Ave Maria

(pictured: Olivia Hussey as Mary in Jesus of Nazareth)

This, the most famous of Marian Catholic prayers, comes from the passage in the first chapter of the gospel of Luke where the angel Gabriel is sent to tell the virgin Mary that she is blessed among women and will bear a son named Jesus. Countless musical adaptations have been written, but we are most familiar with those written by Schubert, Bach and Gounod, Caccini (well, not really…read on to find out about a musical hoax), and Mascagni.

In this post will be Youtube videos of my favorite rendition of each of the above version of Ave Maria.

1. Schubert

This well known rendition by Celine Dion is sung in Latin with English verses from Sir Walter Scott’s “Hymn to the Virgin”. From other artists, I reccomend Andrea Bocelli or Luciano Pavarotti. For a laugh, look up an initially awkward but somehow lovable rendition by Dolores O’ Riordan, Cranberries vocalist.

2. Bach/ Gounod

This rendition was created by French composer Gounod in 1859. Gounod inserted his original melody written for Ave Maria over a Bach piece written well over a century earlier.  If you like this version by Celtic Woman, see also versions by The Carpenters and Andrea Bocelli. Beyonce’s song Ave Maria is partly based on this.

3. Caccini

This version sung by New Zealander Hayley Westenra, one of my favorite singers. The funny thing about Caccini’s Ave Maria is that Caccini didn’t write it. Vladimir Vavilov, a Russian composer, wrote it in the 1970s attributing it to “anonymous”. It was somehow attributed to Giulio Caccini, a famous 16th century Baroque composer. Many still believe the song is his. Note the lyrics consist of  only two words.

See also: Andrea Bocelli’s version and Hirahara Ayaka’s jazz version.

4. Pietro  Mascagni

This version by Sissel. See also Placido Dominigo and Andrea Bocelli.

I only found out about this version recently. My Dad, a pastor who conducts weddings, asked me to make him a CD of the different Ave Marias, as they are becoming increasingly popular as wedding songs here in Japan. So, I made him a CD with several version of each of the above (Schubert, Bach, and Caccini). He listened to it and said that the Ave Maria he’d heard wasn’t in the CD. Apparently the one he’d heard was by a composer named “Coscana”. All I had to aid me in my online research for this elusive song was my Dad humming what he remembered of it, and the composer Coscana (whom I later learned didn’t actually exist.)
Then I found it. It was the intermezzo (meaning, I think, interlude in Italian, ) of Pietro Mascagni’s opera Calveria Rusticana.

Which one is your favorite?


1 comment so far

  1. akemi on

    It is one of my favorite music for Christmas. What about “IL DIVO”? I think they sing quite well.

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