Israel Orchestra Plays for Pope Pius Xii in Historic Concert

At 10 A M today the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra gave a private concert for Pope Pius XII in the Vatican’s consistory hall. This was the first time that any orchestra from abroad had played privately for Pope Pius and only one Italian orchestra that of Turin, had previously performed for him.

Conductor Paul Kletzky had requested that on the Israel orchestra’s first tour of Italy it be allowed to perform for the Pope as a gesture of gratitude for the help which the Roman Catholic Church gave to all persons persecuted by the Nazis and Fascists. The Vatican accepted promptly.

When the Pope entered the large consistory hall, accompanied by two Cardinals, he raised his hands in blessing over the orchestra which was standing in silence. Mr. Kletzky then asked permission to play and, when he received it, announced that the orchestra would play the second movement of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. Beethoven is one of the Pope’s favorite composers.

When the last note died away, the Pope applauded and smilingly thanked Mr. Kletzky, declaring “It was marvelous playing. What wonderful artists. It is not you who must thank me for this audience, but it is for me to thank you for the pleasure you have given me. I pray to God every day that such cruelties as happened should never happen again.” Then he asked God’s blessing for the members of the orchestra and their families.

Concertmaster Henry Haftel thanked the Pope for the opportunity of playing for him and added that “the Jewish people are happy to express through music their gratitude for the help the Church gave to persecuted people. Our orchestra is composed of musicians from 14 countries, most of them have suffered persecution,” he pointed out.

Replying the Pope said that he was happy that from so much evil such an instrument of artistic creation was born. He recalled that Arturo Toscanini was instrumental in the creation of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and had conducted its inaugural concert in Israel. At the close of the audience Pope Pius presented medals with his likeness to the conductor and concertmaster.

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