Friday, July 21, 2006

Mgr Bartolucci on Music & the Liturgy

Those who pay attention to Romanita understood that when Benedict XVI attended a concert conducted by Mgr Bartolucci, and also spoke on the occasion, that it was quite significant. After all, Bartolucci had been unceremoniously dumped from his position as conductor of the Sistine Chapel choir by Mgr. Marini only a few years back.

Now Mgr Marini's head is on the chopping block. What a difference an election makes, eh?

Chiesa's Magister interviewed Mgr. Bartolucci. A candid, forthright fellow he is, indeed!

Referring to Benedict XVI: “I am an optimist by nature, but I judge the current situation realistically, and I believe that a Napoleon without generals can do little.”

Q: Maestro Bartolucci, no fewer than six popes have attended your concerts. In which of them did you see the most musical expertise?

A: In the most recent one, Benedict XVI. He plays the piano, has a profound understanding of Mozart, loves the Church’s liturgy, and in consequence he places great emphasis on music. Pius XII also greatly loved music, and played the violin frequently. The Sistine Chapel owes a great deal to John XXIII. In 1959 he gave me permission to restore the Sistine...Then came Paul VI, but he was tone deaf, and I don’t know how much of an appreciation he had for music.

AHA! Now we know how the Bugnini/Weakland cabal worked its will...

Q: Was Perosi in some sense the harbinger of the current vulgarization of sacred music?

A: Not exactly. Today the fashion in the churches is for pop-inspired songs and the strumming of guitars, but the fault lies above all with the pseudo-intellectuals who have engineered this degeneration of the liturgy, and thus of music, overthrowing and despising the heritage of the past with the idea of obtaining who knows what advantage for the people. If the art of music does not return to its greatness, rather than representing an accommodation or a byproduct, there is no sense in asking about its function in the Church. I am against guitars, but I am also against the superficiality of the Cecilian movement in music – it’s more or less the same thing. Our motto must be: let us return to Gregorian chant and to polyphony in the tradition of Palestrina, and let us continue down this road!

Q: What are the initiatives that Benedict XVI should take to realize this plan in a world of discotheques and iPods?

A: The great repertoire of sacred music that has been handed down to us from the past is made up of Masses, offertories, responsories: formerly there was no such thing as a liturgy without music. Today there is no place for this repertoire in the new liturgy, which is a discordant commotion – and it’s useless to pretend that it’s not. It is as if Michelangelo had been asked to paint the general judgment on a postage stamp!

Q: Do you think that the assembly of the faithful should participate in singing the Gregorian chant during liturgical celebrations?

A: We must make distinctions in the performance of Gregorian chant. Part of the repertoire, for example the Introits or the Offertories, requires an extremely refined level of artistry and can be interpreted properly only by real artists. Then there is a part of the repertoire that is sung by the people: I think of the Mass “of the Angels,” the processional music, the hymns...And furthermore, Gregorian chant has been distorted by the rhythmic and aesthetic theories of the Benedictines of Solesmes. Gregorian chant was born in violent times, and it should be manly and strong, and not like the sweet and comforting adaptations of our own day.

A very interesting observation, likely to be controversial even among musicians who are otherwise of the same mind as Bartolucci. A relatively good music-guy (Roger Wagner) once told me that "Chant should be sung as though it were music!" Pace Bartolucci, I think it is preposterous to sing Chant in either a "feminine" or "masculine" way.

Q: But is it possible, today, to compose in the Gregorian style?

A: For one thing, we would need to recover that spirit of solidity. But the Church has done the opposite, favoring simplistic, pop-inspired melodies that are easy on the ears. It thought this would make people happy, and this is the road it took. But that’s not art. Great art is density.

Q: Don’t you say any composers today who are capable of reviving such a tradition?

A: It’s not a question of aptitude; the atmosphere just isn’t there. The fault is not that of the musicians, but of what is asked of them.

Q: But there are authoritative composers who have put the faith at center stage, like Pärt or Penderecki...

A: They don’t have a sense of the liturgy. Mozart was also great, but I doubt that his sacred music is very much at its ease in a cathedral. But Gregorian chant and Palestrina match seamlessly with the liturgy.

That Mozart comment is interesting, and perhaps Mozart really wrote for his patrons, rather than zu Gott...

Q: Bruckner was also very inspired...

A: He has the defect of being longwinded. His Mass for wind instruments, the one in E minor, is rather tedious.

Tedious? Really?

Q: In what sense can Palestrina, Lasso, or Victoria be considered relevant?

A: For their musical density. Palestrina... intuited the necessity for contrapuntal composition linked to the text, unlike the complexity and the rules of Flemish composition.

Q: For the philosopher Schopenhauer, music is the summit of all the arts, the immediate objectification of the Will. For Catholics, can it be defined as the direct expression of God, as the Word?

A: Music is Art with a capital “A.” Sculpture has marble, and architecture has the edifice. You see music only with the eyes of the spirit; it enters within you. And the Church has the merit of having cultivated it in its cantories, of having given it its grammar and syntax. Music is the soul of the word that becomes art. It most definitely disposes you to discovering and welcoming the beauty of God. For this reason, now more than ever the Church must learn to recover it.

It might be obvious why Bartolucci was not loved by the more political animals around the Vatican; he has an opinion on everything, and is not afraid to state it, clearly. At the same time, the bold-red above is almost identical to the thoughts of Ratzinger/B-16.

Food for thought.


Bernard Brandt said...

Thanks, Dad29. It's postings like this that make me keep going back to read your weblog (other, of course, than references to killer sites like The Lawdog Files.

Do please keep up the good work, and the prayers. I'll try to overlook the slur on my cooking. I could beat you at a contest for cooking Boeuf Bourgignon, paella, Fettucino Alfredo, or Wiener Schnitzel with one hand tied behind my back.

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