Johan Smith Plays Der Erlkönig by Schubert

Johan Smith performs his own arrangement of the song Der Erlkönig by Franz Schubert (1787–1828). This comes via his YouTube channel. Recorded at Alfred Cortot Hall in Nyon, Switzerland. Originally a lieder (German artsong) for voice and piano. I don’t usually post videos of arrangements that have to reduce so much, especially of lieder but Smith deserves credit here. It’s a great arrangement and solid playing with an excellent hold on the accompaniment, dramatic shaping, all while delivering the melodic lines as well. Mertz would be proud (Johann Kaspar Mertz also arranged Schubert lieder that are performed quite often).

Erlkönig is a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It depicts the death of a child assailed by a supernatural being, the Erlking, a kind of demon or king of the fairies. If you take a music history class you’d probably talk about the word painting with the piano accompaniment resembling the horse galloping as the father races his sick child to a doctor. Other dramatic connections between the text and music really bring these works to life. Below is the original setting with Canadian Bass-Baritone Philippe Sly and pianist Maria Fuller.


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  1. Thanks, Bradford. Brilliant arrangement and performance of Erlkonig by Johan Smith. Interestingly, Philippe Sly, who performs the song with piano in the second video, has also recorded it with guitar accompaniment. It’s on a superb CD he made with the guitarist John Charles Britton of Schubert lieder called Schubert Sessions, on Analekta.