The boy's fevered terror, and the father's stoic attempts to hide his own worst fears that he will lose his son, are remarkable enough. But the depiction of sweet, reasonable and honeyed evil is something new and sinister. This is not the voice and demeanour of a conventional villain, but that of a torturer with exquisite manners, a person who does the unspeakably cruel with a smile on his lips and in his eyes the psychopathic gleam of an embellished vocal line in the major key, empty of joy and devoid of truth. This is the seductive evil of Peter Quint luring Miles to a spiritual abyss, and it is perhaps in the ability to portray the defilement of innocence that Schubert and Britten have something else in common. Erlkönig is one of those songs that defies age (the composer's, particularly) and defines an age. Like Beethoven's Fifth Symphony it appeals to the great unwashed and the squeaky-clean in equal measure, to those who see something symbolic in the poem, and to those who simply love a rattling good yarn excitingly told. It was that rare thing: a hit that absolutely deserved to be. The four versions vary in this and that detail. We love Schubert ali the more that in one of these he re-writes the fiendish piano triplets as simple quaver duplets. He found it hard for his own piano technique to keep pace with his demands as a composer. There were, however, certain compensations. The composition of this song was also certainly the moment when he knew that no virtuoso pianist whether he was called Hummel, Moscheles, or the Liszt and Horowitz of the future, could hope to match him or play a stronger musical hand.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1990
Other recordings available for download
|Gerald Finley (baritone), Julius Drake (piano)|
|Christine Schäfer (soprano), John Mark Ainsley (tenor), Michael George (bass), Graham Johnson (piano)|
Other albums featuring this work
Schubert: An introduction to The Hyperion Schubert Edition
HYP200 Super-budget price sampler — Deleted