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Luigi CHERUBINI (1760-1842)
Requiem in C minor (1816)
Staatsorchester und Staatsopernchor Stuttgart/Gabriel Ferro
rec. live, 1 June 1997, unspecified location
BAUER STUDIOS ACD6027 [50:49]
Experience Classicsonline

Cherubini was an Italian-born composer who spent most of his working life in Paris.  He’s most known to us now for his opera Medea, which became such a great vehicle for Callas in its Italian translation.  Apart from Medea and his Requiem he has almost dropped off the radar of modern audiences, though in his day he was spoken of in the same breath as Mozart and Beethoven. 

An indication of the respect in which he was held can be seen in the circumstances of the Requiem’s commission: it was intended as the accompaniment to a grand memorial service dedicated to King Louis XVI of France who had been executed in 1793 during the turmoil of the French Revolution.  The service was held in 1816, organised by Louis’s brother, the restored King Louis XVIII.  The Requiem shares some of the heaven-storming vehemence of the opera, most notably at the start of the Dies Irae with its massive brass fanfares and crash of the tam-tam, but it’s also notable for the gentle lyricism of much of its length.  The opening Introitus, for example, barely gets above a whisper, and in its closing pages the work becomes a fervently hushed prayer, somewhat like the end of Verdi’s Lachrymosa.  This makes it a big sing for any choir, and they are centre-stage for the whole of this work as there are no soloists. 

The Stuttgart choir do a good enough job here, though they go a little out of tune in the opening movement.  Once they have been warmed up by the Dies Irae, however, they are secure until the end.  Orchestral accompaniment is secure too, though the recording balance is firmly in the choir’s favour.  Gabriele Ferro’s conducting is steady and dependable, though he has little flair for drama and seems most comfortable in the slower passages - a bit of a shame as this can allow the attention to wander.  The audience at this live recording are very well behaved and we hear not a thing from them until the final burst of applause.  So this release it a good addition to the limited Cherubini discography, but it doesn’t come close to challenging Muti’s EMI recording with the Philharmonia.  As that is currently available in a budget-price double with the Verdi Requiem it wins quite easily, though don’t be seduced by the Verdi: I found it coarse and unyielding beyond belief.
 
Simon Thompson
 

 


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