Posted by: rbbadger | December 6, 2009

Mozart and Pope Benedict XVI

Southern Germany and Austria, while sharing the same language with the rest of Germany, are different.  I, personally, like the South German or Austrian accent, as it is a bit less harsh than the German spoken by natives of Hamburg or Berlin.  The music is quite a bit different as well.

Mozart especially seems to capture the whole Bavarian/Austrian spirit like no one else.  Therefore, it is not surprising that the favourite composer of Pope Benedict XVI is Mozart.  He grew up near the Austrian border and speaks the same dialect as Austrians in that part of the country speak. 

Back when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, he consented to be interviewed by Peter Seewald, a German journalist who was at the time an avowed atheist.  Seewald asked him what he thought of Mozart and Ratzinger gave this reply:

“Although we moved around a very great deal in my childhood, the family basically always remained in the area between the Inn and the Salzach. And the largest and most important and best parts of my youth I spent in Traunstein, which very much reflects the influence of Salzburg. You might say that there Mozart thoroughly penetrated our souls, and his music still touches me very deeply, because it is so luminous and yet at the same time so deep. His music is by no means just entertainment; it contains the whole tragedy of human existence.”

There was a time in my musical studies when I didn’t like Mozart very much.  Mozart just seemed too fascile.  It seemed that he did things just too easily.  Beethoven, who was a great master of form, perhaps one of the greatest who ever lived, underwent great agony in each and every piece he wrote.  If you visit the Beethoven-Haus in Bonn, you can see some of Beethoven’s sketchbooks.  Beethoven’s works went through innumerable drafts before he arrived at the perfection he endlessly sought. 

It took me studying and listening to Mozart very closely to understand the depth and greatness of his work.  Not every Mozart work is a masterpiece.  But it still amazing to me just how good all of it is. 

Pope Benedict XVI was hardly the only theologian who loved Mozart.  Karl Barth, the great Swiss theologian, once stated that the first person he wanted to meet in heaven was Mozart, even ahead of Calvin and Luther.  The theologian Hans Küng, whose privelege to teach Catholic theology was revoked when Cardinal Ratzinger headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is another Mozart fan.  Probably the one who loved Mozart most was the late Hans Urs von Balthasar.  It is said that von Balthasar, having committed the works of Mozart to memory, gave away his recordings and his record player at the end of his life. 

I have started to listen to Mozart a lot more.  In fact, I often listen to him as a means of alleviating the purgatorial travels on the Seoul subway.  What an incredibly rich legacy that this little man from Salzburg left us!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: