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POPE-PIANO Aug-13-2007 (370 words) xxxi

Brazil's nuncio plays private piano concert for pope

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI was so impressed with the piano skills of Brazil's Vatican representative that he invited the apostolic nuncio to give him a private concert in Italy.

After a dinner with a few guests Aug. 7 at the papal residence in Castel Gandolfo, Italian Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri played for 50 minutes on the pope's Steinway piano.

The archbishop told Catholic News Service by phone from Brazil that he played classical compositions by Frederic Chopin, Claude Debussy, Isaac Albeniz and others, including the late Brazilian composer, Heitor Villa-Lobos.

The pope "was very pleased, very happy" and praised him for providing a "tranquil, serene musical interlude," Archbishop Baldisseri said.

The nuncio said he felt very nervous before playing. "I almost wanted to flee" from the scene, "but then, once the program began, it went very well," he said.

Among the handful of people present for the dinner and concert was the pope's brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, who for decades had directed the boys choir of Regensburg, Germany.

The archbishop said the pope made the invitation after he heard him play some challenging piano compositions during the May 9-13 papal visit to Brazil.

"As apostolic nuncio I was with the pope and accompanied him (during the Brazil trip), and there was a moment when I just played a few pieces. The pope heard me play and invited me to Italy to Castel Gandolfo," he said.

The archbishop was unable to give the pope his first and still-untitled CD, due to be released in October.

He said the program he played for the pope Aug. 7 "is more or less what is on the CD," for which the proceeds from sales will go to charity.

The 66-year-old archbishop studied at the Italian conservatory of Luigi Boccherini near Florence and then at Rome's Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music before being called to study at the Vatican's school for training diplomats, the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy.

He has served the Vatican for the past 34 years, he said, and has headed the nunciatures of Haiti, Paraguay, India-Nepal and Brazil. Each time, he said, "I brought my piano with me all over the world."


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