Happy birthday, Luigi Cherubini

Luigi Cherubini: Cantatas

In Beethoven’s eyes, one of the greatest dramatic composers of his time was Luigi Cherubini. In modern times, however, Cherubini’s musical oeuvre is more common among specialists than in concert halls. Luigi Carlo Zenobo Salvatore Maria Cherubini was born on 14 September 1760 in Florence, where he received his first musical training from his father, who was also a musician. He later studied in Bologna and Milan. In 1788 he moved to Paris, where he enjoyed great success, especially with his operas. However, the successes of his operas “Lodoiska” or also “Medée” were limited to the smaller opera house because of their rather austere character. His financial situation in Paris only became bearable when he became an inspector at the Paris Conservatoire.

In 1805 Cherubini was asked to write an opera for Vienna, which was enthusiastically acclaimed by Beethoven and Haydn. In 1810 Prince Nicholas II of Esterhazy asked Cherubini to succeed Joseph Haydn, who had died in the meantime. However, he had to withdraw this offer a short time later due to financial difficulties. Cherubini therefore remained in Paris, but increasingly wrote church music, as he was frustrated by the rather limited success of his stage works. His international reputation was enhanced by several commissions he wrote for the London Philharmonic Society. His chamber music, to which he turned at the same time as he turned away from the opera stage, is quite limited. It is limited to six string quartets and a string quintet. In 1822 Cherubini became director of the Paris Conservatoire, which he remained until his death in 1842.

Cherubini’s work was highly regarded and admired, especially by such colleagues as Ludwig van Beethoven, Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms. However, when Rossini’s operas came along, Cherubini’s works increasingly disappeared from opera houses. Since the mid-50s of the 20th century, his works have been performed more frequently again.

A few years ago, the Cologne Academy under the direction of Michael Alexander Willens also devoted itself to Cherubini’s oeuvre and recorded several of his solo cantatas.

You can find the recording here.