Friday, November 24, 2006

Benedict's short address on Sacred Music

[Bryan Jerabek sent out a PDF version of an English translation of a very brief discourse given by Pope Benedict XVI to musicians of the Berlin Philharmonia on 18 November 2006. The translation is unofficial, coming from:]

Mr. President of the Republic
Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Illustrious Ladies and Gentlemen!

First I wish to express to the four musicians of the Berlin Philharmonia Quartet – Daniel Stabrawa, Christian Stadelmann, Neithard Resa and Jan Diesselhorst – my special personal thanks for this masterfully executed concert.

In more than 20 years of concert activity together, you have made yourselves an international reputation, which today you have once again proven through the stylistic refinement of your interpretation, through perfect teamwork and through the great wealth of expression made possible by your ensemble’s sensitive colored nuancing and seamless harmonizing.

When soloists make music together, each individual is required not only to give all his technical and musical capabilities in playing his part, but at the same time, to remain attentive in listening to the others. Only when each player does not seek to stand out but rather seeks to perform in the service of togetherness and makes himself an ‘instrument’ through which the composer’s thought becomes sound and can reach the listener’s heart, only then can a great interpretation occur – as we have just heard.

That is a beautiful image even for us, who work in the Church, to be ‘instruments’ or ‘tools’ to transmit to our fellowmen the thoughts of the great Composer whose work is the harmony of the universe.

I thank you, Honorable Mr. President, for making possible for us this intensive listening experience of estimable music, and I am equally thankful for the friendly words with which you greeted us and offered this musical presentation.

My cordial thanks also go to all who contributed to the realization of this concert. Dear Mr. President, you could not have given me a more beautiful gift than this.

[He then continued in Italian:]

The compositions we just heard have helped us to meditate on the complexity of life and its little daily happenings. Every day is a weave of joys and sorrows, hopes and disappointments, expectations and surprises, that alternate eventfully and raise within us the fundamental questions of “where from”, “where to” and the real sense of our existence.

Music, which expresses all these perceptions of the spirit, offers the listener, within an hour like we have just spent, the possibility of scrutinizing, as in a mirror, the events of our personal life as well as universal history.

But it offers us more: through its sounds, it carries us to another world and harmonizes our intimate being. Finding thus a moment of peace, we become able to see, as from a high vantage point, the mysterious realities that man seeks to decipher and which the light of faith helps us to better understand.

In effect, we can imagine the history of the world as a marvelous symphony that God has composed and whose execution He Himself leads as a wise orchestra conductor. Even if to us, the score may often seem complex and difficult, He knows it from the first to the last note.

We are not called on to take the baton into our hands, much less to change the music according to our taste. But we are called, each in his place and according to his capacity, to collaborate with the great Master in executing his stupendous masterpiece. And in the course of its execution, we would also be given gradually to understand the great design of the Divine score.

And so, dear friends, we see how music can lead us to prayer: it invites us to lift our minds towards God to find in Him the reason for our hope as well as support in the difficulties of life.

Faithful to His commandments, and respecting His salvific plan, we can construct together a world which will resound with the consoling melody of a transcendent symphony of love.

The same divine Spirit will make us all into well-harmonized instruments and responsible collaborators in the admirable performance through which the plan for universal salvation is expressed through the centuries.

In renewing my thanks to the members of the Berlin Philharmonia Quartet and those who contributed to the realization of this musical evening, I assure each of you that I will remember you in prayer, and with affection, I impart my blessing to all.

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