The Elrkonig by Schubert is a fantastic piece of music. The poem the music is set to is one of my favorites. I remember reading it in school and being so scared for the little boy!
The ending six measures of Erlkonig contain at least two Neapolitan chords. These chords appear in mm. 143 and 146.
My take on these chords is that, for the performer, one of the things they do is to serve as a harmonic caution signal. When the performer reaches this section and plays the N6 they know that something is goin’ down in the text. Reading the translation, we know that when the N6s appear, the little boy is being taken from his father, just as the courtyard is in sight!
To me, these N6 chords sound “light” in comparison to the surrounding chords. To me that signifies that the fight is over between the little boy and death, for better or worse. The lightness could be interpreted as his soul leaving his body…? Or, they could be interpreted as the Erlkonig’s victory. He has the little boy and has called off his haunting pursuit of the frantic father and his child’s now lifeless body.
But I really don’t count as the audience/listener because I have the score right in front of me and I know that the N6 chords are there. And because I’m studying them, they should have meaning. But to the untrained ear of an unsuspecting listener, I don’t think the N6 chord would even be detected. There are so many more factors that are more apparent to the listener to suggest that there is a mortal fight going on in the story.
The lesson of this blog, you ask? Neapolitan’s are only cool to you and me… the audience?...not so much