Hyperion Records

Erlkönig, D328
First line:
Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind?
October (?) 1815; published in 1821 as Op 1
author of text
1782; from the play Die Fischerin; after a Danish folk legend

'Schubert: The Complete Songs' (CDS44201/40)
Schubert: The Complete Songs
MP3 £130.00FLAC £130.00ALAC £130.00Buy by post £150.00 CDS44201/40  40CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)  
'Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 8 – Sarah Walker' (CDJ33008)
Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 8 – Sarah Walker
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDJ33008  Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40  
'Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 24' (CDJ33024)
Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 24
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDJ33024  Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40  
'The Ballad Singer' (CDA67830)
The Ballad Singer
'Schubert: An introduction to The Hyperion Schubert Edition' (HYP200)
Schubert: An introduction to The Hyperion Schubert Edition
MP3 £4.50FLAC £4.50ALAC £4.50 HYP200  Super-budget price sampler — Deleted  
Track 18 on CDJ33008 [4'14] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 14 on CDS44201/40 CD11 [4'14] 40CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
Track 11 on CDJ33024 [4'22] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 15 on CDS44201/40 CD10 [4'22] 40CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
Track 15 on HYP200 [4'14] Super-budget price sampler — Deleted

Erlkönig, D328
To comment upon this song is almost unnecessary as it is perhaps the best known of all Schubert Lieder. He published it proudly (but not without trouble, and the intervention of his friends) as his Opus 1, and, almost more than any other work, it helped spread and solidify his reputation, in Vienna in his lifetime, and throughout the world after his death. At the end of his life even the wary old Goethe, who had ignored Schubert's attempts to contact him when the composer was alive, was bowled over by a performance of the song by the formidable Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient. The song, as Schwarzkopf also proved, can be the domain of a female singer. In Schubert's lifetime it was one of the sure-fire successes of the composer's chosen interpreter Johann Michael Vogl, who nevertheless insisted that a few bars were inserted in one of the song's piano interludes to enable him to catch his breath; (these bars remain, probably to the gratitude of all subsequent singers—would someone had begged the composer to add a few more bars of spinning interlude before Gretchen's final 'Meine Ruh ist hin' in his Opus 2!). The musical incarnations of the poem (its title derived probably from Goethe's teacher Herder, who in turn took it from the Danish) started off in a humble and undramatic way. The character of Dortchen in Goethe's Singspiel Die Fischerin is made to sing the piece almost automatically, a bailad to be repetitively intoned in almost any situation. Composers, including Goethe's mistress, the actress Corona Schröter, and the ever faithful Reichhardt, set it with alacrity, and one can see why. The poem is perfect for music. It tells a spell-binding and suspenseful story with the greatest economy of means. The rhythm of the poem rolls along in ite own right, and the characters spring to life with the intensity of folksong and the sophistication of great man-made art. The poem was waiting for Schubert, freshly crowned with his ballad-writing baccalaureat (syllabus: Zumsteeg, Zelter, a dash of Salieri), to take it in his youthful embrace. The time-honoured mixture of recitative and arioso in ballad composition is swept aside in favour of an almost frightening organic unity. Only at the very end does Schubert make use of recitative to the most devastating effect. There were those conservatives who felt taken for a ride and who heard an act of rape, but the young and those in tune with a new age knew that the pressing of hard, rude, muscle (whether of horseflesh or pianist's racked torso) was necessary for the words to catch fire, tinder as they had always been for such a composer's inflammable genius.

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

Track-specific metadata
Click track numbers opposite to select

Details for CDJ33008 track 18
Recording date
31 May 1989
Recording venue
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Mark Brown
Recording engineer
Antony Howell
Hyperion usage
  1. Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 8 – Sarah Walker (CDJ33008)
    Disc 1 Track 18
    Release date: December 1990
    Deletion date: February 2010
    Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
  2. Schubert: The Complete Songs (CDS44201/40)
    Disc 11 Track 14
    Release date: October 2005
    40CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
  3. Schubert: An introduction to The Hyperion Schubert Edition (HYP200)
    Disc 1 Track 15
    Release date: January 1997
    Deletion date: December 2009
    Super-budget price sampler — Deleted
   English   Français   Deutsch