Poem Analysis: Erlking

Topics: Franz Liszt / Pages: 3 (622 words) / Published: Apr 10th, 2014
The great German Lieder use the versatility of a piano and beauty of a poem to set an intimate mood for its audience. Scenes the poem paint are the crux of the lied. Supernatural elements injected into the verses bring the power of the unknown; that is what makes Schubert's "Erlkönig" stirring. The German poem by Goethe opens with a father clutching his feverish child, riding through a windy night. But the child sees a forest spirit, the Erlking, beckoning him to death. His father tries to placate his son's anxiety, only to find him dead before reaching the final destination. THe mystery of the piece is the nature of the Erlking. There is no clear indication of whether the forest spirit is the manifestation of the boy's feverish imaginations or a spirit capable of interacting with he physical world. But this ambiguity would be the best artistic choice to reinforce the emotions of anxiety and desperation. Mostly importantly, the nature of the Erlking, physically or mentally real, does not change the narrative.
What emotions did Franz Schubert want his Lied to impart on the audience? Three elements of the Lied can be searched for Schubert's intentions: words, vocals, and accompaniment. The first emotion Schubert wants to reflect is desperation and anxiety. the opening lines creates a dark ambiance of physical darkness and mental uncertainty. From this foundation of foreboding, the narrative develops with dialogues between the father and son, interrupted by the alluringly soft voice of the Erlking. THe Erlking king creepily interjects with sweetness between verses of desperation. Escalating tension in the son's pleads climaxes at the 7th verse, when the father recognize that his boy's life is hanging on the brink. Vocally, the singer crescendos at the son's lines to show an increase in anxiety. At 1:52, the son's voice becomes noticeably louder, and his second line strains to a whisper to word paint. THe pattern continues onto 2:32, where the son's cries rise to

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