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TESS CREBBIN describes the memorial service
in Munich for conductor Marcello Viotti


In a moving memorial service for the Swiss-Italian conductor Marcello Viotti, who died on 16 February 2005 in Munich after having suffered a stroke one week earlier during rehearsals, Zubin Mehta guided Viotti's orchestra, the Bavarian Broadcast Orchestra, through Mozart's Requiem. The 25 February mass for Viotti was held by the archbishop Cardinal Friedrich Wetter. Despite the freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall still prevailing all over Southern Germany, more than 2,500 people were in attendance, including the director of the Munich Opera, the British-born Sir Peter Jonas, who read a passage from the bible during the service. In his homage, the Cardinal likened the conductor's life to an unfinished symphony. 'Many great works of art have remained unfinished,' Wetter said, 'but great works of art impress even when they are not yet completed. This goes especially for the artwork (of God) that we call man.'

The cardinal also looked back on his personal encounters with the pious star-conductor, remembering the famous Paradisi Gloria series that Viotti initiated in Munich where he took his orchestra to perform spiritual works of the 20th century in churches throughout Munich.

'By the time the first concert of this year's series took place on 18 February', Cardinal Wetter said, 'Viotti had already been dead for two days. So we never know when it is time for our own symphony to remain uncompleted.'

Last year, the fourth concert of the 2004 series, which was performed with Viotti on 24 September, had 'Memento Mori' as its chosen theme. The Cardinal quoted Viotti's words on this particular series: 'Memento Mori is not a friendly matter, of course. Our programme shows that death is but a passing stage and that we, as Christians, believe in the resurrection. That is our deep hope.'

Marcello Viotti. Photo © Johannes Ifkovits
Marcello Viotti. Photo © Johannes Ifkovits

Wetter then went on to say: 'This hope he has lived by. From our personal encounters I know for certain that Marcello Viotti was a deeply pious man. For him, death was a passing stage indeed and he knew that our life and activities here on earth remain but a fragment, just like an unfinished symphony. And yet, our life and action, our love, our labouring for things beautiful and good, show a deep longing for fulfilment and completion.'

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Copyright © 14 March 2005 Tess Crebbin, Germany


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