Pope Cites Composer: All Music Is to Honor God in Its Way
Says Mendelssohn Didn't See Sacred Music as 'Higher' Form
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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 24, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Just a day after marking his seventh anniversary as Successor of Peter, Benedict XVI was honored by a concert to celebrate his 85th birthday, which was a week ago.
The Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig, Germany, conducted by Riccardo Chailly, performed Symphony No. 2 "Lobgesang" by Felix Mendelssohn on Friday as a tribute to their countryman, as he became the oldest Pontiff since Leo XIII. The concert took place under the patronage of the Free State of Saxony and the city of Leipzig.
Following the performance, and having first expressed his thanks to the musicians and organizers, the Holy Father recalled how Mendelssohn had composed the symphony to mark the fourth centenary of the invention of printing, and that it was first performed at the Thomaskirche of Leipzig (the church of Johann Sebastian Bach) on Jan. 25, 1840. The conductor on that occasion had been Mendelssohn himself, the long-time director of the Gewandhaus Orchestra.
"Art as praise of God, supreme Beauty," the Pope said, "lies at the root of the way that Mendelssohn composed, not just as regards liturgical or sacred music, but his entire oeuvre. ... For him, sacred music was not at a higher level than any other kind; each in its own way had to serve and honor God."
The Holy Father concluded by quoting the words written by Robert Schumann after having attended the first performance of the "Lobgesang": "Let us -- as the text so splendidly set to music by the maestro says -- 'lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.'"