On 17 January 2004, John Harbison’s new sacred motet, Abraham
, received it's premiere at the Vatican in a concert on the theme of “Reconciliation between Jews, Christians, and Muslims.” With Pope John Paul II in attendance, Gilbert Levine, who conceived the event conducted the Pittsburgh Symphony with singers form the London and Krakow Philharmonic Orchestras, and the Ankara Polyphonic Choir.
“The concert for the concert in the Vatican built around the ideas of reconciliation and resurrection, as expressed in Mahler’s Second Symphony, came from Gilbert Levine,” explains Harbison. “As it took shape and gained the support of Pope John Paul II, with whom Maestro Levine has a long association, I was honored to be invited by Maestro Levine to compose a piece as a Prologue, speaking directly in contemporary terms to the themes of the concert.” In its official invitation, the Vatican noted, “This initiative has assumed a special significance in view of the current world context, the event entrusts to the powerful efficacy of music the commitment to reconciliation that all the children of Abraham – Jews, Christians and Muslims – must embrace with conviction.”
“The text from Genesis which I suggested presents Abraham as ‘father of many nations.’ In these difficulty times, the music centers on the name and sprit of Abraham as a bridge, a mode of communication, a point of commonality.”
G. Schirmer News, Jan 2004