The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: The Pope plays piano – guess what composer | September 24, 2010

By Jacob Stockinger

The Pope plays piano.

Can you dig it?

I didn’t know it, so it’s news to me. How about you?

Here are 20 seconds of Pope Benedict XVI playing the main melody from Schubert’s lovely and lyrical Impromptu No. 2 in A flat Major from Op, 142 or, if you prefer,  D. (for Deutsche) 935. It’s a great choice.  I wish there were more.

The Pope plays OK, especially for such a busy guy, don’t you think. But as you can hear, there are some rhythm issues. Then again, rhythm and timing have always been an issues in the Catholic Church. Still, it is brave of the Pope to go public with his playing, no?

And here is a recent post from the delightful blog by English piano virtuoso and MacArthur Foundation “genius” Stephen Hough (below), an openly gay convert to Catholicism, recently talking about what duets he would play if he had a chance to play piano with the Holy Father.

So there it is: More proof that high achievers often study classical music.

But to be fair, you can also go YouTube to hear the Pope, when he was still Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, playing what sounds like boogie-woogie.

Rock out, Pope!

And just where is Father Guido Sarducci when we really need him and his commentary?

All right, I’ll do it, on behalf of Father Guido. I’ll ask the question on so many people’s mind:

Does The Pope play anything from Schumann’s “Scenes of Childhood” or, to be more literal and accurate in the translation, “Scenes of Children”?

If so, what sections of that wonderful cycle of miniature works would he play? The famous “Dreams” (“Traumerei”)? “Catch me”? “Hide and Seek”? “A Curious Story”? “Perfect Happiness”?

Or maybe ”An Important Event” or ”Frightening”?

What do you think?

The Ear wants to hear.


Posted in Classical music


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  3. I’m not very interested in hearing the Pope’s piano playing, I but loved your crack about the Roman Catholic’s problems with rhythm. As if that weren’t enough, your reference to Fr. Guido Sarducci was great. He’s one guy who’s impossible to forget. Keep up the good work.

    Oh, and thanks for your piece on the Middleton Community Orchestra. Without your publicity, I’d have known nothing about it. The group’s already around 70 members and the repertoire for the coming concert rocks. Tchaikovsky’s 2d. Not only had I never played it before, I’d never heard it.

    Your promotion of the local music scene is terrific. Thanks for all you do.

    Comment by Larry Retzack — September 24, 2010 @ 10:16 am

    • Hi Larry,
      Well, you are certainly a loyal and perceptive reader.
      I too care less about the Pope’s piano playing than about what it says.
      Nero fiddled while Rome burned.
      The Pope plays the piano while the Vatican crumbles under the weight of scandal and outdated or even destructive policies.
      Glad I could be of help about the newly formed Middleton Community Orchestra and the choice of works does indeed sound terrific. Thanks for the update.
      And for the very kind words of encouragement.
      I get a lot of help.

      Comment by welltemperedear — September 24, 2010 @ 10:28 am

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