Cherubini: Requiem in C minor; Marche funèbre

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Cherubini
WORKS: Requiem in C minor; Marche funèbre
PERFORMER: Swiss-Italian Radio Chorus & Orchestra, Gruppo Vocale Cantemus/Diego Fasolis
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554749
Beethoven famously said that Cherubini was his greatest contemporary, and that this Requiem would be his only model when he came to write one of his own. Even if things didn’t quite turn out like that, it’s not hard to see what he admired in the work. There’s a directness of approach far from the operatic world where Cherubini made his mark, and the lack of soloists strips away any opportunity for ornament or display. But like Cherubini’s music in general, it hasn’t remained at the forefront of the repertoire, despite the advocacy of conductors such as Toscanini and Muti. And that’s what it needs: a fiery Italian who knows his Beethoven and can combine that fire and knowledge to give the Requiem both passion and backbone. This performance has a lot going for it, not least the choral singing, which has a definite Italian tang, particularly in the sound of the women. The problem is that it’s all just a little bit too polite: the Dies irae could snarl more, and in the Sanctus the dotted rhythms could be tighter and create more of a sense of tension. On the plus side, the orchestral playing is lithe and clean, the woodwind solos nicely turned, and the long decrescendo which ends the Agnus Dei, and which Berlioz so admired, is nicely graded by Fasolis. At this price, there’s no competition, but shell out a bit more and you can have Muti with the Philharmonia Orchestra on top form, and a pretty good Verdi Requiem thrown in. Martin Cotton