are to be congratulated for reviving this historically and musically
important requiem, as well as for their very good recording.
The Requiem was commissioned for the memorial service for King
Louis XVI of France and Marie Antoinette. It was also performed
at Beethoven's memorial service. The work is said to have been
held in very considerable esteem by not only Beethoven - a pupil
of Cherubini - but also Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Berlioz
and Wagner. It was very successful and popular until the end
of the nineteenth century, when it fell into unexplained obscurity.
is in fact the first of two Requiems Cherubini composed, the
latter - in D minor - being without women's voices - hence preferable
to certain ecclesiastical factions - and being performed at
Cherubini's own funeral. Unlike the other principal classical
requiems, there are no vocal soloists, the singing being solely
choral. This contrasts with the composer's earlier work which
was almost entirely for the opera house. It comes from the second
period of his compositional output, given mainly to church music
and leading up to his appointment to the Paris Conservatoire
work has a gentle and dignified opening, with high strings accompanying
high voices, developing gradually through the lux perpetua,
which is repeated before and after a simple kyrie, to the inevitably
sterner 'Dies Irae', which is announced by a stroke on the dramatic
tam-tam (low gong). The weight of the requiem is to be found
in this and in the following two offertory sections,
which become uplifting in mood and responsorial in style: male
and female voices answer each other as the music expands into
an extended fugue which connects into the Hostias. This
is initially gentle and lyrical, reminiscent of the opening
section, before picking up its pace in a tutti closing
shorter Sanctus and Benedictus, which is clear, straightforward
and positive, then flows into the plaintive Pie Jesus
without any break, to balance the longer preceding sections.
The concluding Agnus Dei is introduced with almost a
flourish, and whilst this piece could not be accused of being
'opera in church vestments', there is a reminder here that its
composer also wrote extensively for that medium. Its ending
is innovative, particularly for its time; it dwindles gradually
to almost nothing, as if the music itself is breathing its last.
scene is set on the disc with Beethoven's unusual miniature
gem, the 'Elegiac Song', written to commemorate a friend's wife
who had died in childbirth. It is performed here by small chorus
and string orchestra, without double basses.
disc closes with a 'March Funèbre', also by Cherubini and written
four years after the Requiem, in 1820. This opens with the sounding
of a gong - which is used repeatedly - and is dramatic in its
effects, again showing its theatrical pedigree. It is more extroverted
music than the Requiem and ceremonial in its nature.
Pearlman is the founder, director and conductor of Boston Baroque,
the first permanent baroque orchestra of North America. This ensemble
is resident at the University of Boston and is linked to its Historical
Performance Programme. It has made a number of acclaimed recordings,
including the Brandenburg Concertos 2CD-80412, Mozart's Requiem
CD-80410, Monteverdi's 1610 Vespers CD-80453, and Handel's Messiah
2CD 80322/80348, all on Telarc. Further information is available
on the Boston Baroque website.