CHERUBINI Arias and Overtures

The young Cherubini with arias for England, France and Italy

Author: 
Richard Wigmore

Cherubini Arias and Overtures

  • (Il) Giulio Sabino, Sinfonia
  • (Il) Giulio Sabino, I mesti affetti miei
  • Ifigenia in Aulide, Turbata ai dubbi accenti
  • (La) grotta di Trofonio, D'un dolce ardor la face
  • Démophon, Overture
  • Scena e rondeau, Ti lascio adorato mio ben
  • Armida abbandonata, Sinfonia
  • Armida abbandonata, Qual da venti combattuta
  • Mesenzio, re d'Etruria, Sinfonia

This is not the grand, passionate Cherubini of post-Revolutionary Paris, admired by Beethoven, Weber and (more ambiguously) Berlioz, but a young composer honing his craft as a composer of Italian opera seria. Surprisingly perhaps for an Italian, memorable melodic invention was not, and never would be, Cherubini’s forte. But there is much agreeable music in this sequence of overtures and arias written for Florence, London and Paris during the 1780s. The overture to Démophon, while not quite the ‘indisputable masterpiece’ claimed by the writer of the informative if understandably partisan booklet-note, is an impressive essay in pre-Beethovenian C minor rhetoric. And if several of the arias here sound to us too cheerful for their desperate sentiments, not least the frolicking coloratura in ‘I mesti affetti miei’ from Il Giulio Sabino (a resounding flop in London), Cherubini already reveals his gift for the striking gesture and colourful, woodwind-rich orchestration.

Although her confident, laser-bright soprano can become a tad shrill in alt, Maria Grazia Schiavo displays a nimble coloratura technique, phrases elegantly and makes much of her words. She vividly catches the pathos and agitation of the scena e rondeau ‘Ti lascio adorato’, and finds a tenderly softened tone for the graceful love song ‘D’un dolce ardor’. The Tuscan period band Auser Musici are robust rather than specially subtle partners, with, as recorded, a distinctly abrasive string tone. But there is no doubting the energy and commitment of their playing, whether in the turbulent Démophon Overture or the beguiling sinfonia concertante for violin, cello, flute and oboe in the Overture to Giulio Sabino.

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