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The widespread, positive reception of Ossianic poems in Germany and Austria inspired many musical settings from Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, and perhaps also Schumann. Settings of the poetic narrative of Colma, which relates the anguish of a maiden discovering that her brother and her lover have slain each other in mortal combat, were composed by Zumsteeg, Reichardt, Schubert, and Weber. This essay examines two later settings composed in the 1870s by Ferdinand Hiller and Vinzenz Lachner. While the settings are undeniably effective in their use of common idioms of German composition in the third quarter of the nineteenth century, they are deeply conservative, hampered by a loyalty to cultural history and musical convention on the one hand but overtaken in depth of musical daring by Brahms and Wagner on the other.

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