Cherubini Luigi

(Firenze 1760 - Parigi 1842)

Born in Florence in 1760 he received his first schooling from his father, Bartolomeo, a teacher of harpsichord at the Pergola Theatre. He then continued his studies at the school of Alessandro and Bartolomeo Felici and afterwards under the guidance of Pietro Bizzarri and Giuseppe Castrucci concentrating mainly on sacred music. Just eighteen years old, he was accepted as a student by the composer of opera, Giovanni Sarti, who taught him counterpoint and often letting him compose the music for arias and minor pieces which were then integrated into his operas. In 1774 he made his debut in Alessandria with Il Quinto Fabio, but the ferocious competition of established composers like Paisello and Jommelli which made it difficult for new talents to emerge, convinced him to leave Italy in 1784 for London. Favourably, though not enthusiastically received by the English public, he decided to move on again after two years, this time to Paris, where his friend Viotti, the famous violinist, had introduced him to the Parisian high society. Here he collaborated in a project promoted by Viotti – that of importing the principal Italian operas adapted to French tastes – which project was interrupted by the disorders of the Revolution. He started up again in 1793 as an inspector of instruction at the newly formed Conservatoire de Musique, with the duties of not only teaching, but also composing the Republican hymns for the National Guard. With the advent of Napoleon, his situation became more difficult, as Cherubini was not able to establish a positive rapport with the First Consul who was by now the controller of national interests. This notwithstanding, it was this period which saw his greatest masterpieces, Medée in1797 and Les deux journee in 1800. His fame reached abroad to such an extent that he was invited to Vienna to conduct his operas, a term of employment that was brusquely ended with the beginning of hostilities between France and Austria. It was during his stay in Vienna that he met both Haydn and Beethoven, both of whom expressed themselves his admirers. Napoleon’s decline signalled another period of glory for the composer thanks to his favour at the court of the Restoration under the sovereigns Louis XVIII, Charles X and Louis Philippe. In this period he was nominated head of the Royal Chapel and also, in 1822, director of the Conservatory. His last years with the exception of some instrumental and some sacred works, were given over entirely to teaching. Shortly after having resigned his position at the Conservatoire in 1842, he died and was buried in the cemetery of Père Lachaise. Cherubini’s music embraces all musical genres but can be loosely classified into three principal groups: opera, religious and instrumental. As far as regards his operas, there are about thirty of them, written over a thirty year period. After his first youthful attempts about which little is known, his first French opera Demophoon displays a poetic maturity in his writing which is even more clearly evident in his Lodoiska, which was first performed in the Feydeau Theatre in 1791. Cherubini shows to have absorbed the lessons of the “Gluck theatre” and his determination to keep to the plot conducted him to the elimination of “closed” pieces and the “da capos”, keeping instead to the use of accompanied recitatives and arias to maintain a musical continuity. The chorus and the orchestra have a fundamental role, both in the accompanying of the voices and in the pieces which introduce the “action” and also in the gran finales of the acts. In Medèe Cherubini describes an interior conflict which becomes the absolute protagonist of the plot; his music mirrors the scene – unexpected pauses, strong dynamic and orchestral contrasts are written into the score. However, the opera which more than any other elevated him to Olympian heights was Les deux journee, which, with it’s heroic theme, found great favour with the Parisian public, who saw it as representing the injustices suffered by the aristocracy at the time of the Revolution. His sacred repertoire is limited to his later years and count some seven masses, of which, two were for coronations, two requiems and some other short pieces. Compared to his contemporaries, Cherubini showed himself as being very scrupulous in adhering to both the spirit and the text. In doing this he restricted the use of solo voices and operatic vocal technique and gave much more emphasis to the part played by the chorus. His best works in this field are undoubtedly the two masses in C major and D minor. The first was commissioned in 1815 in commemoration of the execution of Louis XVI while the second, for male voices and orchestra was probably intended for his own funeral. Cherubini conceived his instrumental music as being a strictly private creative affair. Here we can include also the overtures to his operas which are well capable of standing as complete compositions in their own right. The originality of the pieces lie in the nature of his musical ideas which find their strength in the harmonic and melodic effects he creates.

DIGITAL CATALOGUE · Works of Cherubini Luigi

Vocal Music

Theatral operas

Armida abbandonata
Massenzio, re d'Etruria
Ifigenia in Aulide, opera seria in tre atti
Giulio Sabino, opera seria in 2 atti
'Adriano in Siria', opera seria in 3 atti

Arias and duets

Cavatina “Perché mai, perché son nata”
Aria "D'un dolce ardor la face"
Duetto "Lascia pur"
Duetto "Mille volte mio tesoro"
Rondò della Regina
Rondò "Se del duol che il cor m'affanna"
Aria "D'un alma incostante"
Aria "Conosci quest'acciaro"
Cavatina "A tanto amore"