Luigi Cherubini

Article

November 28, 2021

Luigi Maria Cherubini (Florence, 14 September 1760 - Paris, 15 March 1842) was an Italian composer, exponent of Classicism.

Biography

Son of Bartolomeo, harpsichordist, horn player and director of the Grand Ducal Chapel in Florence, he was the tenth of twelve children. He began studying music at the age of six with his father; three years later he was entrusted to the masters Bartolomeo and Alessandro Felici, Alessandro Bizzarri and Giuseppe Castrucci, with whom he studied singing, counterpoint and organ. After completing his studies in Milan and Bologna, culminating with Giuseppe Sarti, who launched him on an opera career, where he made his debut with Quinto Fabio, his first real success. He started still very young to compose sacred music. His first work was a solemn mass for four voices with orchestra which was performed in Florence when he was thirteen. Other works of religious and chamber music followed, much appreciated to the point of inducing the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo of Tuscany to assign him a pension (1778), necessary for his study stay in Bologna where the master Sarti waited for him. In the years from 1780 to 1784 he was prolific in theatrical works to the point of obtaining an invitation to go to London, where he composed the comic opera The fake princess and Giulio Sabino. He was the author of numerous operas before settling in Paris in 1787, taking over the direction of a musical theater with G. B. Viotti. The Ifigenia in Aulide (Turin, 1788) marked his departure from the Italian scene, and the Démophoon, based on a text by Jean-François Marmontel, his debut in the Opera. In Paris, where he joined the new Conservatory, which he then directed from 1822 to 1842, leaving office a few weeks before his death, and where he befriended Viotti. During the revolution he lived in Gaillon and was appointed professor at the National Guard School of Music. The maestro reached the pinnacle of his operatic career from 1790 when his works were successfully performed in Europe. In 1805 he moved to Vienna, where he was welcomed by Haydn, and Beethoven himself proclaimed him the greatest living dramatic composer. Following the war events and the difficult Austrian theatrical situation, he was forced to return to Paris, where the reception was rather cold to the point of inducing him to dedicate himself temporarily to the compilation of a herbarium and he decided to deal with sacred music. Freemason, he was a member of the Loggia Saint-Jean de Palestrine of the Grand Orient of France. He had greater success and recognition in France in the following years. He died in 1842 and was buried in the Père-Lachaise cemetery. His classical compositions show a great mastery of counterpoint. In 1808 he composed his most important work of religious inspiration, the "Solemn Mass in F major in three parts"; another great contribution to sacred music was the "Mass for the coronation of Louis XVIII" in G major for choir and orchestra (1815). Other sacred music compositions include the "Creed for 8 voices and organ" from 1808, the Mass in C major (1816) and the "Requiem in C minor" (1816) and in D minor (1836). Among the numerous other compositions by Cherubini - who between 1773 and 1833 wrote the music for over thirty plays - we remember the operas Lodoïska (1791), Elisa (1794), Medea (1797), which marks a return to tragedy classical thanks to the Gluckian reform, L'hôtellerie portugaise (1798), Les deux journées (1800), and Anacréon (1803), as well as motets, cantatas and string quartets. Cherubini's fortune in France had led him to positions of responsibility, but it was hampered by the aversion of Napoleon Bonaparte, musically nostalgic for the ancient regime. Napoleon therefore could not suffer Cherubini, who according to him wrote noisy and difficult music. Cherubini could not bear this discomfort for long and accepted an invitation to Vienna, where after a few months Napoleon arrived with him and

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