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Friday, October 16, 2020

Luigi Cherubini - Discoveries (Riccardo Chailly)


Composer: Luigi Cherubini
  1. Overture in G major
  2. Symphony in D major: I. Largo - Allegro
  3. Symphony in D major: II. Larghetto cantabile
  4. Symphony in D major: III. Minuetto. Allegro non tanto
  5. Symphony in D major: IV. Allegro assai
  6. Marche religieuse pour le jour du sacre de Charles X
  7. Marche religieuse pour le pompe funèbre du Général Hoche
  8. Marcia composta per il signore Baron di Braun
  9. Marche du préfet du département de l'eure et loir
  10. Marche pour le retour du préfet du département de l'eure et loir
  11. Marche pour instruments à vent
  12. Marche 22 Septembre 1810
  13. Marche 8 Février 1814
  14. Marche pour le pompe funèbre du Général Hoche
  15. Marche funèbre

Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala
Riccardo Chailly, conductor

Date: 2020
Label: Decca



Before one gets too excited at the tagline ‘9 world premiere recordings’ on this all-Cherubini disc from Riccardo Chailly and the Filarmonica della Scala, note that they’re all brief marches, mostly perky and inconsequential, composed for political or civil occasions. But then, hey, in the early ’70s Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic winds put out a two-disc album of Prussian and Austrian marches …

The 1805 March for Baron Peter von Braun (the dedicatee of Mozart’s Gran Partita, no less) is suitably Harmoniemusik in flavour, while others go off with a jolly swing, peppered with piccolo and percussive splashes. Among the most interesting of the premieres are the march for a lavish commemoration of General Louis Lazare Hoche (1797) and that composed for Charles X’s coronation (1825) which was much admired by Hector Berlioz; one can hear the same sonorities in his own Grande symphonie funèbre et triomphale. Chailly adds the sombre (already recorded) Marche funèbre (1820) for the Duke of Berry, which is suitably weighty, with lots of atmospheric gong.

Cherubini moved to Paris in July 1786 and became a French citizen in 1794. He was, in the words of fellow composer Étienne Méhul, ‘France’s leading composer’. Chailly opens with the fine Overture in G, commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society in London 1815, which is full of dramatic twists and turns, with hints of Beethoven in its Sturm und Drang-style Allegro spiritoso section.

Arturo Toscanini, Chailly’s predecessor as music director at La Scala, was a great advocate of Luigi Cherubini’s music, so it’s interesting to compare their approaches to his Symphony in D, which is the major work on this new disc. It’s interesting to listen to this work in the context of Beethoven’s symphonies: it was composed in 1824 for the RPS at precisely the same time that Beethoven dedicated to it his score of his Ninth. Cherubini’s is far more Italianate in style, more operatic, yet it’s surprisingly old-fashioned. For example, Cherubini still includes a third-movement minuet, which Beethoven had long since abandoned in his symphonies.

Given Chailly’s taut Beethoven cycle with the Leipzig Gewandhaus, I was surprised at how plush and ‘comfortable’ much of this sounded. There’s plenty of energy, but it’s stifled within a velvet glove. It’s Toscanini and the NBC SO who deliver the greater punch. There’s still plenty to admire in the Scala playing, especially in the gentle Larghetto cantabile or the sunny finale, with its Haydnesque high spirits.

-- Mark Pullinger, Gramophone


Luigi Cherubini (8 or 14 September 1760 – 15 March 1842) was an Italian Classical and Romantic composer. Although born and educated in Florence, Cherubini felt constrained by Italian traditions and always eager to experiment. He then traveled to London in 1785, and later settled in Paris, France, where he spent the rest of his life. During his lifetime, Cherubini received France's highest and most prestigious honors. His most significant compositions are operas and sacred music. Beethoven regarded Cherubini as the greatest of his contemporaries, while his operas were heavily praised and interpreted by Rossini.


Riccardo Chailly (born 20 February 1953 in Milan) is an Italian conductor. He studied with Franco Ferrara and became assistant conductor to Claudio Abbado at La Scala at the age of 20. Chailly started his career as an opera conductor and gradually extended his repertoire to encompass symphonic music. He was chief conductor of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra (1982-88), the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (1988-2004), and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig (2005-16). He is currently music director of La Scala (2015-) and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra (2016-). Chailly has an exclusive recording contract with Decca.


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