March 8, 2019

Deacon offers list of classical music pieces that stir the soul

By Sean Gallagher

In his 35 years as a violinist for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Deacon David Bartolowits had the privilege of playing pieces of classical music that stirred his soul and brought him closer to God and his Catholic faith.

The following are a handful of works of classical music that Deacon Bartolowits, now director of catechesis at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, says can do the same for listeners.

—“Adagietto” from Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5—Written for strings and harp by this composer born in what is now the Czech Republic. Born in 1860 to German-speaking Jews, Mahler later converted to Catholicism and died in 1911.

“There’s a whole range of human emotion tied into one spirituality: questioning God, coming to terms with faith,” said Deacon Bartolowits of the “Adagietto.” “This speaks to me, extremely deeply.”

—Messiah by George Friederic Handel—This oratorio for vocal soloists, choir and orchestra was composed in 1741 and sets various scriptural texts from the Old and New testaments about Christ as the Messiah.

“There’s Scripture in there,” said Deacon Bartolowits. “And there’s human emotion. You go from the birth of Jesus to his crucifixion. It’s amazing how, when you look at the words along with the music, the music is descriptive of the words.”

—Symphony No. 5 by Dmitri Shostakovich—This piece was composed in 1937 in the Soviet Union during the midst of the brutal rule of Josef Stalin. Deacon Bartolowits had the opportunity to play this work with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Maxim Shostakovich, the composer’s son.

“It describes humankind’s desire for freedom against tyranny,” Deacon Bartolowits said. “There’s so much autobiographical material inside, if you know what to look for. There are motifs that he put in there that specifically refer to specific situations that he couldn’t publicly say or he would have been thrown in jail.”

—Requiem by Gabriel Fauré—This setting of various prayers for a Catholic funeral Mass for vocal soloists, choir and orchestra was composed between 1887 and 1890.

“That [piece] speaks to the joy of the hope of the resurrection,” Deacon Bartolowits said. “It’s not so much caught up in the despair of death.”

—The finale of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, known as the “Resurrection Symphony”—Mahler composed this work for vocal soloists, choir and orchestra between 1888 and 1894.

“I love that last movement,” Deacon Bartolowits said. “It just points you to heaven, the resurrection that we hope for.” †


Related story: After retiring from orchestra, deacon makes beautiful music in parish ministry)

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