VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI was serenaded on Friday with a religious-themed classical concert conducted by Italian maestro Riccardo Muti featuring rare instruments, including a Stadivarius violin from 1720.
The concert in a hall in Vatican City in the shadow of Saint Peter's basilica was a traditional offering from Italian President Giorgio Napolitano to celebrate the seventh anniversary of music-loving Benedict's pontificate.
Muti directed the orchestra and choir of the Rome Opera in a performance of Antonio Vivaldi's Magnificat and Giuseppe Verdi's Stabat Mater and Te Deum.
Among the other instruments used were a viola from 1615 by Antonio and Girolamo Amati, as well as a violin by Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu from 1731.
Napolitano, a former communist, met Benedict briefly before the concert and the two discussed the prospects for peace in the Middle East, the Vatican said.
Prime Minister Mario Monti, a practising Catholic, also attended.
Benedict plays the piano and often references classical music in his homilies and speeches. He praised Muti saying he had helped make more popular "a rich repertoire that expresses the Church's faith in music."
Muti has been the musical director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 2010 and is also honorary director for life at Rome Opera.
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