Winter Lament

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A lament is an expression of sadness. Musical laments feature in many different cultures across the globe. In Western classical music, perhaps the most celebrated example is ‘Dido’s Lament’ from the end of Henry Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas, where Dido sings of her unbearable grief as she dies of a broken heart. Winter Lament starts sadly, but ends with a ray of hope, as birdsong reminds us that spring is on the way. Before that, the lament sets out different winter scenes in four short verses: rain and snow being blown into one’s face by the north wind; puddles freezing and trapping leaves that have fallen from the trees; freezing rain and hail drumming on a windowpane; and the scrunch of footsteps on snow-packed ground. The mood is mournful, expressed through the use of the minor key; the repeated sounds of bells; the constant presence of deep, sustained notes; and an unrelenting, ponderous beat. In the fifth scene, although the world is grey, the fact that birds still sing as dawn breaks leaves us with a sense of hope, and the cold of the minor key is replaced with the warmth of the major.
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