Did you know Franz Schubert never actually wrote a piece called "Ave Maria?"
The famed melody comes from Schubert’s “Ellens dritter Gesang,” or “Ellen’s Third Song,” which was part of his Opus 52 — a collection of seven songs based off Sir Walter Scott’s 1810 legendary epic poem, The Lady of the Lake. Scott's poem is set in the scenic Trossachs area of Scotland. The scene at the center of this song takes place in the third of the poem's six cantos. In it, Roderick Dhu, the chief of Clan Alpine, overhears his forbidden love, Ellen Douglas, singing her prayer to the Virgin Mary, Ave Maria. As Roderick Dhu prepares to leave the island for battle, he realizes that this is the very last time he will hear her voice.
For his "Ellens dritter Gesang," Schubert loosely translated Scott's "Hymn to the Virgin" into German. Though the versions share the refrain of "Ave Maria!," it wasn't until later that the Schubert composition was set to the traditional Roman Catholic prayer, which is sung in Latin.
Sir Walter Scott inspired not only Schubert, but also Rossini (La Donna del Lago), Berlioz (Rob Roy Overture), Donizetti (Lucia di Lammermoor), and the Scotsman's novel, Ivanoe, inspired operas by Rossini, Giovanni Pacini, and most famously, Arthur Sullivan.
"Ave Maria," set to the music of Schubert, is equally influential, boasting a great number of interpreters from all musical instruments and traditions. These artists range from the familiar, like Pavarotti, to the unfamiliar, like percussion ensemble Marimba Ayin. So we compiled some of YouTube's most interesting and intriguing interpretations of "Ave Maria" below! We can't guarantee that you'll love (or even like) each and every rendition, but we promise that you will be amazed by the beauty and the broad appeal of this enduring melody.
2. Steel Drums
5. Glass Harp
8. Metal Cover
10. Dog (with just a bit of editing)
11. And as a bonus, here's Dame Kiri Te Kanawa
Which of these interpretations of Schubert's "Ave Maria" was your favorite? Your least favorite? Let us know in the comments section below!
Schubert's "Ave Maria" is one of the pieces featured on this week's edition of Arias and Songs, "A Program of Prayers." Tune in at 4:30 pm on Saturday to hear the program, and click here for more information.