F
    violin I
    violin II
  • Composer: Franz Schubert
  • Arranger: Max Reger
  • Text author: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Work introduction

Georg Friedrich Haas wrote about Erlkönig:

“Goethe’s Erlkönig is one of the most horrifying poems in all of world literature. At its centre is an unspeakable tragedy, the death of a child. Also shocking is the language of the poem: it omits any description of the boy’s suffering.  The very objectivity of Goethe’s language is chilling.

In Schubert’s setting of Erlkönig, he makes a fundamental change to the poem by using music to illustrate the story from the perspective of the dying child. The boy’s emotions - helplessness, fear, desperation, pain - are brought to life in the song and its piano accompaniment. Schubert’s contribution is to add a measure of empathy for the stricken child.”

Near the end of his short life, Reger undertook a number of orchestral arrangements of Schubert Lieder. The scoring attests to the German composer’s mastery; the instrumental voices remain in the background, coming to the fore only at moments of dramatic outburst, leaving the listener with the impression of hearing scenes from music dramas.

Reger’s important arrangements have enriched the repertoire of orchestra Lieder.


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