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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.[1]
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,[2] in a German translation by Adam Storck
(de) (17801822),[3] and thus forms part of Schubert's Liederzyklus vom Frulein 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.[4]
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.[5]
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 that he originally
wrote the melody as a setting for the "Ave Maria".
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.
"Ellens Gesang I", D. 837, Raste Krieger, Krieg ist aus / "Soldier rest! the warfare oer"
"Ellens Gesang II", D. 838, Jger, ruhe von der Jagd / "Huntsman, rest! thy chase is done"
"Bootgesang", D. 835, Triumph, er naht / "Hail to the chief", for male voice quartet
"Coronach" (Deathsong of the women and girls), D. 836, Er ist uns geschieden / "He is gone to
the mountain", for female choir
"Normans Gesang", D. 846, Die Nacht bricht bald herein ("Night will soon be falling")
"Ellens Gesang III" (Hymn to the Virgin), D. 839, Ave Maria! Jungfrau mild! / "Ave Maria!
maiden mild!"
"Lied des gefangenen Jgers", D. 843, Mein Ro so md / "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.
On September 12th 1953, tenor Luigi Vena sang "Ave Maria" at the wedding of U.S. Senator
John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Lee Bouvier...
And a little over ten years later he performed the song again, this time at the funeral of
President John F. Kennedy.
If you ask me why is this song a masterpiece I will tell you that if it wasnt we wouldnt know
about it