I am a huge music nerd. For real.  I listen to all sorts of music. I majored in music at Union University.  While at Union, I greatly enjoyed the various music literature and music history courses.  Being a history nerd as well, I appreciate the interrelatedness of music development and historical trends.  I do enjoy many types of Classical music (Classical, Romantic, Impressionistic, even some Second Viennese School).  I especially enjoy the German Lieder.  I love Schubert and Schumann.  I sang a good portion of the Dichterliebe by Schumann in my recital.  I always wanted to perform Schubert’s Der Erlkönig. However, I also liked my pianist and didn’t want her to choke me.

Der Erlkönig is one of Franz Schubert’s greatest works.  It is a setting of a Goethe poem. The poem is about a man riding on a horse carrying his sick child as the child sees/hallucinates a really creepy impish creature.  Schubert represents the galloping horse in the piano, hence why all pianists hate this piece. The singer portrays the narrator, father, son, and Erlkönig. Here is a video of my favorite recording of Der Erlkönig with the German words and English adaptation included below.

German Adaptation

Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind?
Es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind;
Er hat den Knaben wohl in dem Arm,
Er faßt ihn sicher, er hält ihn warm.

“Mein Sohn, was birgst du so bang dein Gesicht?” –
“Siehst, Vater, du den Erlkönig nicht?
Den Erlenkönig mit Kron und Schweif?” –
“Mein Sohn, es ist ein Nebelstreif.”

“Du liebes Kind, komm, geh mit mir!
Gar schöne Spiele spiel’ ich mit dir;
Manch’ bunte Blumen sind an dem Strand,
Meine Mutter hat manch gülden Gewand.” –

“Mein Vater, mein Vater, und hörest du nicht,
Was Erlenkönig mir leise verspricht?” –
“Sei ruhig, bleibe ruhig, mein Kind;
In dürren Blättern säuselt der Wind.” –

“Willst, feiner Knabe, du mit mir gehen?
Meine Töchter sollen dich warten schön;
Meine Töchter führen den nächtlichen Reihn,
Und wiegen und tanzen und singen dich ein.” –

“Mein Vater, mein Vater, und siehst du nicht dort
Erlkönigs Töchter am düstern Ort?” –
“Mein Sohn, mein Sohn, ich seh es genau:
Es scheinen die alten Weiden so grau. –”

“Ich liebe dich, mich reizt deine schöne Gestalt;
Und bist du nicht willig, so brauch ich Gewalt.” –
“Mein Vater, mein Vater, jetzt faßt er mich an!
Erlkönig hat mir ein Leids getan!” –

Dem Vater grauset’s, er reitet geschwind,
Er hält in Armen das ächzende Kind,
Erreicht den Hof mit Müh’ und Not;
In seinen Armen das Kind war tot.

Who rides there so late through the night dark and drear?
The father it is, with his infant so dear;
He holdeth the boy tightly clasp’d in his arm,
He holdeth him safely, he keepeth him warm.

“My son, wherefore seek’st thou thy face thus to hide?”
“Look, father, the Alder King is close by our side!
Dost see not the Alder King, with crown and with tail?”
“My son, ’tis the mist rising over the plain.”

“Oh, come, thou dear infant! oh come thou with me!
For many a game I will play there with thee;
On my beach, lovely flowers their blossoms unfold,
My mother shall grace thee with garments of gold.”

“My father, my father, and dost thou not hear
The words that the Alder King now breathes in mine ear?”
“Be calm, dearest child, thy fancy deceives;
the wind is sighing through withering leaves.”

“Wilt go, then, dear infant, wilt go with me there?
My daughters shall tend thee with sisterly care
My daughters by night on the dance floor you lead,
They’ll cradle and rock thee, and sing thee to sleep.”

“My father, my father, and dost thou not see,
How the Alder King is showing his daughters to me?”
“My darling, my darling, I see it aright,
‘Tis the aged grey willows deceiving thy sight.”

“I love thee, I’m charm’d by thy beauty, dear boy!
And if thou aren’t willing, then force I’ll employ.”
“My father, my father, he seizes me fast,
For sorely the Alder King has hurt me at last.”

The father now gallops, with terror half wild,
He holds in his arms the shuddering child;
He reaches his farmstead with toil and dread, –
The child in his arms lies motionless, dead.

I also love folk and Americana music.  One band I have really enjoyed the past couple of years is the Carolina Chocolate Drops.  Their website describes their style:

With their 2010 Nonesuch debut, Genuine Negro Jig—which garnered a Best Traditional Folk Album Grammy last year—the Carolina Chocolate Drops proved that the old-time, fiddle and banjo-based music they’d so scrupulously researched and passionately performed could be a living, breathing, ever-evolving sound. Starting with material culled from the Piedmont region of the Carolinas, they sought to freshly interpret this work, not merely recreate it, highlighting the central role African-Americans played in shaping our nation’s popular music from its beginnings more than a century ago. The virtuosic trio’s approach was provocative and revelatory. Their concerts, The New York Times declared, were “an end-to-end display of excellence… They dip into styles of Southern black music from the 1920s and ’30s—string-band music, jug-band music, fife and drum, early jazz—and beam their curiosity outward. They make short work of their instructive mission and spend their energy on things that require it: flatfoot dancing, jug playing, shouting.”

Carolina Chocolate Drops

The members of this trio are all excellent musicians. They play a gritty, old sound that I find fascinating.  You might wonder, what on earth do the Carolina Chocolate Drops have to do with Franz Schubert and Der Erlkönig? You will find the answer below:

That’s right. This is a setting of Der Erlkönig. I love this reimagined telling of Goethe’s poem.  Don Flemons (of the Carolina Chocolate Drops) captures the same rushed feel of Schubert with his banjo adaptation. Yet, it feels completely new.

This setting of the Earl King has awakened in me a desire to hear more folksy adaptations of classical works.  I would be particularly interested in a setting of Berlioz’s  Symphonie Fantastique. I think it could be brilliant with a good Irishy/bluegrass feel with some lyrics from the point of view of the protagonist along with some incorporation of some of Berlioz’s motives.  Are ya’ll familiar with any folk/bluegrass/americana renditions of any other classical works? Please let me know.

Until later friends…

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