Benedict XVI: Haydn, like Michelangelo, manifests God's law of art


After having heard the rendition of Franz Joseph Haydn's "The Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross " last Friday, Pope Benedict XVI called it "an example among the most sublime, in the musical field, of how art and faith can be wedded." The “austere beauty” of the composition was fitting for the solemnity, he observed, adding that it is well adapted to the Lenten season.

The work was performed in honor of the Holy Father's "name day" on the Solemnity of St. Joseph in the intimate setting of the Clementine Room of the Apostolic Palace.

Qualifying the masterpiece as among the "most sublime" in music in being able to unite art and faith, he said that the composition is "all inspired and almost directly from evangelical texts, that culminate in the words pronounced by crucified Jesus, before rendering his final breath."

Haydn's work, he continued, is like Michelangelo's "Pieta" in its ability to transmit an "absolutely original artistic expression" which, at the same time, is in complete service to a moment of faith.

Haydn's musical piece "conceals a universal rule of artistic expression: that of using a physical medium to communicate a beauty that is also good and true. ... This is the same law that God followed when communicating His love to us: He became incarnate in our human flesh and created the greatest masterpiece of the entire creation: the 'one mediator between God and humankind, the man Jesus Christ.'"

"This law, that is the law of love, is also the law of art in its highest expressions," he related.

Benedict XVI thanked the Lord for "these great artistic geniuses that have known and wanted" to work with "His Word - Jesus Christ - and His words - the Sacred Scriptures."

In Spanish and German, the Holy Father also expressed his gratitude to Maestro Jose Peris Lacasa for his "successful re-elaboration" of Haydn's work, and the Henschel String Quartet and mezzosoprano singer Susanne Kelling for performing it.

Lacasa's version of original work unites Latin texts, which were offered as separate meditations by Haydn, to the seven sonatas of the "The Seven Last Words."

Also present for the concert was Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, who addressed the Pope, pointing out the similarities between him and St. Joseph, who was "a meek and humble man, lover of discreet and assiduous work ... a "just man, always attentive to understand and follow the will of God in his life ... totally devoted to service of the Virgin Mary ... and his Son Jesus."

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