National Catholic Reporter: Off key? Mozart, a Catholic master Mason, favorite of Pope Benedict
tradition he grew up in, which he had no reason to reject, and never did. Masonry was about the pride he felt in himself, his assertion of himself as an equal to the inherited status of the aristocracy,” he said.
Robert Levin of Harvard University agreed. A concert pianist and harpsichordist, Levin recently finished an arrangement of Mozart’s “C Minor Mass,” making it liturgically complete for the first time. He hopes to arrange a performance at the Vatican.
Whatever tensions may exist between Masons and Catholics, Levin said, “Individuals, and artists in particular, often can be more nuanced than the officials’ positions.
“I find it very, very hard to believe that the fervor and expressiveness of the music Mozart wrote for the church, such as the ‘C Minor Mass’ or the ‘Requiem,’ is just the equivalent of an opera composer making a good pitch for his libretto,” Levin said.
Levin said Mozart’s spirituality shines through his more than 60 pieces of church music.
“Mozart’s Catholicism is a powerful, affirmative force, without being subject to the ‘stick’ of terror, threatening eternal damnation to those who didn’t believe,” Levin said. “It’s overwhelmingly music of tenderness, empathy, and at times of grandeur.”
How to reconcile this Catholic piety with Mozart’s Masonry, which seemed to challenge all systems of authority, including clericalism?
One approach is to recall that in the premodern period, criticism of individual churchmen or of ecclesiastical systems by Catholics often had little to do with one’s faith. Perhaps the best glimpse of this comes in a 1771 letter to his father after Mozart had a falling out with the prince-archbishop of Salzburg, Hieronymus Colloredo, who among other indignities insisted on lodging him with household servants.
Noting that “I hate the archbishop to insanity,” Mozart wrote: “Always remember, as we do, that or Mufti [Colloredo] is an idiot, but that God is compassionate, merciful and loving.”
Levin said there should be no scandal about Benedict’s passion for this Masonic composer.
“Mozart himself would be thrilled,” Levin said. “His holiness is not doing anything controversial in listening to Mozart. He’ll be a better pope if he does!”
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John L. Allen Jr. is National Catholic Reporter senior correspondent.
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Republished by Catholic Online with permission of the National Catholic Reporter (www.ncronline.org), a Catholic Online Preferred Publishing Partner.
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