VATICAN CITY -- The Pittsburgh Symphony was commissioned as the first American Orchestra to play for a pope at the Vatican, Nov. 8. The Knights of Columbus will be sponsoring the Jan. 17 concert, which will recognize the interreligious efforts made by Pope John Paul II through the 25 years of his pontificate.
"This announcement has historical significance for not only the Pittsburgh Symphony, but the entire country. The Pittsburgh Symphony is honored to be the first American orchestra to perform at the Vatican for the Pope,” said Pittsburgh Symphony’s board chairman, Richard Simmons.
The orchestra’s maestro, Gilbert Levine, who organized several top European orchestras at the Vatican, will once again conduct the concert; Levine chose Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony as the centerpiece of the performance.
According to the spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Pittesburgh, the Rev. Ronald P. Lengwin, Levine insisted on an American orchestra for the occasion, because he believed no other country better represented a society of interreligious tolerance and acceptance.