Holy Smoke

The mystery of Pope Francis’s infallibly good taste in classical music

34 min listen

In This Episode

In this week’s Holy Smoke podcast I suggest that Pope Francis has a more profound appreciation of classical music than any of his predecessors. I’ve been saying this for years and everyone assumes that it’s a wind-up or that I’m confusing him with Benedict XVI. Not so.

The Pope doesn’t just enjoy listening to Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Wagner: he has strong views on the best recordings of their work, and very sound views they are too. You’ll have to listen to the podcast to hear the details, but here’s a taster: Francis not only recognises Wilhelm Furtwängler as the supreme interpreter of Wagner’s Ring cycle, but he asserts the superiority of the live 1950 La Scala recordings to those taped for Italian radio in 1953. And he’s right.

Fortunately all the recordings that receive the papal imprimatur are out of copyright, so you’ll hear extracts from the performances. And I reveal what members of the Sistine Chapel choir told me about Francis’s obsession with an opera whose symbolism has always made Catholics feel uneasy…


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