Le roi des aulnes (Der Erkonig)
by Franz Schubert
Transcribed by M. Lavignolle
for 6 flutes and cello or 5 flutes, alto, and cello
Erlkönig is a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It depicts the death of a child assailed by a supernatural being, the Erlking or “Erlkönig“. It was originally composed by Goethe as part of a 1782 Singspiel entitled Die Fischerin.
The poem tells the tale of a father and son riding on horseback in the forest, when they are confronted by the specter of the evil Erlking.
As the poem unfolds, the son seems to see and hear beings his father does not; the reader cannot know if the father is indeed aware of their presence, but he chooses to comfort his son, asserting reassuringly naturalistic explanations for what the child sees – a wisp of fog, rustling leaves, shimmering willows. Finally, the child shrieks that he has been attacked. The father rides faster to a neighboring castle. There, he recognizes that the boy is dead.