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  • The Castel Gandolfo concert
    © Luis Castilla
  • The Castel Gandolfo concert
    © Servizio Fotografico - L'Osservatore Romano 2012
  • The Castel Gandolfo concert
    © Luis Castilla
  • The Castel Gandolfo concert
    © Servizio Fotografico - L'Osservatore Romano 2012
  • The Castel Gandolfo concert
    © Servizio Fotografico - L'Osservatore Romano 2012

The Castel Gandolfo concert

Pope Benedict XVI praises “professional excellence and ethical and spiritual engagement” of Daniel Barenboim and the WEDO

Berlin, July 12, 2012 – After a first highly lauded concert in Munich, the orchestra moved on to its second appearance this summer: the concert for Pope Benedict XVI in Castel Gandolfo. The concert took place in the historic Palazzo Apostolico, complete with Swiss Guards and the protocol and splendour of the papal court in the papal summer residence near Rome. The programme featured Ludwig van Beethoven’s 6th and 5th symphonies, in the inverted order in which they were originally performed in Vienna on December 22, 2008.

Castel Gandolfo is a historic place in many ways: the town rises on the remains of Alba Longa, founded according to legend by Aeneas’s son whose descendents would go on to found Rome. A favourite place for rural villas in Roman times, it became the site of an imperial villa, brought to its biggest extensions by Emperor Domitian in the 1. century AD. Various buildings occupied the site until Pope Urban VIII commissioned a new palace to be built by Carlo Maderno. Situated on the highest point of the rim of Lake Albano, with views both towards the sea and the almost perfectly round lake below, the setting could not have been more beautiful.

How much the musicians were able to appreciate this is open to debate: they barely had time to arrive in Rome, having played a memorable concert the night before in Munich, and drove out straight from the airport in oppressive heat. Picturesque Italian hill towns do have the disadvantage that it usually is quite a hike uphill to reach the centre (in this case dressed in black and carrying their instruments), since buses would not be able to navigate the narrow streets.

In spite of the heat, 400 invited guests had gathered to hear the orchestra play Beethoven’s 6th and 5th symphonies, among them old friends and supporters but also many new faces who we hope will support our projects in the future. A very special guest was Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, who has so generously supported our plans for the Barenboim-Said Academy in Berlin.

Daniel Barenboim and the WEDO treated the audience to a spirited performance that almost sounded like a musical Bildungsroman, moving from the bucolic setting of the “Pastoral” through the tortured meanderings of the 5th to its triumphal finale. As Pope Benedict XVI put it in his personal and touching thanks to Maestro Barenboim and the WEDO, “the message that I would like to extract from these symphonies today is this: to achieve peace, one has to try very hard and lay aside weapons and violence, striving with the means of personal and communal conversion, with dialogue, with the patient search for a possible common understanding”. Benedict XVI also personally greeted a number of musicians personally, a warm gesture that was appreciated by all.

After the concert, we were able to invite all musicians and guests for a dinner at a nearby restaurant overlooking Lake Gandolfo – thanks to our friends at UBS who made this dinner possible. The evening ended all too soon, when the musicians had to take the buses back to the hotel to get some sleep before the following morning’s flight to Paris, the next stop on the summer tour 2012.

We would like to thank UBS and Sapinda for making this concert possible through their generous donations.