Pieces in this collection
- Ellens Gesang I (Raste Krieger! Krieg ist aus), D 837 (Ellen's song I)
- Ellens Gesang II (Jäger, ruhe von der Jagd), D 838 (Ellen's song II)
- Bootgesang, D 835 (Boat song)
- Coronach (Totengesang der Frauen und Mädchen), D 836 (Coronach (Funeral song of the women and girls))
- Normans Gesang, D 846 (Norman's song)
- Ellens Gesang III (Hymne an die Jungfrau / Ave Maria), D 839 (Ellen's song III (Hymn to the Virgin / Ave Maria))
- Lied des gefangenen Jägers, D 843 (Song of the imprisoned huntsman)
Seven songs from Walter Scott’s ‘The Lady of the Lake’
First published by Matthias Artaria in April 1826
Walter Scott’s third long narrative poem, ‘The Lady of the Lake‘, was first published in Edinburgh in 1810 and was immediately successful. 25,000 copies of the book were sold within the first eight months. Translations and adaptations rapidly followed. In 1811 a musical version, ‘The Knight of Snowdoun‘, by Thomas Morton and Henry Bishop was on stage in London. Tourists were soon visiting the banks of Loch Katrine inspired by Scott’s descriptions.
When Rossini was unsure of the subject he should choose for the opera he was due to compose for the San Carlo theatre in Naples in 1819 he got into conversation with Désiré-Alexandre Batton, who lent him a French translation of ‘The Lady of the Lake‘. Rossini immediately decided that his new work would be ‘La donna del lago‘. In the same year Philipp Adam Storck published the first version of his German translation: ‘Das Fräulein vom See‘ (Schubert was to use Storck’s revised 1823 edition of this as the basis of his settings).
Scott’s poem (over 5,000 lines in total) is made up of six Cantos, each devoted to the action of a single day (it is well worth reading a Canto a day to get a sense of the pace of the events and the poem as a whole). The narrative is regularly interspersed with lyrics and ballads (Scott’s first poetic works were in these shorter forms) intended to give voice to different characters and situations. A number of them are clearly designated ‘songs’ and it is reported that they are sung to instrumental accompaniments, so they function in a similar way to arias and choruses in opera. They allow individuals to express otherwise hidden or repressed emotions and they express group solidarity when necessary. It appears that Schubert responded to ‘The Lady of the Lake‘ just as he had to Goethe’s ‘Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre‘: he saw the narrative introductions to the interpolated lyrics and ballads as an invitation to a musician to turn poetry into song.
Schubert set about half of the songs that appear in the course of the poem. There is no evidence that he intended to set others (and it would not be feasible to set the narrative as a whole).
|D 837||Ellens Gesang I||Canto First The Chase||XXXI|
|D 838||Ellens Gesang II||Canto First The Chase||XXXII|
|D 835||Bootgesang||Canto Second The Island||XIX|
|D 836||Coronach||Canto Third The Gathering||XVI|
|D 846||Normans Gesang||Canto Third The Gathering||XXIII|
|D 839||Ellens Gesang III||Canto Third The Gathering||XXIX|
|D 843||Lied des gefangenen Jägers||Canto Sixth The Guard-Room||XXIV|
The characters that appear in these seven songs are the following:
Ellen Douglas James Douglas, her father, formerly the Earl of Bothwell and the King's regent Roderick Dhu, Chief of Clan Alpine James Fitz-James, the Knight of Snowdoun (a pseudonym used by King James V as he travels incognito) Malcolm Graeme, a highland warrior Allan-bane, a bard Duncan, a warrior in Clan Alpine, whose funeral is interrupted Norman, a warrior in Clan Alpine, whose wedding is interrupted
For the full text of The Lady of the Lake: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/3011/3011-h/3011-h.htm
For a brief synopsis: http://www.walterscott.lib.ed.ac.uk/works/poetry/lady.html