- Chant sur la mort de Haydn, for soprano, 2 tenors & orchestra
- Symphony in D major
Luigi Cherubini's "Chant sur la mort de Joseph Haydn" was not, in the event, written after Haydn's death in 1809, but in response to a premature report of that event in 1804. The revival of Classical-period music has thus far given Cherubini short shrift, which is surprising in connection with the man whom Beethoven called the greatest living composer. Maybe this German release, by the veteran historical-instrument ensemble Cappella Coloniensis, will stimulate fresh activity. The chief attraction here is the seldom recorded tribute to Haydn. It's a wonderful work, with an unorthodox form that seems to bespeak strong feeling. Cherubini worked from an existing funeral text by Masonic author Louis Guillemain de Saint-Victor, but the shape of the piece is his own. He opens with a slow, profound polyphonic introduction that not only must have appealed to Beethoven but perhaps even influenced the idiom of his late works. After that come three short verses set as orchestral recitatives, and then a multipart finale for three solo voices and orchestra, beginning with an inadequately translated line of recitative -- "Both [Haydn's name and his soul] are victors over death and time" -- that gives forth onto a kind of noble melody that again evokes Beethoven. The music ought to be of interest far beyond those specifically interested in Beethoven's era, and it could serve a memorial purpose for any musician. The Cappella Coloniensis, here and in the more common "Symphony in D major" that rounds out the disc, catches the majestic yet personal tone of the music in purring string textures and doesn't go beyond the medium-sized dimensions of the music. The soprano lines of Marilyn Schmiege are less angelic than might be desired here; the editing of the booklet (at least in its English-language sections; French and German are also available) is poor, and the division between track 4 and track 5 is imprecisely done. With these minor complaints out of the way, the purchase of this album can be enthusiastically recommended.