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The Pope's Maestro Hardcover – October 5, 2010

4.8 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Not all books are worth writing; this one assuredly is, because it tells how peace can happen, one heart at a time. It helps when the hearts beat in people of influence and talent. The hearts in question are, first, that of author Levine, a conductor, Brooklyn-born Jew, and son-in-law of a Holocaust survivor. The other heart? Polish-born Pope John Paul II, who may be headed to sainthood. Levine and the late pope became acquainted when the musician became the conductor of the Krakow Philharmonic in the heady days of the late 1980s, as the Iron Curtain slowly crumbled in Eastern Europe. Levine and the pope became spiritual friends, collaborating on papal-sponsored concerts of reconciliation intended to ease estrangement and pained history between Catholic Christians and Jews, and, post-September 11, among the three Abrahamic religions. This remarkable and little-known story deserves attention. (Oct.) (Publishers Weekly, August 16, 2010)

"Talk about a baptism in fire. Levine is witty as he tells of his observations of Communist Poland, the intricacies of the Catholic Church, and his first glimpses of the Vatican… He strikes a dreamlike tone as he tells of how he and Pope John Paul II became friends." (The Buffalo News.com, March 20, 2011, by Mary Kunz Goldman)

From the Inside Flap

The Pope’s Maestro tells the inspirational story of a most improbable friendship between the American conductor Sir Gilbert Levine and His Holiness Pope John Paul II. Together they collaborated closely, over a period of more than seventeen years, using music to heal centuries-old religious wounds.

 Maestro Levine created and conducted a series of ground-breaking, internationally broadcast concerts that brought artistic form to Pope John Paul II’s fervent wish to forge an historic bridge first between the Roman Catholic Church and the Jewish people, and then, after 9/11, with the Muslim world as well. These efforts culminated in the Papal Concert to Commemorate the Holocaust in 1994 and the Papal Concert of Reconciliation in 2004.

 During his years as music director [stet caps for Sir G’s preference] of the Kraków Philharmonic, Sir Gilbert had an insider’s view of Eastern Europe’s inexorable journey from Communism to freedom. And in the years following, he experienced the world of Pope John Paul in a way few lay people, and even fewer Jews, have ever been honored to do. That work, paradoxically enough, deepened Sir Gilbert’s own Jewish belief and practice .

 The Pope’s Maestro tells the story of the compelling musical and spiritual journey of two men of different faiths who found in music the power to foster peace and unity in a profoundly divided world.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 440 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (October 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470490659
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470490655
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #576,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Reading this book I got the feeling that Maestro Gilbert Levine was just as much a surprise to Pope John Paul as Pope John Paul was to Maestro Levine. For all their differences, they connected in a real and deep way. For me now, Pope John Paul is no longer an icon, he is a human being who loved music, his native Poland, and all of humanity deeply. I can see how he grieved over the world's past and present injustices and how he desired to do what he could to heal and build. I was struck by how he did not try to convert Maestro Levine but instead encouraged him in his own faith. I was also glad get to know Cardinal Dziwisz and the important role he played in Pope John Paul's life's work. I found this book enlightening and was moved by it.
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In a world full of wonders Maestro Levine and Pope John Paul II moved music into the lives of millions with an incredible commitment to uncovering truths and communicating through it in ways that were so thoughtful and powerful it makes you wonder why this hasn't been done before. The leadership of Pope John Paul II, in so many ways that his eventual Sainthood is assured, was power-charged by Maestro Levine whose ideas and knowledge of the finest music ever created combined to bridge communications to religious, ethnic, youth, historical missions and individuals in ways not ever seen before. This book is as wonderful and compelling as the relationship between these two gifted and caring people. It is truly amazing to see how the Vatican bureocracy operates and how complicated it is when it comes to moving wondeful projects through it. Fascinating stuff. It begs one to recommend it to others.

I have recommended it to eight of my very best friends and bought four copies to serve as gifts to my family and a very dear friend. Never done that before. This is the first review I have written and chose to do so because I rally believe that people should not miss this great read.

Congratulations to Maestro Levine for a written work that rivals his great musical works. For those who read it, your lives will be fuller and more understanding of the great things that can happen when people with gifts choose to share them with the rest of us.

Tim Ryan
Newport Beach, California
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Format: Hardcover
This book should be on everyone's holiday shopping list. The recipients of your gift will be truly blessed by receiving a copy of this well written and inspiring book.
Through the human history of religious strife and conflict, it is reassuring that there is hope. This is a true story of a Jewish-American musical conductor, Maestro Gilbert Levine and the Catholic Pope, John Paul ll is amazing. Becoming the conductor for the Krakow Philharmonic, Maestro Levine would become instrumental in a life changing relationship. This relationship would have an influence on people of many faiths. This is and will be called, a miracle.
The story is, as I said, amazing. The telling of it is so well done. Maestro Levine, as a principal in the cast of characters, has his heart driving the writing. The detail of the politics in a changing Poland and the interworking of the Roman Catholic Church, are told as if Maestro Levine lived them yesterday.
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Format: Hardcover
This book did not sell itself. What caught me was the author's enthusiasm during a radio interview, an enthusiasm that continues throughout the book. The story begins when the author first meets John Paul II and ends with his death, which is odd, since the subject is not really the Pope. Nor is it the author himself, nor despite the author's suggestion, is it his journey into the world of John Paul II. Yes, his and the Pope's mutual fondness is heart-warming; his description of the Vatican and its protocols is interesting; the detail of what it takes to bring a concert to fruition is eye-opening; and the Maestro's ability to produce inspiring music in inspiring places is perhaps unequaled; but the real story is the author's gradual acceptance of his role in, so to speak, God's concert, his growing willingness, indeed eagerness, to be led by the Spirit*, which forms the core of this story.

The book basically consists of five or six cycles of: idea for a concert, obtaining permission and backing, rounding up the players, rehearsal, actual presentation, and congratulations all around. But that is hardly the real action. Underlying this repetition we see the author's transformation from one who works with enviable, but decidedly human, abilities and goals, to one who enlists in a transcendent purpose, worldwide peace and understanding. We see lifelong musicians playing like they never had before, each joining the moment when he, the instrument, the music, the conductor, and the audience meld into one brief foretaste of paradise. We see his gratitude for that moment, his life changed by that moment, a shared perception that the moment was orchestrated by powers beyond himself.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a book I've scarcely been able to put down since I picked it up yesterday. A fascinating, compelling, and significant story about how, over fifteen years, two remarkable people unexpectedly became friends and, through the power of great music, brought millions of people together across one of the greatest chasms in human history -- one the most powerful leader of the Catholic Church and the other a world class American musician of Jewish heritage.

Maestro Gilbert Levine tells the extraordinary story of his partnership with Pope John Paul II, beginning with Levine's invitation to conduct the Krakow Philharmonic in the pre-Glasnost days of Communist Poland and continuing through one significant musical event after another into the post-9/11 years of this century. Pope John Paul repeatedly provided Maestro Levine the platform for orchestral performance of great music but did so with the purpose of remembrance and reconciliation to heal the deep wounds of the Holocaust and promote peace.

Maestro Levine manages to tell this story at a number of levels -- his personal journey, his evolving friendship with the Pope (to the amazement of the Vatican hierarchy), the shifting geopolitical tensions, the complex negotiations and logistics needed to accomplish the series of high profile performances, and the story of the music that becomes the universal language of reconciliation.

This is an important book and a wonderful story. Well worth reading, and I recommend it highly.
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