Ave Maria (Schubert)

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"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 Opus 52, a setting of seven songs from Walter Scott's popular epic poem The Lady of the Lake, loosely translated into German.

It has become one of Schubert's most popular works, recorded by a wide variety and large number of singers, under the title of Ave Maria, in arrangements with various lyrics which commonly differ from the original context of the poem. It was arranged in three versions for piano by Franz Liszt.

The Lady of the Lake and the Ave Maria[edit]

The piece was composed as a setting of a song (verse XXIX from Canto Third) from Walter Scott's popular epic poem The Lady of the Lake,[1] in a German translation by Adam Storck (de) (1780–1822),[2] 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.[3]

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.[4]

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 as if he originally wrote the melody as a setting for the Ave Maria.

Position within the cycle[edit]

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" (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.

Lyrics[edit]

Mezzo-soprano Dorothea Fayne, Uwe Streibel (piano)

Problems playing this file? See media help.
Storck's translation used by Schubert "Hymn to the Virgin" by Sir Walter Scott

Ave Maria! Jungfrau mild,
Erhöre einer Jungfrau Flehen,
Aus diesem Felsen starr und wild
Soll mein Gebet zu dir hin wehen.
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 this 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!

Use in Disney's Fantasia[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.[5] 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 made 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.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Spaeth, Sigmund (2005). Whitefish, Montana Stories Behind the World's Great Music, p. 114, Kessinger Publishing
  2. ^ Das Fräulein vom See: Ein Gedicht in sechs Gesängen von Walter Scott. Aus dem Englischen, und mit einer historischen Einleitung und Anmerkungen von D. Adam Storck, Professor in Bremen. Essen, G. D. Baedeker, 1819
  3. ^ Verses XXVIII–XXX, The Lady of the Lake, Canto Three
  4. ^ cf. The Schubert Institute (UK)
  5. ^ Taylor, Deems (1940). Fantasia. Simon & Schuster. ASIN B000KM5K12. , with a foreword by Leopold Stokowski

External links[edit]