Ave Maria (Schubert)

"Ellens dritter Gesang" ("Ellens Gesang III", D. 839, Op. 52, No. 6, 1825), in English: "Ellen's Third Song", was composed by Franz Schubert in 1825 as part of his Op. 52, a setting of seven songs from Walter Scott's popular narrative poem The Lady of the Lake, loosely translated into German.

Portrait of Franz Schubert by Franz Eybl (1827)
Walter Scott

It is one of Schubert's most popular works. Beyond the song as originally composed by Schubert, it is often performed and recorded by many singers under the title "Ave Maria" (the Latin name of the prayer Hail Mary, and also the opening words and refrain of Ellen's song, a song which is itself a prayer to the Virgin Mary), in musically simplified arrangements and with various lyrics that commonly differ from the original context of the poem. It was arranged in three versions for piano by Franz Liszt.[1]

The Lady of the Lake and the "Ave Maria"Edit

1879 painting of Ellen's Isle, Loch Katrine

The piece was composed as a setting of a song (verse XXIX from Canto Three) from Walter Scott's popular narrative poem The Lady of the Lake,[2] in a German translation by Adam Storck [de] (1780–1822),[3] and thus forms part of Schubert's Liederzyklus vom Fräulein vom See. In Scott's poem the character Ellen Douglas, the Lady of the Lake (Loch Katrine in the Scottish Highlands), has gone with her exiled father to stay in the Goblin's cave as he has declined to join their previous host, Roderick Dhu, in rebellion against King James. Roderick Dhu, the chieftain of Clan Alpine, sets off up the mountain with his warriors, but lingers and hears the distant sound of the harpist Allan-bane, accompanying Ellen who sings a prayer addressed to the Virgin Mary, calling upon her for help. Roderick Dhu pauses, then goes on to battle.[4]

Schubert's arrangement is said to have first been performed at the castle of Countess Sophie Weissenwolff in the little Austrian town of Steyregg and dedicated to her, which led to her becoming known as "the lady of the lake" herself.[5]

The opening words and refrain of Ellen's song, namely "Ave Maria" (Latin for "Hail Mary"), may have led to the idea of adapting Schubert's melody as a setting for the full text of the traditional Roman Catholic prayer "Ave Maria". The Latin version of the "Ave Maria" is now so frequently used with Schubert's melody that it has led to the misconception that he originally wrote the melody as a setting for the "Ave Maria".

Position within the cycleEdit

In 1825, Schubert composed a selection of seven songs from Scott's The Lady of the Lake. They were published in 1826 as his Opus 52.

The songs are not intended for a single performer: the three songs of Ellen are piano songs for a woman's voice, while the songs for Norman and the Count of Douglas were intended for the baritone Johann Michael Vogl. The remaining two songs are written one for a male and the other for a female ensemble.

  1. "Ellens Gesang I", D. 837, Raste Krieger, Krieg ist aus / "Soldier rest! the warfare o'er"
  2. "Ellens Gesang II", D. 838, Jäger, ruhe von der Jagd / "Huntsman, rest! thy chase is done"
  3. "Bootgesang", D. 835, Triumph, er naht / "Hail to the chief", for male voice quartet
  4. "Coronach" (Deathsong of the women and girls), D. 836, Er ist uns geschieden / "He is gone to the mountain", for female choir
  5. "Normans Gesang", D. 846, Die Nacht bricht bald herein ("Night will soon be falling")
  6. "Ellens Gesang III" (Hymne an die Jungfrau / Hymn to the Virgin), D. 839, Ave Maria! Jungfrau mild / "Ave Maria! maiden mild!"
  7. "Lied des gefangenen Jägers", D. 843, Mein Roß so müd / "My steed is tired"

Schubert composed the songs to the German texts. However, with the exception of No. 5, the songs were clearly intended to be published with the original English texts as well. This meant finding correspondences to Storck's sometimes quite free translations, which entailed significant difficulties.


Storck's translation[6] used by Schubert "Hymn to the Virgin" by Sir Walter Scott[7]

Ave Maria! Jungfrau mild,
Erhöre einer Jungfrau Flehen,
Aus diesem Felsen starr und wild
Soll mein Gebet zu dir hinwehen.
Wir schlafen sicher bis zum Morgen,
Ob Menschen noch so grausam sind.
O Jungfrau, sieh der Jungfrau Sorgen,
O Mutter, hör ein bittend Kind!
Ave Maria!

Ave Maria! Unbefleckt!
Wenn wir auf diesen Fels hinsinken
Zum Schlaf, und uns dein Schutz bedeckt,
Wird weich der harte Fels uns dünken.
Du lächelst, Rosendüfte wehen
In dieser dumpfen Felsenkluft.
O Mutter, höre Kindes Flehen,
O Jungfrau, eine Jungfrau ruft!
Ave Maria!

Ave Maria! Reine Magd!
Der Erde und der Luft Dämonen,
Von deines Auges Huld verjagt,
Sie können hier nicht bei uns wohnen.
Wir woll'n uns still dem Schicksal beugen,
Da uns dein heil'ger Trost anweht;
Der Jungfrau wolle hold dich neigen,
Dem Kind, das für den Vater fleht.
Ave Maria!

Ave Maria! maiden mild!
Listen to a maiden's prayer!
Thou canst hear though from the wild;
Thou canst save amid despair.
Safe may we sleep beneath thy care,
Though banish'd, outcast and reviled –
Maiden! hear a maiden's prayer;
Mother, hear a suppliant child!
Ave Maria!

Ave Maria! undefiled!
The flinty couch we now must share
Shall seem with down of eider piled,
If thy protection hover there.
The murky cavern's heavy air
Shall breathe of balm if thou hast smiled;
Then, Maiden! hear a maiden's prayer,
Mother, list a suppliant child!
Ave Maria!

Ave Maria! stainless styled.
Foul demons of the earth and air,
From this their wonted haunt exiled,
Shall flee before thy presence fair.
We bow us to our lot of care,
Beneath thy guidance reconciled;
Hear for a maid a maiden's prayer,
And for a father hear a child!
Ave Maria!

Latin Catholic prayer version  

Ave Maria, gratia plena,
Maria, gratia plena,
Maria, gratia plena,
Ave, Ave, Dominus,
Dominus tecum.
Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus,
Et benedictus fructus ventris (tui),
Ventris tui, Jesus.
Ave Maria!

Sancta Maria, Mater Dei,
Ora pro nobis peccatoribus,
Ora, ora pro nobis;
Ora, ora pro nobis peccatoribus,
Nunc et in hora mortis,
In hora mortis nostrae.
In hora, hora mortis nostrae,
In hora mortis nostrae.
Ave Maria!

Hail Mary, full of grace,
Mary, full of grace,
Mary, full of grace,
Hail, Hail, the Lord
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women, and blessed,
Blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
Thy womb, Jesus.
Hail Mary!

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Pray, pray for us;
Pray for us sinners,
Now, and at the hour of our death,
The hour of our death.
The hour, the hour of our death,
The hour of our death.
Hail Mary!

Used in Fantasia (1940)Edit

Walt Disney used Schubert's song in the final part of his 1940 film Fantasia, where he linked it to Modest Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain in one of his most famous pastiches. The end of Mussorgsky's work blends with almost no break into the beginning of Schubert's song, and as Deems Taylor remarked, the bells in Night on Bald Mountain, originally meant to signal the coming of dawn, which cause the demon Chernobog to stop his dark worship and the ghosts to return to the grave, now seem to be church bells signalling the beginning of religious services. A procession of monks is shown walking along. The text for this version is sung in English, and was written by Rachel Field.[8] This version also had three stanzas, like Schubert's original, but only the third stanza made it into the film (one line in the last stanza is partially repeated to show how it is sung in the film):

Ave Maria!
Now your ageless bell
so sweetly sounds for listening ears,
from heights of Heaven to brink of Hell
in tender notes have echoed through the years.
Aloft from earth's far boundaries
Each poor petition, every prayer,
the hopes of foolish ones and wise
must mount in thanks or grim despair.
Ave Maria!

Ave Maria!
You were not spared
one pang of flesh, or mortal tear;
So rough the paths your feet have shared,
So great the bitter burden of your fear.
Your heart has bled with every beat.
In dust you laid your weary head,
the hopeless vigil of defeat was yours
and flinty stone for bread
Ave Maria!

Ave Maria!
Heaven's Bride.
The bells ring out in solemn praise,
for you, the anguish and the pride.
The living glory of our nights, of our nights and days.
The Prince of Peace your arms embrace,
while hosts of darkness fade and cower.
Oh save us, mother full of grace,
In life and in our dying hour,
Ave Maria!

The version heard in Fantasia was arranged by Leopold Stokowski especially for the film, and unlike the original, which is for a solo voice, is scored for soprano and mixed chorus, accompanied by the string section of the Philadelphia Orchestra. The soloist is Julietta Novis. The Ave Maria sequence was later featured in Very Merry Christmas Songs, which is part of Disney Sing-Along Songs, as a background movie for the song "Silent Night".


In the 1935 film Bride of Frankenstein, a hermit plays the piece on solo violin, which soothes the Creature.[citation needed]

In the 1944 Academy Award-winning film Going My Way, Metropolitan Opera singer Risë Stevens performs the piece with Bing Crosby and the Robert Mitchell Boys Choir.[9]

Yehudi Menuhin performs a version for violin and piano in the 1943 American musical film Stage Door Canteen.

The song was performed by tenor Luigi Vena at the 1963 funeral of American president John F. Kennedy.[10]

A significantly different version of the song, arranged by Yoko Kanno, was performed by Jerzy Knetig and the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra for the 1998 anime Cowboy Bebop and was released on the soundtrack album Cowboy Bebop Blue in 1999.[11]

A rendition of the song was featured in the 2006 video game Hitman: Blood Money, where it was sung by Daniel Perret of the Zurich Boys' Choir.[12][better source needed]

The song appeared in the season finale of the show The Newsroom aired in 2014, performed by Katie Boeck.[citation needed]

The 2016 science fiction film 2BR02B: To Be or Naught to Be, based on the story by Kurt Vonnegut, extensively uses the piece as diegetic music. The song's placement in the film is timed so that the line "Dem Kind, das für den Vater fleht" ("And for a father hear a child!") is heard by the character Wehling, before he shoots himself in order to save his children.[13]

The song was covered by Chris Cornell in his 2018 posthumous, self-titled album Chris Cornell.

Idina Menzel covered the song in a medley with "O Holy Night" for her 2019 Christmas album Christmas: A Season of Love.

In February 2020, Christina Aguilera performed "Ave Maria" to critical acclaim[14][15] at Kobe Bryant's memorial service at the Staples Center.[16][17]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Liszt and the Ave Maria : Interlude.hk". Interlude.hk. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  2. ^ Spaeth, Sigmund (2005). Whitefish, Montana Stories Behind the World's Great Music, p. 114, Kessinger Publishing
  3. ^ Storck 1819.
  4. ^ Verses XXVIII–XXX, The Lady of the Lake, Canto Three
  5. ^ "cf. The Schubert Institute (UK)". Archived from the original on October 26, 2008.
  6. ^ Storck 1819, pp. 135–136.
  7. ^ The Lady of the Lake, Canto Three, verse XXIX.
  8. ^ Taylor, Deems (1940). Fantasia. Simon & Schuster. ASIN B000KM5K12., with a foreword by Leopold Stokowski
  9. ^ "Going My Way (1944) – soundtrack". IMDb.com. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  10. ^ Lowens, Irving (December 1, 1963) [Reprinted from the Washington Star, 1963-12-01]. "President Kennedy's Funeral Music "Accurate Listing of Funeral Music" by Irving Lowens, Washington Star music critic". John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum. Retrieved October 8, 2016.
  11. ^ Cammila Collar. Cowboy Bebop: Blue – original soundtrack at AllMusic
  12. ^ "Hitman: Blood Money (Video Game 2006)", IMDb, retrieved 2019-12-02
  13. ^ Black, Anna (2016). ""...for a father hear a child!" Schubert's Ave Maria and the film 2BR02B". The Schubertian. The Schubert Institute (UK) (91): 16–19.
  14. ^ "8 Times Christina Aguilera Slayed Her Live Performances". Billboard. February 24, 2020.
  15. ^ "Christina Aguilera sings poignant 'Ave Maria' prayer in honour of Kobe Bryant". Classic FM. February 25, 2020.
  16. ^ Kimble, Lindsay (24 February 2020). "Christina Aguilera Sings 'Ave Maria' to Honor Kobe and Gianna Bryant at Memorial". People. Archived from the original on 25 February 2020. Retrieved 25 February 2020.
  17. ^ Mamo, Heran (24 February 2020). "Christina Aguilera Moves Audience With 'Ave Maria' at Kobe Bryant Memorial". Billboard. Archived from the original on 25 February 2020. Retrieved 25 February 2020.
  18. ^ Horan, Tom (2008-11-08). "Beyoncé: dream girl". The Daily Telegraph. London. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2018-05-15.


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