Top five: Pope Francis lists his favourite albums

Top five: Pope Francis lists his favourite albums


norman lebrecht

October 09, 2013

In an interview with a Jesuit magazine, the Pope lists the recordings that matter most to him. His tastes are conservative, but not predictable.


Among musicians I love Mozart, of course. The ‘Et incarnatus est’ from his Mass in C minor is matchless; it lifts you to God! I love Mozart performed by Clara Haskil. Mozart fulfills me. But I cannot think about his music; I have to listen to it.

clara haskil

I like listening to Beethoven, but in a Promethean way, and the most Promethean interpreter for me is Furtwängler. And then Bach’s Passions. The piece by Bach that I love so much is the ‘Erbarme Dich,’ the tears of Peter in the ‘St. Matthew Passion.’ Sublime.


Then, at a different level, not intimate in the same way, I love Wagner. I like to listen to him, but not all the time. The performance of Wagner’s ‘Ring’ by Furtwängler at La Scala in Milan in 1950 is for me the best. But also the ‘Parsifal’ by Knappertsbusch in 1962.



This is a Pope who knows his opera:

When does a formulation of thought cease to be valid? When it loses sight of the human or even when it is afraid of the human or deluded about itself. The deceived thought can be depicted as Ulysses encountering the song of the Siren, or as Tannhäuser in an orgy surrounded by satyrs and bacchantes, or as Parsifal, in the second act of Wagner’s opera, in the palace of Klingsor. The thinking of the church must recover genius and better understand how human beings understand themselves today.


  • QUOTE: “This is a Pope who knows his opera”


    You really think so?

    Then why are “Pelleas et Melisande” and “Doktor Faust” and “Falstaff” missing from his list?

    • Mike Schachter says:

      It is only rather a short list, and not meant to be comprehensive. I have had several goes at listening to Pelleas and still think it is tedium to the limits of endurance.

  • David Boxwell says:

    He has impeccable taste in his listening choices.

  • …but those three examples he cited illustrate how the men involved did NOT succomb to temptation, either by physically preventing themselves or experiencing seminal moments of lucidity which, in Ulysses’ case amount to the same thing. Nice to know that Number One Jesus Man (©Papua New Guinea re. John Paul II) likes his Wagner, though. We could talk that and wine, too…

  • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

    The last Francis this popular was named Sinatra (Francis Albert Sinatra from Nort Joisey). Let’s hope his “catholic” musical tastes rub off on some of the groupies.

  • sdReader says:

    … that’s not the “Parsifal” he is referring to, fwiw.

  • Michael says:

    Yes, the ’62 Kna is a stereo version… but since there are 7 Kna Parsifals available, it can be confusing.(All 7, to be sure, have their points…)

  • Laurence Glavin says:

    I would have thought he’s mention Mozart’s “Ave verum corpus”, which is just as sublime as the selection from the “Mass in C-minor”. I once heard Futwangler’s version of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on the radio, and it seemed far from the composer’s intention. He’s entitled to his opinion though; it’s not as if he’s infallible or anything.

  • Rosana Martins says:

    It is very gratifying to learn that the Pope really likes classical music. His choices of Haskil, Furtwängler and Knappertsbusch are not commonplace at all.

    A very surprising Pope!

  • Stanislao di Bragansis says:

    “A very surprising Pope”… well he is a Jesuit after all. nuff said

  • Michael Schaffer says:

    “The piece by Bach that I love so much is the ‘Erbarme Dich,’ the tears of Peter in the ‘St. Matthew Passion.’ Sublime.”

    Hey – what a minute! Wasn’t Bach one of those Protestant heretics the Catholic church spent centuries fighting? And aren’t the texts of his passions based on the German translation of that greatest and worst heretic of them all, Martin Luther? And wasn’t even just translating the bible once a capital offense in the eyes of the Catholic church? Don’t these people all burn in hell now for renouncing the one and only true church? What’s going on here?

  • Eleanor says:

    Pope Francis is sweeping through the Catholic Church like a breath of fresh air!

  • ed says:

    Don’t lose perspective and think that the Pope is Mr. Clean just because he appreciates classical music and communicates with words that express sincerity. After all his predecessor and sometime mentor, loved Mozart and even tickled the ivories, but they were also supporters if not members of Opus Dei and Comunione e Liberazione, which is not exactly liberation theology, and had very dirty hands in Latin America and its dirty wars. That’s not to say that people don’t change, but I’d like to “better understand him and how he understands himself” before I succumb to the audacity of hope.

  • ed says:

    My point is that for the time being it might be better to retain a healthy measure of skepticism. (See for example, the March 15, 2013 article in the National Catholic Reporter, “One of Pope Francis’ allegiances might tell us something about the church’s future”, at: )

  • Eleanor says:

    Pope Francis may not be Mr Clean but he is certainly Mr New Broom. Washing the feet of a young Muslim female prisoner on the Thursday before Easter, listing victims of the Spanish Civil War, Nazism and Communism as candidates for sainthood, and last month a lengthy interview in which he criticized the church for putting dogma before love, and for prioritizing moral doctrines over serving the poor – – and he loves music.

  • ed says:

    Eleanor- Good points all, but let’s hope he doesn’t also use the broom to sweep more embarrassing stuff under the rug. Right now he’s on probation.