The work consist of five solo songs for three different characters (Ellen, Norman and Malcolm) with the addition of two choral songs. No other lied opus combines choral music with solos in quite this way, and it is possible that Schubert hoped for a complete performance at a Musikverein concert where partsongs were performed as frequently as solos. In any case he was certainly proud to have done justice to various aspects of Scott’s celebrated work, and he had high hopes of these songs being well received in Britain, the land which had been so beneficial to both Haydn’s and Beethoven’s fame and fortune. Accordingly, an English version with Scott’s original words was engraved in smaller notes and published as an ossia (with the exception of Normanns Gesang which proved impossible to adapt). Lied des gefangenen Jägers required so much alteration (Scott’s iambic tetramenters were a bad fit for the anapaests of the music) that it was printed separately. If it was the Anglophile Vogl who supervised these versions, his English was not good enough to give Schubert accurate help in the correct accentuation of the language. This ‘translation’ back to the original failed to yield the expected success or profit in the land of its intended market.
This poem occurs in Canto II of The Lady of the Lake. A loyal song is raised to the chieftain of the clan, Roderick Dhu (i.e. Black Roderick or Roderick the dark-skinned) as he returns home by boat on Lake Katrine. Roderick is the older of the suitors of Ellen Douglas, the beautiful heroine of this long narrative poem. Ellen is also the central figure in the group of songs that Schubert wrote on these Scott texts. Scott introduces the Boat Song with these lines:
The war-pipes ceased; but lake and hill
Were busy with their echoes still,
And when they slept, a vocal strain
Bade their hoarse chorus wake again,
While loud an hundred clans-men raise
Their voices in their chieftain’s praise.
Each boat-man, bending to his oar,
With measured sweep the burthen bore,
In such wild cadence, as the breeze
Makes through December’s leafless trees:
The chorus first could Allan know,
‘Roderigh Vich Alpine, ho! iero !’.
And near, and nearer as they rowed,
Distinct the martial ditty flowed.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2000
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