Webber’s “Pie Jesu” is beautiful, but Fauré’s is more accommodating to prayer.
It is to this end that countless composers have worked to fill the Catholic hymnbook with glorious tunes, almost better suited to the voices of angels than of humankind. Despite what we may hear from week to week at our local parishes, it is always worth remembering that a great portion of the most beautiful music in the world was written with the express purpose of bettering the Catholic faith.
With this in mind, we bring to your consideration Fauré’s “Pie Jesu,” composed as part of his Requiem, which is widely considered his greatest larger work. The piece differs greatly from the version composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber — the most popular version — in that Fauré learned his style at the height of the Romantic musical period.
Where Webber’s follows the modern notion of melodic progression, Fauré’s is more interested in the Baroque polyphony — when multiple, distinct melodic lines are sung as one song — which he combines with the large expansive chords of the Romantic style; think Beethoven or Chopin. The result is an intense meditation on the hymn “Pie Jesu” that is much more accommodating to prayer than the Webber version, which sacrifices a certain amount of solemnity in favor of an outstanding vocal performance.
Voces8 released this incredible version of Fauré’s “Pie Jesu” in June of 2019. The group of eight fine young singers fills the church with the gorgeous melody driven by their fantastic soprano Andrea Haines. Even for a group of trained singers, this music is not easy to memorize, let alone sing, but Voces8 shows no apparent struggle as they bring Fauré back to life with soaring overtones that ring through the rafters.
Voces8 records a lot of sacred music, but they also take secular tunes and sing them in the classical style. Together, these eight singers are proving that sacred music maintains a faithful audience, with videos that routinely stack up over a million views. Since its release in June, their “Pie Jesu” has already been enjoyed more than 125,000 times. Take a look at their Youtube channel to hear more glorious music from Catholicism’s rich and storied artistic history.
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