With COVID-19 going rampant, I’m hardly out of the house for the past few days. You’d expect I’d be cleaning my place, at least that’s the goal. While being comfy, I’d like to reminisce on one of the very old music pieces during my choral singing days. On top of the pile is an Ave Maria sheet music by Franz Schubert
It brought back a lot of memories, in fact, I sang a couple of versions of it in various melodic lines. Let’s revisit one of the original versions of this masterpiece.
Franz Schubert composed Ave Maria in 1825. Ave Maria is Latin (or Spanish) for Hail Mary. It’s a popular liturgical song. It’s a very common aria studied in beginning to learn serious singing.
You might have heard this song before at weddings, funerals, recitals, background music in many films, and so on. You can easily recognize it in an instant through its iconic and quite serene first line.
When I first heard it, a sense of tranquility overwhelmed me. It was beautiful. I remember the movie Amadeus, when Salieri was immensely in awe of Mozart’s genius. That’s exactly the feeling at that moment. Even if I didn’t understand one word of it, well, except for the word Maria, I felt and knew that it was some sort of prayer of adoration.
Franz Schubert – The Creator of Ave Maria
Franz Schubert is a renowned Austrian composer during the late Classical and early Romantic eras. Ave Maria is one of his most successful songs. His life was short-lived, but he left hundreds of works behind, most of them secular, in various forms.
Some of the more popular works he created were Trout Quintet, Great Symphony No. 9, and the Unfinished Symphony No. 8. These could easily be relaxing background music while reading a book or just chillin’ out.
Although he composed several other types of work, the vast majority of his compositions are songs for piano and solo voice. Many of his songs weren’t known to the public. Even his friends and family were unaware of them. People discovered them years after his death.
Symphony No. 8 in B minor, commonly known as the Unfinished Symphony, is one of his famous large works. Schubert, like W. A. Mozart, who was as prolific as him when it came to writing songs, died in his early thirties.
That could have been one of the reasons Schubert was unable to complete the well-known orchestral music, but then he lived another six years when he abandoned the supposedly four-movement work to only be a two-movement composition. Many are still discussing and speculating on this endless debate to this day.
He died at the age of 31 on November 19, 1828, and he requested to be buried near his idol’s grave, Beethoven. Typhoid fever or late-stage syphilis might have caused Schubert’s early demise. Before his death, his friends played Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor to him.
The Lady in the Lake – Where Ave Maria Came From
Going back to Ave Maria, its actual title was Ellen’s Third Song (or Ellens Gesang III in German). There are two pieces before it in the same title, which are Ellens Gesang I and Ellens Gesang II.
Schubert composed Ellens Gesang III as a setting for the epic poem The Lady of the Lake, written by Walter Scott. It is one of the seven pieces included in the cycle that Schubert put to music for the poem. It is sixth in the cycle.
When Schubert finished writing it, his publisher bought it at a high price. Currently, church choirs often sing it, but you should know that it was never intended to be used in liturgical services. However, because of its inspirational wordings and structure, Roman Catholics and other denominations used it in their church events.
It was translated into Latin. Due to its context and the first line, it became well-known as Ave Maria. Because of the impact that it had to devotees, people wondered about Schubert’s piety and faith.
Popularity – Ave Maria at its Best
It gained its glory days when it was used in the film “The Bride of Frankenstein” and “Disney’s Fantasia”. It was often a popular choice by filmmakers after that.
Two of the most known renditions of Ave Maria were sung by Shirley Bassey and Amanda Thompson and Lesley Garett. The two reached the top 40 charts in the United Kingdom during their respective heydays.
It can be surprising why it gained so much popularity. If you tend to listen to classical music, you’ll know that there are more striking pieces than Ave Maria. However, I would like to say that, aside from the words, the way the song was structured gained more acceptance than most of its contemporaries.
The song’s melody and accompaniment soothe the heart extremely well. Its 6/8-meter rocks you like a lullaby. The slow pace and tempo are relaxing. The climbs and falls of the vocals make one shiver as if someone’s at his last breath, asking for redemption and grace. What takes away the cake is the harp that dances with the piano or string ensemble.
To sum it up, Ave Maria is, without a doubt, haunting. It has the power to make you feel in mixed emotions. For those who are new to classical music, I’m sure that you’ll get your share of goosebumps. I’m definitely sure that if you’d hear a rendition in the female voice, you’ll feel the chill run down your spine. Who wouldn’t, if I let you listen to Barbara Bonney’s take on the song in German.
Bottom Line – The Melodious Ave Maria
It is indeed a masterpiece, but despite that, it is an easy piece of art to play and sing. It’s slow, and the notes aren’t too high or too low for anyone with a limited range. If you think your vocal range isn’t good enough for it, check out my guide on how to increase your range.
The score for both the vocals and the piano accompaniment is quite straightforward. Neither is too complex. If I were to perform this with a small ensemble, I’d say the obvious challenge would be balancing my voice with the other singers, but the benefit of being in one is inexplicable.
You can head over here to check out Ave Maria sheet music: Franz Schubert: Ave Maria (in G for mezzo-soprano) for voice & piano, available in different voice ranges. You’ll also find other types of music in different genres to choose from, and they are categorized according to difficulty, which is very convenient.
There you go, folks. I’m imagining you’d be whistling your way out with this tune stuck in your head for a while. Thanks to our Ave Maria.