Thursday, April 10, 2003

On This Day in Music (1853): Bach/Gounod version of “Ave Maria” performd

Ave Maria

Franz Schubert (music), Walter Scott (words) / Johann Sebastian Bach/Charles Gounod (music)

Writer(s): Schubert/Scott (see lyrics here), Bach/Gounod (see lyrics here)

Published: 1825 (Schubert/Scott), 1859 (Bach/Gounod)

First Charted: June 4, 1910 (Alda/McCormack)

Peak (different versions): 7 PM, 16 UK (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 321.40 video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

Awards (Marian Anderson):

About the Song:

“Ave Maria” has become a favorite at funerals and weddings alike. It is a traditional Catholic prayer also known as “Hail Mary” which asks for “the intercession of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus.” LD It is “one of the most widely spoken prayers of Christianity.” BB As for its connection to song, however, its history is confusing as it has been set to music by both Johann Sebastian Bach and Franz Schubert.

In 1825, Schubert set a piece of music to Sir Walter Scott’s epic poem The Lady of the Lake. The music was called “Ellens dritter Gesang,” which translates into “Ellen’s Third Song.” CL While it does have the words “Ave Maria,” it was only a reference to the famous prayer. Over time, however, people found it simpler to refer to the work as “Ave Maria.” BB

In 1772, Johann Sebastian Bach published Book 1 of Well-Tempered Clavier which included his famous “Prelude in C major.” It has been a favorite of piano students ever since. French opera composer Charles Gounod was introduced to Bach’s work in 1840. In 1852, He improvised a melody over Bach’s “Prelude in C” while at the home of his fiancée Anna Zimmermann.. Her father, Pierre-Joseph-Guillaume Zimmermann was a famous composer and was overwhelmed by what Gounod had done. He organized a house concert a few days later where the piece was performed with a small choir, piano, and violin. GM The first performance was on April 10, 1853. GM

In 1853, the work was published under the name “Mediations on the First Prelude of Sebastian Bach. Words were not added until 1859. The first words were not “Ave Maria,” but a poem by Alphonse de Lamartine called “Vers écrits sur un album.” He sent it to his student Rosalie Jousset. When her mother-in-law, Aurélie Jousset, saw it she considered it inappropriate and replied to Gounod with text from “Ave Maria.” GM He used her version and the first version of “Ave Maria” was recorded in 1859. GM

Chart versions of the song include Frances Alda & John McCormack (#9 PM, 1910), Enrico Caruso (#7 PM, 1913), John McCormack (#7 PM, 1915), Perry Como (#22 PM, 1949), Shirley Bassey (#31 UK, 1962), and Lesley Garrett with Amanda Thompson (#16 UK, 1993). Marian Anderson’s 1936 version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Beyoncé, Andrea Bocelli, Maria Callas, and Luciano Pavarotti are among those to perform one version or the other.


First posted 9/2/2023.

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