Great Italian and French Composers eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 239 pages of information about Great Italian and French Composers.
for him at the Conservatory.  Fate, however, had not done with her persecutions, for fate in France took the shape of Napoleon, whose hostility, easily aroused, was implacable; who aspired to rule the arts and letters as he did armies and state policy; who spared neither Cherubini nor Madame de Stael.  Cherubini was neglected and insulted by authority, while honors were showered on Mehul, Gretry, Spontini, and Lesueur.  He sank into a state of profound depression, and it was even reported in Vienna that he was dead.  He forsook music and devoted himself to drawing and botany.  Had he not been a great musician, it is probable he would have excelled in pictorial art.  One day the great painter David entered the room where he was working in crayon on a landscape of the Salvator Rosa style.  So pleased was the painter that he cried, “Truly admirable!  Courage!” In 1808 Cherubini found complete rest in a visit to the country-seat of the Prince de Chimay in Belgium, whither he was accompanied by his friend and pupil Auber.


With this period Cherubini closed his career practically as an operatic composer, though several dramatic works were produced subsequently, and entered on his no less great sphere of ecclesiastical composition.  At Chimay for a while no one dared to mention music in his presence.  Drawing and painting flowers seemed to be his sole pleasure.  At last the president of the little music society at Chimay ventured to ask him to write a mass for St. Cecilia’s feast day.  He curtly refused, but his hostess noticed that he was agitated by the incident,’as if his slumbering instincts had started again into life.  One day the Princess placed music paper on his table, and Cherubini on returning from his walk instantly began to compose, as if he had never ceased it.  It is recorded that he traced out in full score the “Kyrie” of his great mass in F during the intermission of a single game of billiards.  Only a portion of the mass was completed in time for the festival, but, on Cherubini’s return to Paris in 1809, it was publicly given by an admirable orchestra, and hailed with a great enthusiasm, that soon swept through Europe.  It was perceived that Cherubini had struck out for himself a new path in church music.  Fetis, the musical historian, records its reception as follows:  “All expressed an unreserved admiration for this composition of a new order, whereby Cherubini has placed himself above all musicians who have as yet written in the concerted style of church music.  Superior to the masses of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, and the masters of the Neapolitan school, that of Cherubini is as remarkable for originality of idea as for perfection in art.”  Picchiante, a distinguished critic, sums up the impressions made by this great work in the following eloquent and vigorous passage:  “All the musical science of the good age of religious music, the sixteenth century of the Christian era, was summed up in Palestrina,

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Great Italian and French Composers from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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