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ClassicsOnline Home » CHERUBINI: Requiem / Marche funebre
By James H North
By David Hurwitz
Marche funèbre (1820);
Requiem in C minor (1816)
Luigi Cherubini was born in Florence in 1760, the tenth of the twelve
children of the theatre harpsichordist at the Teatro della Pergola, his first
teacher. As a child he had further instruction from leading Florentine
composers and had an early composition, a Mass, performed in 1773, continuing
in adolescence to write further church music and a smaller number of secular
dramatic works. In 1778, after the performance of his cantata La pubblica
felicità (‘Public Happiness’) in honour of the Grand Duke Leopold of
Tuscany, he was awarded by the latter the means of further study with the
well-known opera composer Giuseppe Sarti, a former pupil of Padre Martini.
Cherubini's period with Sarti in Bologna and in Milan, where his teacher was maestro
di cappella at the Cathedral and distinguished at the Teatro della Scala,
brought the chance to compose operas for Florence and other Italian cities. In
1784 and 1785 he was in London, where he won success in the theatre, and from
there he travelled to Paris. It was through the violinist and impresario
Viotti, established in that city, that Cherubini was presented to Queen Marie
Antoinette and in 1786 he settled in France, collaborating with Viotti under
the patronage of the King's brother at the Théâtre de Monsieur at the
Tuileries, before his great success with the opera Lodoïska at Viotti's
new Théâtre Feydeau, a venture curtailed at the Revolution, when Viotti took
refuge in London and the wine-trade.
After a period of retirement to the countryside, Cherubini returned to
Paris in 1793, eventually finding employment as an inspector at the new
Institut National de Musique, the future Conservatoire. The decade brought
settings of texts approved by the new, secular régime and operatic success with
what remains his best known opera, Médée (‘Medea’), and with Les deux
joumées (‘The Two Days’), an opera that had its effect on Beethoven's own
later Fidelio, the first performance of which Cherubini attended during
a successful visit to Vienna in 1805. Napoleon's occupation of the city in that
year and the unexpected favour he now showed to Cherubini, after earlier
coldness, led the composer to return to Paris, where at first he found relief
in activities other than music. The restoration of the monarchy after
Napoleon's defeat brought him appointment in 1816 as a superintendent of the
King's music under his former patron, now Louis XVIII. In these years Cherubini
had begun to turn his attention once again to church music, notably with the Solemn
Mass in C major and the Requiem in C minor of 1816.
Further official honours followed, with significant appointment in 1822 as
director of the Conservatoire, a position he held with distinction until a few
weeks before his death in 1842.
Cherubini wrote his Requiem
in C minor in 1815 and 1816 for a commemoration of the death of
Louis XVI, executed by the revolutionaries, and it was first performed in the
Crypt of Saint-Denis on 21st January 1816. The suggested revival of the work in
1834 at the death of Cherubini's former pupil, the composer Boieldieu, and the
objection of the Archbishop of Paris to the use of women's and men's voices
together in a liturgical performance led Cherubini to write a second Requiem
in 1836, scored for men's voices and heard, as he had intended, at his own
obsequies. The Requiem in C minor won high praise from Cherubini's
contemporaries and successors, admired by Beethoven and by Berlioz, acclaimed
by Schumann and by Brahms.
The opening motif of
the Introit, heard from bassoons and cellos, sets the mood of solemn
mourning and provides a unifying element for the Introit and Kyrie movement.
Cherubini offers a setting of the Gradual as a G minor second movement,
here scored for the four-part chorus with violas, cellos and double basses. The
contrasting entry of the brass and the resonant sound of the gong herald the Dies
irae, a dramatic evocation of the end of the world, with the sound of the
last trump. Written as one movement, the traditional sequence allows its own
changes of mood, as suggested by the text. The words Tuba mirum spargens
sonum and Rex tremendae majestatis bring dynamic climaxes, offset by
the gentler feeling of Salva me, fons pietatis, before the outburst of
sound at the words Confutatis maledictis, the pleading of Voca me cum
benedictis and the intensity of the final Largo, at the words
ilIa. The Offertory is
set in the key of E flat major, with an ethereal moment at the words Sed
signifer sanctus Michael, as the Archangel leads the souls of the departed
into eternal light. The movement follows tradition with a fugal setting of Quam
olim Abrahae and here, as elsewhere, there seem memories of Mozart's great
setting of the Requiem, a work that Cherubini himself had introduced to
Paris in 1805. There is respite as prayers and sacrifice are offered, Hostias
et preces tibi, Domine, laudis offerimus, a Larghetto, after which
the vigorous Quam olim Abrahae promisisti returns. The A flat major Sanctus,
couched in relatively conventional terms, is followed by a moving F minor
setting of the Pie Jesu, words that had concluded the Dies irae. The
whole work is crowned by the final Agnus Dei, in which the original key
is restored, to end in a final C major as a concluding prayer is offered for
all those whose memory is celebrated, the King himself and his family and many
subjects who had died in the revolution.
funèbre was written in 1820, the year of the assassination of the Duc de
Berry, son of the future Charles X. It is one of a number of works written for
the royal chapel and is scored for a large orchestra, without flutes, which
Cherubini, in any case, disliked, but with a woodwind section that includes a
double bassoon and a percussion section that makes use of a gong. This last is
heard at the outset, before a roll of drums and the melancholy descending motif
and ascending answering phrase. Gong and drums are used to punctuate the solemn
march, as it proceeds.
Marche funèbre (1820)
• Requiem In C minor (1816)
Introitus et Kyrie: Requiem aeternam Requiem aeternam dona eis,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Te decet hymnus Dells, in Sion,
et tibi reddetur votum in Jerusalem:
exaudi orationem meam,
ad te omnis caro veniet.
Grant them eternal rest, O Lord,
and may perpetual light shine on them.
Thou, O God, art praised in Sion,
and unto Thee shall the vow be performed in Jerusalem.
Hear my prayer,
unto Thee shall all flesh come.
Lord have mercy upon us.
Christ have mercy upon us.
Graduale: Requiem aeternam
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis,
in memoria aeterna erit justus,
ab auditione mala non timebit.
Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them,
the just shall always be remembered,
and shall fear no evil report.
Sequentia: Dies Irae
Dies irae, dies
Solvet saeclum in
Tecste David cum
Quando judex est
coget omnes antes
Mors stupebit et
In quo totum
Judex ergo cum
Quid sum miser
tunc dicturus ?
Cum vix justus
sit securus ?
Salva me, fons
Recordare, Jesu pie,
Quad sum causa tuae viae:
Ne me perdas ilIa die.
Quaerens me, sedisti lassus:
Redemisti crucem passus:
Tantum labor non sit cassus.
Juste Judex ultionis
Donum fac remissionis
Ante diem rationis.
Ingemisco tanquam reus:
Culpa rubet vultus meus:
Supplicanti parce, Deus.
Mihi quoque spem
Preces meae non
Sed tu bonus fac
Ne perenni cremer
Inter oves locum praesta,
Et ab hoedis me sequestra,
Statuens in parte dextra.
Voca me cum
Oro supplex et
Gere curam mei
Qua resurget ex
Huic ergo parce,
Pie Jesu Domine,
Dona eis requiem.
Day of wrath, that day
Will dissolve the earth in ashes,
As David and the Sibyl bear witness
What dread there will be
When the judge shall come
To judge all things strictly.
A trumpet, spreading a wondrous sound,
Through the graves of all lands,
Will drive mankind before the throne.
Death and Nature shall be astonished
When all creation rises again
To answer to the Judge.
A book, written in, will be brought forth
In which is contained everything that is,
Out of which the world shall be judged.
When therefore the judge takes his seat,
Whatever is hidden will reveal itself.
Nothing will remain unavenged.
What then shall I say, wretch that I am,
What advocate entreat to speak for me,
When even the righteous may hardly be secure?
King of awful majesty,
Who freely savest the redeemed,
Save me, a fount of goodness.
Remember, blessed Jesu,
That I am the cause of Thy pilgrimage.
Do not forsake me on that day,
Seeking me Thou didst sit down weary,
Thou didst redeem me, suffering death on the cross,
Let no such toil be in vain.
Just and avenging Judge,
Before the day of reckoning.
I groan like a guilty man,
My face blushes with guilt
Spare a suppliant, a God.
Thou who didst absolve Mary Magdalen
And hearken to the thief,
To me also hast given hope.
My prayers are not worthy;
But you, in goodness, act kindly,
So that I do not burn in eternal fire.
Place me among Thy sheep
And separate me from the goats.
Setting me on Thy right hand.
Let the cursed ones be confounded,
committed to harsh flames,
call me among the blessed.
I beg you, suppliant, bowing down,
my contrite heart like ashes,
care for me at my ending.
Mournful that day
When from the dust shall rise
Guilty man to be judged.
Therefore, O God, spare this man,
O merciful Jesu, Lord
Grant them eternal rest.
Offertorium: Domine Jesu
Christe, Rex gloriae,
omnium fidelium defunctorum
de poenis inferni
et de profundo laco:
Libera eas de ore
ne absorbeat eas
tartarus, ne cadant in obscurum: Sed signifer sanctus Michael
in lucem sanctam:
Quam olim Abrahae
promisisti et semini ejus.
Hostias et preces
Tu suscipe pro
Fac eas, Domine,
de morte transire ad vitam. Quam oliln Abrahae promisisti et semini ejus.
Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory,
deliver the souls of all the faithful departed
from the pains of hell and from the bottomless pit.
Deliver them from the lion's mouth
that hell engulf them not, nor they fall into darkness;
And let St Michael Thy standard bearer
lead them into the holy light
which Thou once didst promise to Abraham and his seed.
We offer Thee, O Lord,
this sacrifice of prayer and praise.
Receive it for those souls
whom today we commemorate.
Grant them, O Lord, to pass from death to the life which Thou once
didst promise to Abraham and his seed.
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,
Pleni sunt coeli
et terra gloria tua.
Holy, Holy, Holy,
Lord, God of Hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
venit in nomine Domini. Hosanna in excelsis.
Blessed is He who cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the
Pie Jesu, Domine,
dona eis requiem.
dona eis requiem
O merciful Lord Jesus
grant them rest.
O merciful Lord Jesus,
grant them rest eternal.
Agnus Dei qui
tollis peccata mundi:
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
luceat eis. Domine,
cum Sanctis tuis
in aeternam, quia pius es.
May perpetual light shine on them, Lord,
with Thy saints for ever, because Thou art merciful.