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Von Karajan, Vienna Philharmonic To Join Pope in Musical Mass

June 26, 1985

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan and the Vienna Philharmonic will join Pope John Paul II in presenting a rare musical Mass on Saturday.

The pontiff is to celebrate the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica with the 77- year-old von Karajan directing the Philharmonic, its choir and the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel Choir in Mozart’s ″Coronation Mass.″

Von Karajan’s first performance ever at the Vatican will also feature as soloists American soprano Kathleen Battle, West German mezzo-soprano Trude Liese Schmidt, Swedish tenor Gosta Winberg and Italian bass Ferrucio Furlanetto.

Nearly 10,000 tickets to the service marking the feast day of Sts. Peter and Paul were swiftly bought out, with Vatican officials, diplomats, government VIPs and journalists getting most of them. The service will be televised live to about 30 countries.

Vatican sources say requests for tickets have come from music fans and church leaders from as far away as Japan, the United States and Latin America.

″We would have needed more than 100,000 tickets to meet all the requests,″ said a Vatican official who asked that his name not be used.

Von Karajan, the permanent music director of the Berlin Philharmonic, has not performed in Italy since 1971 when he gave a concert in Venice.

He has refused to return to Italy because of a feud with a late director of the state-run RAI television over broadcast rights for works at Milan’s La Scala Opera, where von Karajan was once principal conductor.

Von Karajan’s appearance in the Holy See was arranged by Austrian Cardinal Franz Konig, the archbishop of Vienna, and Francesco Siciliani, president of the Academy of Santa Cecilia and its Rome-based orchestra.

At the end of the two-hour service, the pope will give communion to von Karajan, his wife Eliette, and daughters Arabelle and Isabelle, the Vatican officials said.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s ″Coronation Mass″ was written for a small pilgrimage church near Salzburg when the 18th century genius was 23 years old.

Asked why von Karajan was bringing the Vienna Philharmonic instead of the Berlin Philharmonic, Uli Maerkle, the conductor’s recording representative, was quoted by the Rome newspaper Il Messaggero as saying, ″But it’s only natural.

″Von Karajan is Austrian, Cardinal Konig is Austrian, Mozart is Austrian, and the decision to stage this event was made during the pope’s visit to Vienna (September 1983).″

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