Benedict XVI is a huge fan of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The cheeky and informative “Pope Benedict XVI Fan Club” has a nice little review of the pope’s interest in Mozart here. I myself will add that Joseph Ratzinger’s fascination with Mozart unites him with at least two of the most influential theologians of the twentieth century: Karl Barth and Hans Urs von Balthasar. (In fact, Balthasar claims that Barth’s whole theology operates like work from Mozart.)
Does Mozart have a distinct insight, expressed in his music, that draws all three of these quite different theologians together? Perhaps so. I will leave that mystery aside for now, and quote this morning’s Vatican News Service summary of Benedict’s comments about Mozart:
MOZART’S REQUIEM IS AN EXALTED EXPRESSION OF FAITH
VATICAN CITY, 8 SEP 2010 (VIS) – Yesterday evening in the Apostolic Palace
at Castelgandolfo the Holy Father attended a performance of Mozart’s Requiem
played by the Symphony Orchestra of Padua and Veneto, and the “Accademia
della voce” Choir of Turin, conducted by Claudio Desideri.
At the end of the concert, one of a number of such initiatives to mark the
fifth anniversary of his pontificate, the Pope expressed his thanks to the
musicians and singers, reaffirming his particular affection for Mozart whose
music, he said, reminded him of his parish church when, as a child, during
Mass “I felt that a ray of the beauty of heaven had touched my heart. I feel
the same each time, including today, I listen to this great, dramatic and
serene meditation upon death.
“In Mozart”, the Holy Father added, “everything is in perfect harmony,
each note, each musical phrase. … Even opposites are reconciled and…
‘Mozartian serenity’ envelopes everything at all times. This is a gift of
the Grace of God, but also the fruit of Mozart’s own living faith which –
especially in his sacred music – manages to reveal the shining response of
divine Love which brings hope even when human life is beset by suffering and
Recalling the last letter Mozart wrote to his dying father, in which the
composer affirmed that death did not frighten him and thanked God for the
opportunity of recognising therein the key to happiness, Benedict XVI
affirmed: “That letter expresses a profound and simple faith, which also
emerges in the great prayer of the Requiem and which, at the same time,
leads us to love the vicissitudes of earthly life intensely, as gifts of
God, and to rise above them, contemplating death serenely as the ‘key’ that
opens the door to everlasting happiness”.
The Holy Father concluded: “Mozart’s Requiem is an exalted expression of
faith, one that knows the tragic nature of human life and does not remain
silent before its dramatic aspects; thus it is an expression of Christian
faith, aware that all of man’s life is illuminated by the love of God”.