The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Choosing a new Pope? There’s a play list for that! But is the Vatican listening? Plus, the UW Bands perform a FREE concert on Sunday afternoon. | March 8, 2013

REMINDER: This Sunday, March 10, at 2  p.m. in Mills Hall on the UW-Madison campus, the University Bands will perform a FREE concert under conductors Justin Stolarik (below) and Matthew Mireles.

Justin Stolarik

By Jacob Stockinger

An old friend and co-worker of The Ear saw the posting I did last week about Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI (see him in the photo below, at a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony conducted by Daniel Barenboim at La Scala opera house in Milan). Benedict has a passion for playing the piano and listening to classical music, especially for the works of Mozart and Beethoven (composers right in keeping with his conservative theology, no?).

Here is a link:


Well, now as the papal conclave in the Vatican starts slowly toward getting underway (NEWS FLASH: The Vatican has announced the conclave will begin Tuesday) to elect a new pope, it appears that a playlist has been put together – by an American theologian at Notre Dame University at the request of the website Spotify — of classical music to help the cardinals (below, in an Associated Press photo) choose a new pope.

Vatican conclave with cardinals and Swiss Guard AP photo

Most of it is, of course, choral music, usually with sacred themes — but not all of it.

Some of it is familiar to me; much of it is not.

Some of its is well known and popular; some of it is not.

But the list is catholic rather than Catholic and sure has a lot of excellent and memorable music.

Whether listening to this excellent music would lead to an excellent new pope is another question.

Here is a link:

Can any one of you think of other pieces of classical music that might be added? I thought of three pieces by Franz Liszt (below), who was quite the handsome and rakish youth and young man but who became a Franciscan monk later in life. (Below, a photo of Liszt in 1870 by Pierre Petit.)

Liszt photo portrait by Pierre Petit 1870

 The works are “Benediction of God in Solitude” from his “Poetic and Religious Harmonies” series, and his two “legends” about Saint Francis of Assisi: “St. Francis Preaching to the Birds” and “Saint Francis Walking on the Waves” (below, in a great YouTube video by Lise de la Salle with some incredible shots of the keyboard and her fingers walking on the rolling WAVES of notes.)

The Ear wants to hear.

And just maybe the Vatican’s conclave of 142 cardinals, to say nothing of the new pope, also wants to hear.


1 Comment »

  1. Words and titles alone do not make Music sacred. I suppose some people might consider all masterworks of music sacred, like some people venerate a great painting of Van Gogh or Vermeer. But then is it just the autograph score that is an object of reverence, or some definitive performance, or…? One cannot have idolatry without an appropriate relic or talisman.
    I think that, out of the list I saw, only The Enigma Variations of Elgar will help them “choose wisely” as Sir Richard said of Indiana Jones in the cave at the end of The Last Crusade. The process is surely that, like John Cage choosing notes for a piece, or else it is a venal and overtly political choice meant to show both the Catholic and non-Catholic world a certain game-face, and game-plan.
    Shameless plug insert here. I have written a short choral piece entitled “If God is Love, then…” available from J.W. Pepper. follow this link to view the piece, hear the music, and review the words. It sums up my beliefs, if they can be said to be beliefs, and not just preferences. If only the cardinals could hear it…perhaps I ought to pray for such a miracle…(sigh)
    The new pope ought to have many qualities that, like the arrogant Jedi in Star Wars, even the “older, more experienced ones” (Yoda) lack, perhaps especially the older experienced ones. All ex-Catholics are rightly bitter about how their former institution so richly deserves to be Abandoned at the Gates of Hades.

    Comment by Michael BB — March 8, 2013 @ 9:26 am

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