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First line:
Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind?
author of text

Reichardt’s Erlkönig was published in the Lyrische Gedichte of 1794. The music (in 3/8 and G minor) is marked Sehr lebhaft und schauerlich. The passage where the Erl King speaks is a monotone during which the accompaniment takes up the vocal melody heard at the beginning. The effect is of a breathless recitation of the poem where the singer, mostly confined to a narrow part of the stave, scarcely seems to be singing at all.

This song was the subject of a detailed discussion in a letter from Felix Mendelssohn to Frau von Pereira in 1831. Mendelssohn approves of Reichardt’s way of recounting the tale as if it were a ghost story told under the breath. (He knew Schubert’s setting perfectly well by this time, but did not consider it worthy of comment.) Mendelssohn writes that the poem would stir him even more if he were simply allowed to read it in silence.

comparative Schubert listening:
Erlkönig D328. October (?) 1815

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2006


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