From the YouTube Music Video Archives: ‘Ave Maria’ by Giulio Caccini Vladimir Vavilov

You’ve heard this lovely aria before, haven’t you? I’d probably heard it first in the movie Donnie Darko. Haunting, though it hadn’t really haunted me as much as it might have. (That could be said of the movie as well as the music.)

But one morning this week, during my commute, the DJ for the local classical station gave this piece a memorable introduction: This ‘Ave Maria’, though commonly attributed to the 16th-/17th-century Italian composer Giulio Caccini, is almost certainly a hoax. In fact (said the DJ), this piece was most likely composed around 1970 by a Russian who rejoiced in the name of Vladimir Vavilov… and who had a habit of publishing his original compositions as ‘Anonymous’, or under false attributions. Vavilov — a lutenist as well as a composer — evidently recorded his ‘Ave Maria’ for a Soviet state-owned record label, presenting it as some anonymous Baroque composition he had uncovered. After his death, it somehow picked up the Caccini attribution, and has been widely recorded since. (The fact that the aria’s only text consists of the two words ‘ave Maria’, rather than the full text of the prayer, seems to be a sign that it was written somewhere outside the spatio-temporal bounds of Latin Christendom — bogus as a three-rouble note.)

But the DJ, before he spun the record, gave this particular screw still another turn: He suggested that Vavilov might have borrowed the melody for his ‘anonymous’ aria from Jerome Kern’s 1939 standard ‘All the Things You Are’ — making this ‘Ave Maria’ not just a hoax, but a joke.

Credible? Judge for yourself:



  1. I don’t know if I can figure that all out at 6 am in a hotel in Nashville before I’ve had any coffee.


  2. TAGGED WITH: Angelico’s Journal

  3. Matthew Lickona says

    Bruno Hat was said to have played that Kern tune while he worked. He would often sing along – to that and other showtunes, which are of course the source and summit of artistic creation. There are even those who suggest that it was his habit of subbing in “Ave Maria” to whatever lyrics he couldn’t remember that led to this particular recording.

    • Matthew Lickona says

      What is perhaps less well known is that Hat’s “Still Life with Pears” is one of the three pieces of art that the warden has yet to remove from Rufus McCain’s cell after The Incident. Apparently, contemplating the Hat has a measurably positive effect on McCain’s disposition. Sometimes he even smiles. “Like he’s in on some kind of joke,” says one of the guards.

  4. And then there’s this – a sort of reversal or whatnot:


    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

      I had no idea! In lawsuits, the fate of thousands of dollars can hinge on the time-stamp of a fax. So it is, apparently, with the credit for Signore Albioni’s celebrated Adagio.

      Thanks, JOB, for setting the record straight(er).

  5. I say Credible. The Kern tune is so great though, I can see it even influencing a 16th Century Italian Composer. Great Art and the Music of the Spheres being timeless and all that.

    Thanks, Angelico, great post.

    • Listen: Martino Caccini has come unstuck in time. says


      Giulio, it’s Martino! Your cousin, Martino Caccini!

      You know that new sound you’re looking for? Well, listen to this!

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