Another Sunday, another Requiem in the Musikverein. This week’s offering was from Luigi Cherubini, his 1816 Requiem in c, a work much admired in the nineteenth century and later falling out of favor. It’s not earth-shattering, as Berlioz or Verdi later provided, but it did help establish the genre and many great composers (starting with Beethoven) took inspiration from it and considered it better than Mozart’s, the work usually considered to have created the concept of a concert requiem. Indeed, as Beethoven never wrote a requiem, it was Cherubini’s which was performed on Beethoven’s death.
The interpretation this morning came from Riccardo Muti leading the Vienna Philharmonic and the Singverein, a wonderful combination that filled the Musikverein with lush sound. The performance lasted close to an hour – much longer than normal – but never dragged.
Perhaps Muti meant the slow pacing (albeit hardly noticed) for the Cherubini to balance out the fast pacing he chose for Franz Schubert‘s Fourth Symphony (“The Tragic”) before the intermission. Although taking it at a fast clip, Muti did not sacrifice the sweeping tunes and thick scoring, and the Philharmoniker felt right at home (well, actually this is their home). This is how to hear Schubert. Schubert composed this symphony in 1816, the same year Cherubini wrote the Requiem. The styles, though different, complemented each other well, influencing musical development and for the years ahead.