What is a lied?
During the Romantic era, German composers began setting famous poems to music. These songs were called lieds (or lieder), and they're performed by a vocal soloist with instrumental accompaniment (typically a piano). Franz Schubert was the king of the lieds, writing over 600 of them!
Who is the Erlkönig?
For this lied, Schubert borrowed the text from a poem by the writer Goethe. The poem tells the story of a the Erlking–an evil elf creature who kills children in the woods–who stalks a young boy and his father riding a horse at night. As they journey, the boy repeatedly asks his father if he notices the Erlking, but the father believes his son is only mistaking the fog and wind. Soon, though, he discovers it is too late... when they arrive at their destination, the boy is dead.
What should you listen for?
Pay attention to the thundering piano, meant to mimic the horse's running footsteps. Even if you don't speak German, you can feel the tense emotions as the singer coveys each character's part of the story. In fact, the verses switch between the boy, the father, and the Erlkönig himself. Check out the lyrics (and their translation):
Listen to the famous lied in the video below! We love how the spooky shadow puppets bring this famous story to life.