Marche fun?¿bre (1820);Requiem in C minor (1816)
Luigi Cherubini was born in Florence in 1760, the tenth of the twelvechildren of the theatre harpsichordist at the Teatro della Pergola, his firstteacher. As a child he had further instruction from leading Florentinecomposers and had an early composition, a Mass, performed in 1773, continuingin adolescence to write further church music and a smaller number of seculardramatic works. In 1778, after the performance of his cantata La pubblicafelicit?á ('Public Happiness') in honour of the Grand Duke Leopold ofTuscany, he was awarded by the latter the means of further study with thewell-known opera composer Giuseppe Sarti, a former pupil of Padre Martini.
Cherubini's period with Sarti in Bologna and in Milan, where his teacher was maestrodi cappella at the Cathedral and distinguished at the Teatro della Scala,brought the chance to compose operas for Florence and other Italian cities. In1784 and 1785 he was in London, where he won success in the theatre, and fromthere he travelled to Paris. It was through the violinist and impresarioViotti, established in that city, that Cherubini was presented to Queen MarieAntoinette and in 1786 he settled in France, collaborating with Viotti underthe patronage of the King's brother at the The?ótre de Monsieur at theTuileries, before his great success with the opera Lodo?»ska at Viotti'snew The?ótre Feydeau, a venture curtailed at the Revolution, when Viotti tookrefuge in London and the wine-trade.
After a period of retirement to the countryside, Cherubini returned toParis in 1793, eventually finding employment as an inspector at the newInstitut National de Musique, the future Conservatoire. The decade broughtsettings of texts approved by the new, secular regime and operatic success withwhat remains his best known opera, Medee ('Medea'), and with Les deuxjoumees ('The Two Days'), an opera that had its effect on Beethoven's ownlater Fidelio, the first performance of which Cherubini attended duringa successful visit to Vienna in 1805. Napoleon's occupation of the city in thatyear and the unexpected favour he now showed to Cherubini, after earliercoldness, led the composer to return to Paris, where at first he found reliefin activities other than music. The restoration of the monarchy afterNapoleon's defeat brought him appointment in 1816 as a superintendent of theKing's music under his former patron, now Louis XVIII. In these years Cherubinihad begun to turn his attention once again to church music, notably with the SolemnMass in C major and the Requiem in C minor of 1816.
Further official honours followed, with significant appointment in 1822 asdirector of the Conservatoire, a position he held with distinction until a fewweeks before his death in 1842.
Cherubini wrote his Requiemin C minor in 1815 and 1816 for a commemoration of the death ofLouis XVI, executed by the revolutionaries, and it was first performed in theCrypt of Saint-Denis on 21st January 1816. The suggested revival of the work in1834 at the death of Cherubini's former pupil, the composer Boieldieu, and theobjection of the Archbishop of Paris to the use of women's and men's voicestogether in a liturgical performance led Cherubini to write a second Requiemin 1836, scored for men's voices and heard, as he had intended, at his ownobsequies. The Requiem in C minor won high praise from Cherubini'scontemporaries and successors, admired by Beethoven and by Berlioz, acclaimedby Schumann and by Brahms.
The opening motif ofthe Introit, heard from bassoons and cellos, sets the mood of solemnmourning and provides a unifying element for the Introit and Kyrie movement.
Cherubini offers a setting of the Gradual as a G minor second movement,here scored for the four-part chorus with violas, cellos and double basses. Thecontrasting entry of the brass and the resonant sound of the gong herald the Diesirae, a dramatic evocation of the end of the world, with the sound of thelast trump. Written as one movement, the traditional sequence allows its ownchanges of mood, as suggested by the text. The words Tuba mirum spargenssonum and Rex tremendae majestatis bring dynamic climaxes, offset bythe gentler feeling of Salva me, fons pietatis, before the outburst ofsound at the words Confutatis maledictis, the pleading of Voca me cumbenedictis and the intensity of the final Largo, at the words
Lacrymosa diesilIa. The Offertory isset in the key of E flat major, with an ethereal moment at the words Sedsignifer sanctus Michael, as the Archangel leads the souls of the departedinto eternal light. The movement follows tradition with a fugal setting of Quamolim Abrahae and here, as elsewhere, there seem memories of Mozart's greatsetting of the Requiem, a work that Cherubini himself had introduced toParis in 1805. There is respite as prayers and sacrifice are offered, Hostiaset preces tibi, Domine, laudis offerimus, a Larghetto, after whichthe vigorous Quam olim Abrahae promisisti returns. The A flat major Sanctus,couched in relatively conventional terms, is followed by a moving F minorsetting of the Pie Jesu, words that had concluded the Dies irae. Thewhole work is crowned by the final Agnus Dei, in which the original keyis restored, to end in a final C major as a concluding prayer is offered forall those whose memory is celebrated, the King himself and his family and manysubjects who had died in the revolution.
Cherubini's Marchefun?¿bre was written in 1820, the year of the assassination of the Duc deBerry, son of the future Charles X. It is one of a number of works written forthe royal chapel and is scored for a large orchestra, without flutes, whichCherubini, in any case, disliked, but with a woodwind section that includes adouble bassoon and a percussion section that makes use of a gong. This last isheard at the outset, before a roll of drums and the melancholy descending motifand ascending answering phrase. Gong and drums are used to punctuate the solemnmarch, as it proceeds.
Marche fun?¿bre (1820) Requiem In C minor (1816)