A Change of Tune in the Vatican – And Not Only in the Secretariat of State
Bertone takes Sodano’s place. But an important shift is also taking place in liturgical music. The way was pointed out by a concert with the pope in the Sistine Chapel, conducted by maestro Bartolucci
by Sandro Magister
ROMA, June 27, 2006 – Step by step, Benedict XVI is impressing a new form and a new style on the governance of the universal Church.
Recent days were marked by the announcement of a change in the secretary of state: from Angelo Sodano to Tarcisio Bertone.
But another event orchestrated by pope Joseph Ratzinger is of no less importance: the concert conducted in the Sistine Chapel, on Saturday, June 24, by maestro monsignor Domenico Bartolucci.
With this concert, Benedict XVI has symbolically restored the Sistine Chapel to its true maestro. Because the famous chapel is not only the sacred place decorated with the frescoes of Michelangelo, it also gives the name to the choir that for centuries has accompanied the pontifical liturgies.
Maestro Bartolucci was named the “perpetual” director, the director for life, of the Sistine Chapel by Pius XII in 1959. Under this and later popes, he was an outstanding interpreter of the liturgical music founded upon Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony. But after a long period of opposition, in 1997 he was dismissed and replaced by a choirmaster thought to be more fitting for the “popular” music dear to John Paul II.
Magister tells the story of Maestro Bartolucci's removal and then return by Supreme Admirer-Pope Benedict. The Holy Father spoke after the maestro's concert:
“All of the selections we have listened to – and especially in their entirety, where the 16th and 20th centuries stand parallel – agree in confirming the conviction that sacred polyphony, in particular that of what is called the ‘Roman school’, constitutes a heritage that should be preserved with care, kept alive, and made better known, for the benefit not only of the scholars and specialists, but of the ecclesial community as a whole. [...] An authentic updating of sacred music can take place only in the lineage of the great tradition of the past, of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony.”
Among the prelates of the Roman curia present at the concert were Marini and Liberto. But Benedict XVI’s attention was entirely dedicated to maestro Bartolucci – a vigorous 89 years old, – his choir, and the superb quality of their performances.
Marini is the master of pontifical ceremonies and Liberto was the guy who replaced Bartolucci. Yes, make them come and sit through a concert.
As I pointed out last time around, Benedict's moves are reshuffling of personnel. The big moves have yet to show themselves and as they get pushed back, they become ephemeral. The 'tsunami' of reform is like a grey squall on the horizon that looms over the curial ship but never drifts far enough to cause more than a few gusts of wind and a stray band of rain.
As far as the music scene, I'm beyond that anyway. A major shift back to chant would be meaningless for me. Now if there was a major push for the priest to face back towards the altar, that would be significant. But long-time readers will remember why music holds no place upon my faith at this time.