Cherubini and Verdi Concert

Winter 2004 Concert Notes

Tina Johns Heidrich, Conductor
Joe Jacovino, Accompanist
Connecticut Master Chorale Orchestra

Sunday March 14, 2004 - 3:00pm
St. Rose of Lima Church, Newtown, Connecticut

- Review - CD -

Luigi Cherubini - Requiem in C Minor

Luigi Cherubini
Luigi Cherubini

Beethoven once said: "If I were to write a Requiem, Cherubini’s would be my only model." Eleven years later, Luigi Cherubini’s masterpiece was, fittingly, performed at Beethoven’s funeral.

Cherubini’s powerful Requiem in C Minor, (1815) was composed on a commission from the French government to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Louis XVI and the work was an immediate triumph. It was frequently performed at funeral and remembrance services. The work possesses grandeur, very dramatic elements and lyrical beauty. (There are even times where one can hear hints of Verdi’s Requiem, written some 50 years later.) Cherubini was eager to reflect the spirit as well as the meaning of the text and so, to avoid any unwelcome associations with opera, he decided to dispense altogether with soloists.

Schumann thought the work "without equal in the world." Berlioz considered that "the decrescendo in the 'Agnus Dei' surpasses everything that has ever been written of the kind," and called the entire work "highly impressive."

Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842) is hardly known today. Yet in his own time, he was world-famous. An Italian who made his home in Paris, he was lavishly praised for his operatic, instrumental, and liturgical works, as well as his musically pedagogical efforts. Beethoven regarded him as "Europe’s foremost dramatic composer, "later upgrading that assessment to the "the greatest living composer." Schumann, Mendelssohn and Brahms admired him. Though Berlioz often found himself at personal loggerheads with him, he grudgingly respected and valued his music.

Cherubini’s Requiem in C Minor is a work of remarkable intensity and full of superb choral and orchestral writing.

Verdi Choruses – Giuseppe Verdi

Luigi Cherubini
Giuseppe Verdi

Our Father – Verdi's music for The Lord's Prayer sets Dante's free Italian translation of the traditional text, and as a result the music reflects more the colorful aspects of Dante's words than the original text may have offered. This work is not very often performed. Yet, it offers abundant supplies of typically Verdian felicities of color, drama and ardent sentiment. One hopes this very worthy work will achieve a more widespread admiration than it presently enjoys.

Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves (Nabucco) – This was the first "hit" number to emerge from a Verdi opera. The chorus of the Hebrew slaves lamenting their captivity in Babylon struck a responsive chord with Verdi’s compatriots, whose nation was still divided and under foreign control. The chorus is conceived as a great communal hymn of lamentation and became a hallmark of the movement for the liberation and unification of Italy (Risorgimento). At his death, sixty years later, Italians felt so deeply bonded to Verdi by this chorus that some 28,000 mourners spontaneously joined in singing it as the composer was laid to rest.

Anvil Chorus (Il Trovatore) – Verdi was a man of the common people. His operas often characterize the common people as sturdy, honest, and resourceful, as is the case with the chorus of gypsy blacksmiths and their families known as the "Anvil Chorus."

Pilgrims Chorus (I Lombardi) – O Signore dal tetto natio (O Lord of our native land) is a very effective and rousing number, sung by pilgrims while in the Holy Land on a crusade for the deliverance of Jerusalem. Similar in style to "Va Pensiero," both are still taught as patriotic anthems in elementary schools in Italy to this day.

Triumphal Scene (Aida) – Aida remains the most "classical" of all Verdi’s stage works. The plot centers around a love triangle and a conflict between the Ethiopians and the Egyptians. The "Triumpal Scene" occurs in the Finale of Act II in the city of Thebes in Egypt. The King, accompanied by his courtiers, priests and standard bearers enters by a triumphal arch and ascends a throne. The chorus joins in a song of victory singing "Gloria all’ Egitto" – Glory to Egypt!