Pope Benedict XVI believes that music can help bring different nations and creeds together – as shown by the renowned West-Eastern Divan Orchestra that performed for him to mark St. Benedict’s Day July 11.
“You can imagine how pleased I am to welcome an orchestra like this, that was born from the conviction that, indeed, the experience that music brings people together, beyond every division,” he said, following the July 11 concert in the courtyard of his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.
Music, he observed, “is harmony in differences, as happens every time you begin a concert with the ‘ritual’ of tuning.”
Pope Benedict was joined by Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano in welcoming the youth orchestra under the baton of Daniel Barenboim. The Argentinian-born Jewish conductor co-founded the musical collective in 1999 as a way of uniting young Israeli and Arab musicians from across the Middle East.
The Pope marveled at how “from the multiplicity of sounds from different instruments can emerge a symphony,” and yet, in the “great symphony of peace between peoples, that is never completely accomplished.”
This struggle for human harmony, he noted, had been symbolically played out in the two pieces performed by the orchestra for the gala occasion – Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, known as the Pastoral Symphony, and his more strident Symphony No. 5.
“These two very famous symphonies express two aspects of life: tragedy and peace, the struggle of man against adverse fate and the soothing immersion into the pastoral environment,” Pope Benedict said.
He explained how Beethoven had actually composed the works almost simultaneously, with both being performed together for the first time at a “memorable concert” in Vienna on December 22, 1808.
“The message I want to draw today is this,” said the Pope, drawing to a conclusion.
“We must commit ourselves to achieve peace, leaving aside violence and arms, engaging with personal and communal conversion, with dialogue, with the patience search for possible agreements.”
Following the concert, Daniel Barenboim personally introduced many of the members of his orchestra to Pope Benedict before the pontiff retired for dinner with the Italian president and other guests.