"Ellens dritter Gesang" (Ellen's Third Song) by the Viennese composer Franz Schubert, written in 1824, is surely one of the most famous songs in music history.
The original German lyrics (which can be heard on the Wikipedia page in a performance by Mezzo-soprano Dorothea Fayne and pianist Uwe Streibel) came from a translation by Adam Storck of Sir Walter Scott's poem "The Lady of the Lake." Later, the tune was used to set to music a traditional Catholic prayer in Latin, and that is the version, and the title, under which the famous song is best known today...the "Ave Maria."
There are many great renditions of "Ave Maria" (which means hail Mary), and of course there's no one best. My favorite is by the New Orleans-born jazz crooner Harry Connick Jr., from his triple-platinum 1993 Christmas album When My Heart Finds Christmas, which contains four original compositions along with ten standards. I love the way his plain and somewhat hesitant piano intro lasts for half the length of the piece, lulling you into thinking it's merely an instrumental, which makes the entry of the strings and the first bars of the sung lyrics all the more emotional.
But you can have fun exploring the many versions to find your own favorites.
Curiously, the number one all-time U.S. hit in a foreign language was also mainly in Latin—Sadeness [sic] Part I by Enigma, an early techno hit from 1991.
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