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The music begins in a mournful A minor in the simple, rather old-fashioned style (cf the opening of Lodas Gespenst) which the composer seems to have thought an appropriate folksong style to depict the Scottish Highlands in primeval times. The opening recitative is most effective with its inevitable evocation of night. The cadence on 'Lormas Seele war trüb' has the feel of eighteenth-century oratorio. There now follows an impassioned 3/8 aria in C minor ('Was hält dich, du Jäger von Cona, zurck') which has a repeated accompaniment figure in sixths which suggests the music of Bach where an oboe might be the obbligato instrument sharing the vocal line with the singer. The use of sixths in this way seems to have been a hallmark of the Ossian settings, and is to be found again in Die Nacht. The chromatic ascent of 'Wer ist mein Freund, als Aldo?' (repeated) adds romantic anguish to a section which has a deliberately classical feel to it. The next section ('Mit Bewegung', 'With movement') uses the same figure on the piano in different registers to depict, in rather conventional fashion, the click of a gate, the rustling of wind and the (supposed) tread of Aldo. The words of the final cadence ('wie am Mond eine dünne Wolke, zurück') are beautifully set, with a touching dying fall, as gentle as a moonbeam, which modulates to E flat. It seems a great pity that the composer should give up the ghost at this point. Perhaps he realised that the rest of the poem would require so much ethereal music for the spirit of Lorma (there are no more stirring battle scenes in this section) that the piece would lack the musical contrasts needed to hold the attention of the listener.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1993
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