Composer of classical church music and opera; b. Florence, Italy, Sept. 14, 1760 (baptized Maria Luigi Carlo Zenobio Salvatore); d. Paris, March 15, 1842. Cherubini's catalogue is headed by a Mass in F which he composed at 13, after study from the age of six with his father and later with B. Felici and his son. In 1778, through the Grand Duke of Tuscany (later Emperor Leopold III), he began studies under Giuseppe Sarti at Milan and then Bologna, which resulted in 20 Palestrina-styled motets. From 1780 to 1806 he concentrated on opera, and in his eight serious Paris operas (he had settled there in 1788) extended the reforms initiated by gluck. In 1795 he was appointed professor of counterpoint at the newly founded Paris Conservatory, and became director in 1822. Meanwhile, since Napoleon disliked his music, he moved in 1805 to Vienna, where he met beethoven (who regarded him as preeminent among living composers) and F. J. haydn, and was warmly received by the public; but he returned to Paris after the outbreak of war between Austria and France. Ill and depressed, he ceased composing altogether, until, while he was recuperating at the chateau of the Prince of Chimay, the local music society pleaded with him to compose a Mass for their church; thus began the great series of church music he produced between 1808 and 1836. Outstanding are the two orchestral Requiems, in C-minor and in D-minor (composed for his own funeral). In a memorable phrase about the Cminor's Agnus Dei, Cardinal J. H. Newman spoke of "the lovely note C, which keeps recurring as the Requiem approaches eternity." In both operatic and sacred forms he combined classic severity of style (tempered by modern harmonic resources and colorful orchestration), great contrapuntal skill, and dramatic power.
See Also: liturgical music, history of
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