A friend recently pointed out that there are different versions of Pie Jesu by different composers, a fact I should have known, but I just didn‘t really think about it. I knew that I had other Pie Jesu versions that sounded different but for some reason I assumed that the music directors were just playing with the arrangements. Sometimes I don’t pay attention. When I took a closer look at my collection I immediately saw the differences.
Some of the ones I have are Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Pie Jesu by Solvguttne and The Choirboys; John Rutter’s version by Anthony Way and Dara Carroll, Faure’s arrangement by St. John’s College, the Vienna Boys’ Choir, Polski Slowiki and others. St. John’s College has one by Lili Boulanger.
The single best CD for this motet is Requiem by the Boys Air Choir who give us versions by John Rutter, Gabriel Fauré, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Maurice Duruflé so it’s easy to compare them. I’ve said before that this is one of the very best Cd’s I have.
There are more Pie Jesu compositions out there, too but after re-listening to all that I have of them I have to say that while I love them all I really find Rutter’s version the most moving, especially when Connor Burrowes sings it. I think it’s the way the choir responds after each verse and that long high note in the second verse that thrills me.
I’ll quote a little something from Wikipedia here, “Pie Jesu is a motet derived from the final couplet of the Dies Irae and often included in musical settings of the Requiem Mass. …The best known is the Pie Jesu from Fauré's Requiem; Camille Saint-Saëns said of it, ‘just as Mozart’s is the only Ave Verum Corpus, this is the only Pie Jesu‘.”
The funny thing about that is that Saint-Saëns died in 1921 so he would never have heard the great works by Rutter, Webber and Duruflé. If he had, he would have said the same thing I did, that John Rutter’s Pie Jesu, sung by Connor Burrowes, is totally awesome.