Unwillingly romantic, Rossini's contemporary but unfamiliar of the latter’s influence, admired by Beethoven, Schumann, Wagner and Brahms, educated in Italy, adopted by France and honoured by Germany, Cherubini occupied an eminent role in the development of musical romanticism in Europe. He is particularly known for his remarkable mastery of orchestration.
Cherubini studied music with his harpsichordist father during his childhood. He composed his first works at the age of thirteen. His musical tastes being the opposite of Napoleon’s, he left for Vienna where he aroused the admiration of Haydn and Beethoven. Despite financial difficulties and an already existent success, Cherubini continued his studies and was named composer of King George III for one year. He soon acquired great renown and, with Viotti at the Tuileries, founded an Italian theatre company of which he would be music director: the Théâtre de Monsieur. Afterwards followed a fruitless period. His operas were not very successful and he faced financial difficulties. Cherubini then leaned towards religious music and composed his famous Mass in F for three voices. The success was such that he abandoned dramatic compositions.
Six landmark dates in the life of Luigi Cherubini
1789-1792: Music director of the Italian theatre company Théâtre de Monsieur
1795: Inspector at the newly created Institut national de musique (current Paris Conservatory)
1805: Stay in Vienna and creation of his opera Faniska
1816: Superintendent of the Royal Chapel
1837: He devoted himself to teaching and had among his pupils Auber and Halévy
1842: Commander of the Légion d’Honneur
Six key works by Luigi Cherubini
1780: Il Quinto Fabio, first opera
1791: Lodoiska, opera
1797: Médée, opera. With this opera, the composer gave birth to romantic drama
1805: Faniska, an opera that would be a huge success
1809: Mass in F for three voices
1816: Requiem in C minor, in memory of Louis XVI