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Cherubini, Luigi
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Cherubini, Luigi (Carlo Zanobi Salvadore Maria)

(Born; Florence, 8/14 Sept 1760; Died; Paris, 15 March 1842). Italian composer and teacher. He was a dominant figure in French musical life for half a century. At 18, with 36 works (mainly church music) to his credit, he began a period of study with Sarti in Bologna and Milan (1778-80). The resulting Italian operas he produced in Italy and London (1784-5), and his work as an Italian opera director (1789-90) in Paris (where he had settled in 1786), pale in significance next to the triumphant première of his second French opera, Lodoïska (Paris, 1791). He was appointed inspector at the new Institut National de Musique (from 1795 the Conservatoire), his status soon being enhanced by the successes of Médée (1797) and Les deux journées (1800). As surintendant de la musique du roi under the restored monarchy, he turned increasingly to church music, writing seven masses, two requiems and many shorter pieces, all well received (unlike his later operas). National honours, a commission from the London Philharmonic Society (1815) and the directorship of the Conservatoire (1822) and completion of his textbook, Cours de contrepoint et de fugue (1835), crowned his career.

Cherubini's importance in operatic history rests on his transformation of merely picturesque or anecdotal opéra comique into a vehicle for powerful dramatic portrayal (e.g. Médée's depiction of psychological conflict) and for the serious treatment of contemporary topics (Lodoïska's realistic heroism; social reconciliation in Les deux journées). His best church music, notably the C minor Requiem (specially admired by Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms and Berlioz), unites his command of counterpoint and orchestral sonority with appropriate dramatic expression, while his non-vocal works, chiefly the operatic overtures, Symphony in D and six string quartets, make their effect through the creative use of instrumental colour.

Operas Lodoïska (1791); Médée (1797); Les deux journées (1800); Anacréon, opéra-ballet (1803); Faniska (1806); over 15 others

Vocal music Requiem, c (1816); Requiem, d (1836); 9 other masses; over 60 smaller sacred works; secular cantatas; ceremonial works; arias, duets, songs, canons

Instrumental music Ov., G (1815); Sym. D; orch dances, marches; 6 str qts (1814-37); other chamber works; pf pieces

(c)Groves Dictionaries, MacMillan Publishers Limited, UK

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