Cherubini: Requiem in C minor; Marche funèbre

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COMPOSERS: Cherubini
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Requiem in C minor; Marche funèbre
PERFORMER: Corydon Singers & Orchestra/Matthew Best
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66805 DDD
Cherubini’s extraordinarily successful career in French opera came to an end with the Revolution and Napoleon’s disapproval, and for several years he wrote no music at all. When he began composing again, he looked to the Church for inspiration and, following the restoration, he was asked to write a Requiem Mass to commemorate the execution of Louis XVI. The Requiem in C minor was admired by, among others, Beethoven (at whose funeral it was played), Schumann, Berlioz and Brahms, but has since lost favour, living in the shadows of the settings by Mozart and Verdi. That may be because Cherubini forwent operatic forms – there were no solos – which lends his setting an air of restraint. Despite the dramatic use of the tam-tam at the opening of the Dies irae, the orchestration too is relatively modest, but the economy of means produces a rich combination of tenderness and fatalism.

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These qualities are movingly communicated in this performance, and Best elicits an impressive sureness of musical and emotional tone from the Corydon Singers and Orchestra. The chorus in particular displays great precision, to powerful effect in the closing moments of the Agnus Dei, when the textures become increasingly spare. William Humphreys-Jones