Bach FAQ 101


Ave Maria: Did Johann Sebastian Bach Compose the Ave Maria? Or Gounod? Or both ... or Schubert?


"Hail Maria," the Ave Maria. It was painted by Fra Angelico, a painter of the Italian Renaissance from Vicchio near Florence in 1423 to 1424.


The Ave Maria. Is it created by the composer from Eisenach? Or did Schubert compose? Complicated, complicated.


On a website about the well-known Thomas Cantor in Leipzig, Johann Sebastian Bach, we have to strike out a little more – so to speak. Perhaps the reason why you have this consideration and also one of the questions above is the following: You know the Ave Maria. Sung by Beyoncé, by German Helene Fischer, by Andrea Bocelli, or by André Rieu. Or German Sarah Connor sings it, Luciano Pavarotti did or even Maria Callas, if you are in your 70s, but still a child in your heart. Okay, this Ave Maria initially was just a text. It is just one "portion of all ingredients", which harmonize in the work together. However: Let's start from scratch.


© Photo/Source/License: By By Harry from D (HFI-3613) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

German singer Sarah Connor: She sings it ...




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... and Paul Potts: both sing the Ave Maria.


1. The Prayer Ave Maria


First of all, the Ave Maria is a prayer. Both words are Latin and mean "Hail Mary, which is hello Maria." At the same time, it is also called the basic prayer in the Catholic Church, to Mary/Maria, the mother of Jesus Christ. "Ave" is originally Phoenician-Punic, which was spoken in Carthage on the northern edge of Africa. And it originally meant "live". Okay, the "Ave Maria" actually is a prayer. A special!


Already in the 11th century, the first part of this Ave Maria was prayed in prayers in the so-called hour prayer. It consists of two parts. as late as some 500 years later Pope Pius V. had added something, namely the request for assistance in the hour of death.


The Ave Maria, by the way, is one of the most widely spoken prayers of Christianity. After the Lord's Prayer, of course. And it is also a part of the Angelus and the Rosary. An Eastern Church version and a Western Church version developed, that is to say, there are two different texts in Latin and in Greek. And that means the translations into German are, of course, different, too.


More, and even more specifically, "to the point" and a lot of additional background on this prayer is available here.


2. A Beautiful Prayer Develops to a Double PackThat Does a Composer: "Our" Ave Maria has Come into Being


Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. He too composed heavenlike music, which bases on works by Johann Sebastian Bach. But not? Right, the Ave Maria.


3.  The Ave Maria and Charles Gounod

There is no doubt what composer Charles Gounod, the French master, has composed and added here, so to speak, on Johann Sebastian's foundation, is the most known, better the most famous Ave Maria. How enthusiastic Gounod was about the creativity of the Thomas Cantor and his work is the quotation by the Frenchman about Johann Sebastian Bach (... Bach quotes, part 3 and sort of in the middle of the page). Here you can read it. Gounod added a few beats, by the way, then he composed his own work on this or to this melody by Johann Sebastian Bach. It is precisely this piece of music, still without text, that is the work of two great composers of their time, and a few years later, more precisely, seven years later, it would become the Ave Maria as we know it today. They speak of a hybrid composition in music. And among connoisseurs. "Gounod feat. Bach" would it probably be today: hip and cool.


Charles Gounod, one half of the music dream team Bach/Gounod. For the Ave Maria, as we know it today, however, it took one more artist. If somebody sings it.


The Ave Maria of Bach/Gounod


What do you "understand" today under the Ave Maria von Bach, when you speak of the Ave Maria of the classical music? Actually, there is the Ave Maria of Bach ... not at all. There are many lovers of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach who answer the question whether Ave Maria is from him – or not – with a clear, but not quite correct "No". And yet they are somehow right.


First of all, the work Ave Maria, as we know it today, is not yet complete. Because back then, that is to say in 1852, no artist sang it yet. And no one spoke of this piece of music as the Ave Maria. What Johann Sebastian Bach and Charles Gounod created together was initially purely instrumental. As late as 1859 finally completed what we now call the Ave Maria. In fact, the text, which is not so very important to us today, was added, which, however, began with the two words "Ave Maria" and thus gave the entire art of work its name from 1859 onwards. The compositions of the two composers Bach and Gounod and, finally, the text, resulted from this very moment the title Ave Maria when Jaques Léopold Heugel added the well-known Latin prayer as we know it today.


With André Rieu's interpretation, one can easily realize what is Bachand what is Gounod. Quite simply: piano = Johann Sebastian Bach. Violin = Charles Gounod. It is the combination of two pieces of music, which was given the title "Ave Maria" as late as 1859 and meanwhile today again is performed without text. Strangely enough, this piece was first named Ave Maria with the text since 1859. However, this name still remains, even when the text in a performance is skipped again. Just like, when Rieu performs it or you hear it in the Paris Métro, for example.


Copyright request pending.

Similar crystal-clear separated is it when The Karoi & Eric Cecil Duo performs: guitar = Johann Sebastian Bach's work, flute = Charles Gounod's work.


The Ave Maria: Our Goose Bumps in the Paris Métro

Do not stone me now. What you experience in this little video is not of great artistic appeal. But for my wife and myself, it meant very, very much, and it was, a long time ago, like an omen to the project "Bach on Bach". Read more in the text below ...




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At the very beginning of this project "Bach über Bach" (... that is the German "Bach on Bach"), so in the year 2012, I still thought that there is actually only one picture of the genius from Eisenach, namely the oil painting by Haußmann. Rudimental the paintings of Ihle and Rentsch added. But for my project, I needed more pictures, also modern ones and at least one cool portrait. And because you do not always find what you're looking for on the Internet, and that was so important for me, we went by car to Paris to have one "own" portrait of the Thomas Cantor painted behind by a street artist right behind the church of Sacré Coeur. So far so good.


On the way to this place, we were lost in the Métro. So not like Hansel and Gretel in the forest. But we just did not get where we wanted. The orientation in the Paris metro is actually not problematic. And as we turned around the corner to one of these long tunnels, the Ave Maria sounded. Both of us thought we could not trust our ears. And if you are so busy "in the matter of Johann Sebastian" like we both were at that time then, then it is clear why we both got goosebumps. When "our artist" was almost finished with "his" performance, I noticed that I had my film camera and a tripod with me – as we wanted to film at the Montmartre, too. But initially, I did not get the idea of making a video of him.


Not really mind-minded, I asked the "musician" if he would play this piece for us again. I asked him, of course, if I could tape it, and I asked him if I could spread it on the Internet. For a small payment of course. He agreed, wondered a little, and then he "performed" the Ave Maria a second time just for us. And you are now able to watch it and to listen to it. Exclusively. In the Paris Métro. Now finally you can click above. And below is the caricature and a photo "behind the scenes". The one we finally had made.


In 1825, Franz Schubert composed a song that began with the words Ave Maria of all words. Later, other musicians arranged new versions of his composition. They called it because the first words were so much more catchy than the actual title, simply Ave Maria. With that the chaos was pre-programmed. That is why this song is also often referred to as "Schubert's Ave Maria". Schubert certainly would not have wanted that. His song was not the setting of the prayer, but his song was "The Lady at the Lake" or "Princess of the Lake". But maybe the girl's name back then was ... Maria.


A cartoon of the compositeur for my project. Johann Sebastian Bach painted on the Place du Tertre behind the confectioner church of the Sacré Coeur in Paris. For us. Released for publication, purchased with all "the whole nine yards". However, this caricature has really little to do with our "musical work of art" video in the Métro.


The making of two times Johann Sebastian Bach on the easel, one Bach on the ground. Yes, to take good photos, I give it all. Did you recognize the composer from Eisenach in Thuringia twice in the photo?


Sure, he liked to paint it for us. And of course we bought the motif with copyright, and we asked him if we could publish these pics with him. This is what we consider good manners.


It's Possible Even More Complicated!


Franz Schubert composed "Ellens third chant". This was the title of the work which we now know under the name "Ave Maria" by Schubert. He composed this title already a quarter of a century before Gounod pinched into Johann Sebastian's work in 1852. Again, it is a product of several artists because it is based on the poem by Walter Scott, which first had the English name "The Lady of the Lake" and then became the German "Fräulein am See". Via a click here you just can check, but a note is important before you click. So please read the next paragraph.


Let's say you're really excited about Gaga, Bieber or Swift. Or for a star or a group, how hundreds come and disappear later. And for classical music – let's not say – not. Or actually not yet really. If this is so – and I was that way, honestly – then the Ave Maria of Johann Sebastian and of Charles and that of Franz might sound quite similar. Even I actually confused it initially.


And if now the one Ave Maria is not from the Thomas Cantor, and the other Ave Maria of Schubert is not really called Ave Maria, then there is a very nice chaos created. Hopefully, I was able to clarify this with my page on my website for you once and for all. So Ave Maria is therefore not equal to Ave Maria. So, please be careful, slippery ice!




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1 + 1 + 1: Finally the Ave Maria Comes Into Being – Finally ... After Whole Endlessly Long 150 Years


More artists now come into play. So to speak. So Gounod had composed a part of the melody, which is sung in the three following videos. But we also clearly hear the foundation of Johann Sebastian Bach. Meanwhile, a third artist has created the text. It is now possible to identify crystal clear the part of the work that Gounod has so fantastically composed. And a fourth artist performs the creative combination. 1 result, 4 artists. Just check it out. This is – as always – with a click on the links below.


© Photo/Source/License: By Fred Kuhles (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Helene Fischer, a superstar in Germany, sings the Ave Maria in German. And it is not the Ave Maria of Schubert.


© Photo/Source/License: By GabboT (Flickr: One Chance 05) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Paul Potts: his Ave Maria thrills "anyway". And again it is the combination of the Thuringian and the French. By the way, Paul Potts is allowed twice on this page: Who can last so long ...


© Photo/Source/License: By Photographed by Reneer R. West (reneerwest) *derivative work: – Kerαunoςcopia◁galaxies [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Jackie Evancho: born in the year 2000 and she sings really cool. And if you want little goose bumps after her "Ave Maria", then there's an add-on: Jackie at the age of nine.


Here you get – if you like this young, cute artist – even two more performances. One, of course, is the "Ave Maria", performed by Jackie Evancho, meanwhile with 2 million clicks. And after that one more performance, when she was 9 years old.


Bach/Gounod Minus JSB = Beyoncé: There Is Always Another Increase!


So, now we had the "combination Bach plus Gounod plus singer" and in the last section three singing artists. But there is a little different option, too. Let's make the performance of Beyonce are a perfect sample, briefly explained. She sings the melody that Gounod "invented", better composed. What she sings, is Gounod's art. But if you listen carefully to the background, you realize that it is not the prelude from the well-tempered piano of Johann Sebastian. In the background, there is a completely different melody. So that this version is a further development of the collaborative work begun by Johann Sebastian, which in his era was not even called Ave Maria. Here you get to Beyoncé's gig.


© Photo/Source/License: By idrewuk (originally posted to Flickr as A wedding dress?!) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Beyoncé blurs Johann Sebastian completely. And yet her Ave Maria is supernatural. Even on a website about the world famous Thomas Cantor.


Your Ave Maria: Thank You So Much, JSB


Without our genius from Eisenach, Gounod would certainly not have been inspired to create his melody. And all the artists on this page would never have ever performed such works of art. So ... thank you, Johann Sebastian.


Between all the cool, hip and young artists like Gaga, Fischer & Beyoncé J.S. doesn't always want to be presented in the uncool Haußmann oil painting. But anyways, It's now and forever clarified, who actually created "the Ave Maria".


Even More Information in the Matter of "Ave Maria"


More background on the prayer Ave Maria can be found here.


A little more detailed information about the origins of the common Ave Maria here.


And whoever wants to read exactly, what's about the Ave Maria von Schubert, which is not even called "Ave Maria", may read that here.


To the pilgrimage church with the Kapuzinerkloster Ave Maria (... capuchin cloister) in Deggingen, Germany in the district of Göppingen near Stuttgart: just click on the link above.


And finally – not quite seriously – you'll "get" a community named Ave Maria in the US State of Florida. Click above.


A total of six films were produced with the title "Ave Maria" and that is between 1910, the first two were silent films, and 1956. If you are strongly interested now, you may simply click here.


More "Ave Maria" is almost simply not possible.





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