Saturday, December 22, 2007

Iraq War Grief - Ave Maria

Franz Schubert's "Ave Maria" is one of the most familiar tunes in the classical and sacred music genres. It's also one of those pieces of music that is very easy to do badly - heavy on schmaltz and saccharine sentimentality.

The version that accompanies this YouTube compilation of photos in Iraq and elsewhere is performed by Arthur Grumiaux (violin) and Istvan Hajdu (piano), and appears on the Christmas compilation, The Ultimate Relaxation Christmas Album.

While I never would have chosen that album (my wife bought it upon the recommendation of her sister, who's a big Mantovani fan), I think this rendition of Ave Maria is just about the best I've ever heard. I offer it now as a holiday prayer and gift to you, in the Christian tradition. Dedicated to all who suffer because of war.

Ave Maria (Salutatio Angelica), is a traditional Catholic and Orthodox church prayer calling for the intercession of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Rooted mainly in Biblical texts, the Ave Maria developed in the Middle Ages; in this context, Mary is known as the Blessed Virgin. The prayer is also used by other denominations in the Catholic tradition, notably Anglo-Catholic members of the Anglican Communion. In the Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, it is known as the "Angelic Salutation" as well as being called the Hail Mary.

Ave Maria by Schubert was originally titled “Ellens dritter Gesang” (Ellen's third song). The confusion over the title probably arose due to the opening verse of the song:

Ave Maria! Maiden mild!
Listen to a maiden's prayer!....

The words to Ave Maria song were taken from Sir Walter Scott's poem The Lady of the Lake and Adam Storck wrote the German translation Schubert used. The person responsible for setting the Ave Maria lyrics in Latin remains a mystery to this day.

Walter Scott's Original
from "The Lady of the Lake"

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!


Note: When you open this page, a rendition of the Latin lyrics accomapanied by a new-age synthesizer automatically loads and plays. If that arrangement is not to your liking, you can either turn it off entirely with the small playback controls in the Flash player at the upper right of the page, or skip to the more traditional versions 2, 3, or 4 on the list below the controls.

I hope you'll also take some time to browse this music site, which offers a wonderful selection of sacred music from the Russian and Ukrainian choral traditions. I purchased the MP3 download version of the album - Praise and Worship Music by The Monk Choir of Kiev Pechersk Monastery