The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra will become the first American orchestra to play for a pope in the Vatican.
The Jan. 17 performance will recognize Pope John Paul II for interfaith efforts among Muslims, Jews and Christians in his 25th year as pontiff.
The concert, to be funded by the Knights of Columbus, is the brainchild of Pittsburgh maestro Gilbert Levine, who has conducted several top European orchestras at the Vatican.
Levine insisted on an American orchestra for the occasion because he believes no country better represents the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths and embodies a society of tolerance, said the Rev. Ronald P. Lengwin, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.
Levine selected Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 2 "Resurrection" as the centerpiece of the concert. The program will open with the world premiere of a choral work based on text from Genesis, commissioned from composer John Harbison for this occasion.