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Benedict XVI Reflects on Beethoven’s 9th

Says Composer’s Suffering Heightened His Perceptivity

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 29, 2007 ( Beethoven’s period of isolation and difficulty taught him to listen with a perceptivity akin to an interior or exterior liberation given by God, says Benedict XVI.

Saturday evening in Paul VI Hall, the Pope attended a concert held in his honor, during which the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir played Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The event was organized to thank the Pope for his visit to Bavaria in September 2006.

At the end of the concert, the Holy Father recalled that Beethoven composed his final symphony in 1824, after a period of isolation and difficulty “which threatened to suffocate his artistic creativity.”

Yet the composer “surprised the public with a composition that broke with the traditional structure of the symphony,” rising at the end “in an extraordinary finale of optimism and joy,” the Pontiff said.

Benedict XVI continued, “This overwhelming sentiment of joy is not something light and superficial; it is a sensation achieved through struggle” because “silent solitude […] had taught Beethoven a new way of listening that went well beyond a simple capacity to experience in his imagination the sound of notes read or written.” This was akin to “the perceptivity given as a gift by God to people who obtain the grace of interior or exterior liberation.”

The Pope recalled how in 1989, when the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir had played Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony for the fall of the Berlin Wall, they altered the text from “Ode to Joy” to “Freedom, Spark of God,” thus expressing “more than the simple sensation of a historic moment. True joy is rooted in the freedom that only God can give.”

“God — sometimes through periods of interior emptiness and isolation — wishes to make us attentive and capable of ‘feeling’ his silent presence, not only ‘over the canopy of stars’ but also in the most intimate recesses of our soul,” the Holy Father affirmed. “There burns the spark of divine love that can free us to be what we truly are.”

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