Donald Macleod discusses a pair of major commissions Cherubini undertook in 1805 and 1815 - Chant sur la mort de Joseph Haydn and Symphony in D.
Donald Macleod continues his exploration of the life and work of Luigi Cherubini with a look at a pair of major international commissions the composer undertook in 1805 and 1815, interspersed by a long period of depression during which he gave up composition completely and devoted himself to botany and painting. But in the summer of 1805, Cherubini packed himself, his wife and their young daughter Zenobie, a babe in arms of three months, into a horse-drawn coach and spent 32 days travelling from Paris to Vienna by way of Chalons, Verdun, Metz, Mannheim, Frankfurt, Cassel, Berlin, Dresden and Prague - all this at a time when Europe was ablaze with Napoleonic conflict. In fact Cherubini reached Vienna just ahead of the Great Dictator, who on his arrival promptly put him in charge of a prestigious series of concerts! Cherubini had been invited to Vienna to compose two new operas. In the event he only completed one, Faniska, but there were other compensations, including meetings with Beethoven - who was reportedly grumpy - and Haydn, who may have been amused to learn that Cherubini had recently penned a major work in commemoration of the Viennese master's death, which had been falsely reported in a London newspaper the previous year. It was London that beckoned Cherubini in 1815, with a commission for three works from the newly formed Philharmonic Society. None of them have gained a firm foothold in the repertoire, but Cherubini's Symphony, which has been championed by Italians of the stature of Arturo Toscanini and Riccardo Muti, deserves to be heard more often.