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23 October 2018, 13:53 | Updated: 26 October 2018, 14:42
Composers have been setting ‘Pie Jesu’ to music for the last few hundred years. But what are the lyrics to this beautiful Latin miniature?
At its simplest, ‘Pie Jesu’ is just two lines of text from the final couplet of the Latin hymn ‘Dies irae’:
Pie Jesu Domine,
Dona eis requiem (sempiternam).
Which translates as:
Grant them rest (everlasting)
When Gabriel Fauré fell in love with the couplet and used it in his Requiem (1887 – 1890), his friend Camille Saint-Saëns said: “Just as Mozart’s is the only ‘Ave verum corpus’, this is the only ‘Pie Jesu’”.
Fauré might have composed one of the most famous settings of the couplet, but composers have been setting ‘Pie Jesu’ to music ever since.
‘Pie Jesu’ has been set to music by Fauré, John Rutter and Karl Jenkins and recorded by some of the world’s most famous operatic and crossover sopranos, including Sarah Brightman, Charlotte Church, Anna Netrebko and Hayley Westenra.
And of course, there’s Andrew Lloyd Webber’s setting.
Unlike a traditional requiem mass, Lloyd Webber combined the texts of ‘Pie Jesu’ and ‘Agnus Dei’ for his Requiem.
It was an interesting treatment of the sacred texts and a big departure from his usual style – and one that earned him a Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition in 1986.
Qui tollis peccata mundi
Dona eis requiem
Who takes away the sins of the world
Grant them rest
One of the most famous performances of Lloyd Webber’s arrangement is by Sarah Brightman – his then-wife – who premiered the Requiem Mass in 1985 in a duet with boy soprano Paul Miles-Kingston.
The Lloyd Webber composition has since been covered on countless talent shows, including an angelic interpretation by young contestant Andrew on Britain’s Got Talent in 2008 and a three-part arrangement by the group Forte on America’s Got Talent.
The following well-known performances of ‘Pie Jesu’ are also available to watch on YouTube: