Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/354

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342
CHERUBINI
 

(Florence), 'L'Alessandro nell' Indie' (Mantua). These operas must have made his name known all over Italy. In 1784 he was invited to London, and wrote 'La Finta Principessa' (1785), and 'Giulio Sabino' (1786), for the King's Theatre, but without success. He also made large additions to Paisiello's 'Marchese Tulipano,' and other operas then on the stage in London. He was much noticed by the Prince of Wales, and held the post of Composer to the King for one year. In July 1786 he left London for Paris, where he seems to have remained for the whole of the next year, very much fêted and liked. In the winter of 1787–8 he brought out his eleventh opera at Turin, 'Ifigenia in Aulide.' He then returned to Paris, which from that time became his home. His first opera in Paris was 'Demophon,' to Marmontel's libretto, Dec. 5, 1788. In this opera he broke loose from the light and trivial vein of the Neapolitan school, and laid the foundation of the grand style which he himself afterwards so fully developed. Meanwhile he was fully employed. Léonard, Marie Antoinette's coiffeur, had obtained permission to found an Italian Opera, and Cherubini received the entire musical direction of it. During the years 1789–92, he conducted the so-called 'Bouffons' at the Theatre de la Foire St. Germain, in operas of Anfossi, Paisiello, Cimarosa, and other Italians, besides writing a great number of separate pieces in the same style for insertion into these works. At the same time he was eagerly pushing on in the path opened by 'Demophon.' On the 18th of July, 1791, he brought out 'Lodoïska,' a decided step in advance. The effect produced by his new style, with its unusual harmonic combinations and instrumental effects, was both startling and brilliant, and took the composers of the day completely by surprise. 'Lodoïska' was followed by a series of operas in which he advanced still further. 'Koukourgi' (1793) remained in MS. to be afterwards adapted to 'Ali Baba' [App. p.585 adds date of production July 22, 1833]; but 'Elisa' (Dec. 13, 1794), 'Medée' (March 13, 97), 'L' Hôtellerie Portugaise' (July 25, 98), 'Les deux Journées' (Jan. 16, 1800), known in Germany as 'Der Wasserträger,' as well as a number of small one-act works, such as 'Anacréon' (1803), and 'Achille à Scyros,' both ballet-operas and both masterpieces, show how unceasing was his activity, and how much he must have pleased the opera-goers. But though successful with the public, his pecuniary position was anything but satisfactory. When the 'Conservatoire de Musique' was. founded in 1795, he was appointed one of the three 'Inspecteurs des Études,' an appointment by no means commensurate with his genius and artistic position, chiefly no doubt because of Napoleon's dislike to him, a dislike which the Emperor took no pains to conceal. Cherubini's nature, at all times grave, not to say gloomy, became visibly depressed under these circumstances, and he began to lose all pleasure in his profession. In 1795 he married Madlle. Cecile Tourette, a step not likely to diminish his anxieties. He therefore willingly accepted an offer to write an opera for the Imperial Theatre at Vienna, where he arrived early in July 1805. Here he made acquaintance with Beethoven, whose deafness was not then so great as to be an obstacle to conversation, and the two were often together. Beethoven esteemed Cherubini above all the then living writers for the stage, and his vocal music was much influenced by him. What Cherubini thought of Beethoven's music is not so clear. He was present at the first performances of 'Fidelio,' but beyond his remarks that no one could tell what key the overture was in, and that Beethoven had not sufficiently studied writing for the voice, nothing is known. 'Il était toujours brusque,' was his one answer to enquiries as to Beethoven's personal characteristics. (See Schindler's 'Beethoven,' i. 118, also p. 184 of this Dictionary.)

The 'Wasserträger' was performed shortly after Cherubini's arrival, and 'Faniska' produced Feb. 25, 1806. But it was a poor time for operas in Vienna. The war between Austria and France broke out immediately after his arrival; Vienna was taken on Nov. 13, and Cherubini was soon called upon to organise and conduct Napoleon's soirées at Schönbrunn. But his main object at Vienna was frustrated, and he returned to France. His mind became so much embittered as to affect his health. Whilst living in retirement at the château of the Prince de Chimay, his friends entreated him to write some sacred music for the consecration of a church there; for a long time he refused, but at last set to work secretly, and surprised them with the Mass in F for three voices and orchestra (1809). With this work a new epoch opens. It is true that both in 1809 and 1810 we find one-act operas ('Pimmalione,' Nov. 30, 1809, 'Le Crescendo,' Sept. 1, 1810), that in 1813 he wrote the 'Abencérages,' and even so late as 1833 'Ali Baba,' but the fact remains that after 1809 sacred music was Cherubini's main occupation. Besides a number of smaller sacred pieces for one, two, three, or more voices, with orchestra, organ, or quartet, the Catalogue for the years 1816–25 contains the 'Messe Solennelle' in C (March 14, 1816), a 'Gloria' in B♭, a 'Credo' in D, the 'Messe des Morts' (Requiem) in C (all 1817); the 'Messe Solennelle' in E (1818); that in G, and a 'Kyrie' (both 1819); that in B♭ (Nov. 1821); a 'Kyrie' in C minor (Sept. 13, 1823); the Coronation Mass for 3 voices (April 29, 1825); and lastly the 'Requiem' in D for men's voices (Sept. 24, 1836).

[App. p.585 adds that "in 1815 he came to England and conducted his 'Anacreon' overture and two MS. compositions at the Philharmonic concert on March 13."]

During the hundred days Napoleon made him Chevalier of the Legion of Honour; and shortly after, under Louis XVIII, he was elected member of the 'Institut,' and in 1816 was appointed jointly with Lesueur 'musician and superintendant of the King's Chapel,' with a salary of 3,000 francs. Thus almost at once did honour, position, and income, all fall upon him. In 1822 he became Director of the Conservatoire, and the energy which he threw into his new work