Luigi Cherubini

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Luigi Cherubini, painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1841)

Luigi Carlo Zenobio Salvatore Maria Cherubini (born September 14, 1760 in Florence , † March 15, 1842 in Paris ) was an Italian composer .

Although Cherubini was greatly admired by his contemporaries, his music is not common these days. Beethoven regarded him as one of the greatest dramatic composers of his time.


His musical education began at the age of six from his father, who was himself a musician. At the age of 13 Luigi Cherubini had already composed several sacred works. He studied at the University of Bologna and from 1778 to 1782 at the University of Milan with Giuseppe Sarti . In 1788 he moved to Paris.

During the years in Paris he worked successfully as an opera composer at times. His first major success was the opera Lodoïska (1791), for whose realistic heroism he was admired. This was followed by the horror opera Médée (1797), Cherubini's best-known work, based on revolutionary principles , and Les deux journées ou Le porteur d'eau (1800, The Water Carrier ). His works were performed in the small Théâtre de la foire Saint-Germain , as the (larger) opera house was closed to him. His idealism, his artistic independence, but above all the rigor and the noble character of his music prevented him from becoming popular with his contemporaries. After being appointed inspector at the Paris Conservatory in 1795, his financial situation became bearable.

Luigi Cherubini (lithograph made by Friedrich Wilhelm Bollinger , 1803)

In 1805 Cherubini received an invitation from Vienna to write an opera and to perform it himself. Faniska was brought on stage the following year and celebrated enthusiastically, especially by Haydn and Beethoven . In 1810 Nicholas II suggested Prince Esterházy Cherubini in Paris to become his personal Kapellmeister and thus successor to Haydn, who had died the previous year. After the Prince's departure, Cherubini composed the monumental mass solenelle per il Principe Esterházy in D minor, which he completed on October 7, 1811. Presumably due to financial problems, the prince later withdrew his offer.

Cherubini's grave in the Pere Lachaise cemetery

Disappointed because of a lack of success at the theater, Cherubini increasingly turned to church music. He wrote seven masses, two requiums and many smaller works. In the restored French monarchy, he was appointed professor of composition and to succeed in 1816 Jean-Paul Martini Égide to surintendant de la musique du Roi appointed. In 1815 the London Philharmonic Society ordered a symphony, an overture and a composition for choir and orchestra from him, as well as the associated performances in London , which contributed to his international fame.

Chamber music occupies a special position in Cherubini's oeuvre, to which he turned for no apparent external reason. In 1814, during the phase of the master's reorientation away from the opera stage, he wrote his first string quartet , which is best known for his fandango-like Scherzo and which was favorably reviewed by Robert Schumann in his Neue Zeitschrift für Musik ; In 1829 a second, and in 1834–37 he finally wrote the remaining four string quartets and one string quintet in quick succession, which, according to Cherubini's plan, should have been followed by five more. All of these works are characterized by a high degree of originality and technical finesse and form an interesting counterweight to the standard of the quartet repertoire of the Viennese classical music .

In 1822 Cherubini became director of the Paris Conservatory , which he remained until the end of his life. In 1835 he completed his textbook Cours de contrepoint et de fugue ( theory of counterpoint and fugue ). He died in Paris in 1842 at the age of 81.


Cherubini's Requiem in C minor (1816), commemorating the anniversary of the execution of Louis XVI. remembered was a great success. The work was greatly admired by Beethoven, Schumann and Brahms .

With the arrival of the brilliant and exuberant Rossini operas with their vocal “pyrotechnics” in Paris, the strictly classical opera Cherubinis, like the Glucks and Spontinis , went out of fashion. Nevertheless, Médée is occasionally performed. A famous revival in the 20th century was in Florence in 1953 with Maria Callas in the title role and Vittorio Gui at the podium. Another Cherubini opera, Les Abencérages , was performed in Italian at the Maggio Musicale in Florence in 1957 under Carlo Maria Giulinis .

Cherubini's long-lost, unfinished comic opera Koukourgi , whose premiere did not take place in Paris due to the revolutionary turmoil of 1792/93, but whose music Cherubini used for his opera Ali Baba , was found in Krakow in the 1990s and was performed on September 16, 2010 on Stadttheater Klagenfurt premiered in this original form.

In the last few decades Riccardo Muti in particular has taken on Cherubini's music.


  • eleven fairs
  • Credo for two mixed choirs and basso continuo (1806)
  • two requiums
  • 38 motets
  • 15 Italian operas including:
    • 1782 Livorno, Adriano in Siria - Text: Pietro Metastasio
    • 1782 Florence, Armida abbandonata - Text: Bartolomeo Vitturi
    • 1784 Mantua, L'Alessandro nell'Indie - Text: Pietro Metastasio
    • 1785 London, Demetrio - Text: Pietro Metastasio
    • 1788 Turin, Ifigenia in Aulide - Text: Ferdinando Moretti
    • Olimpiade - Text: Pietro Metastasio (unfinished)
    • 1809 Paris, Pimmalione - Text: Stefano Vestris
  • 14 French operas including:
    • 1788 Paris, Démophoon - text after Pietro Metastasio v. Jean François Marmontel
    • 1791 Paris, Lodoïska - Text: Claude François Filette-Louraux
    • 1792/1793 Koukourgi - Text of Honoré-Nicolas-Marie Duveyrier (UA 2010 Klagenfurt)
    • 1794 Paris, Eliza, ou le voyage aux glaciers du Mont Saint-Bernard
    • 1797 Paris, Médée - Text: François-Benoît Hoffman
    • 1798 Paris, L'hôtellerie portugaise - Text: Étienne Aignan
    • 1800 Paris, Les deux journées (The water carrier) - Text: Jean Nicolas Bouilly
    • 1803 Paris, Anacréon ou l'amour fugitif ( Anacreon or fleeting love) - Text: CR Mendouze
    • 1810 Paris, Le crescendo - Text: Charles Augustin [de Bassompierre] Sewrin
    • 1813 Paris, Les Abencérages (The encampment in Granada) - Text: Victor Joseph Étienne de Jouy
    • 1833 Paris, Ali-Baba ou Les quarante voleurs - Text: Eugène Scribe and Anne Honoré Joseph Duveyrier, called Mélesville
  • 1 German opera:
    • 1806 Vienna, Faniska - text based on René Charles Guilbert de Pixérécourt by Joseph Sonnleithner
  • Symphony in D major
  • six string quartets (E flat major, C major, D minor, E major, F major, A minor)
  • a string quintet
  • six piano sonatas
  • two sonatas for French horn (or English horn) and strings in F major (1802)
  • nine works for wind instrumentation


Web links

Commons : Luigi Cherubini  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Cherubini's opera Kougouri : data on the work and podcast with excerpts from the performance in Klagenfurt (2:50 min.), Accessed on July 1, 2014