Italian composer. His first opera, Quinto Fabio, was produced in 1780. Following his appointment as court composer to King George III of England in 1784, he settled in Paris, France, where he produced a number of dramatic works including Médée (1797), Les Deux Journées/The Water Carrier (1800), and the ballet Anacréon (1803). After 1809 he devoted himself largely to church music.
Cherubini was born in Florence, where his father was a musician at the Teatro della Pergola. He studied first with his father, then under various masters, notably Alessandro and Bartolomeo Felici. At the age of 16 he had written an oratorio, Masses, and other pieces. About 1778, with a grant from the Grand Duke, he went to study with Giuseppe Sarti in Venice and in 1780 produced his first opera, Quinto Fabio, in Alessandria. His second opera Lodoïska (1791), set in Poland, was a huge success. In London he produced La finta principessa (1785) and Giulio Sabino (1786), and was appointed composer to George III, but left for Paris in 1786.
After a brief return to Italy he settled permanently in Paris in 1788. There he produced his first French opera, Démophon (1788), to a libretto by Marmontel. He soon became very busy conducting and writing operas, though without much success. In 1795 he married Cécile Tourette. In 1806 he produced Faniska in Vienna, Austria, where it had been specially commissioned, and met Beethoven, who admired his work and whose only opera Fidelio was influenced by it. On his return to France he lived, retired and embittered, at the Prince de Chimay's country residence and there wrote church music as well as more operas. In 1815 he composed an overture and a symphony for the Philharmonic Society, London. In 1816 he and Lesueur became attached to the royal chapel with large salaries and in 1822 he became director of the Conservatory, where he often confronted the precocious Berlioz. In 1833 he produced his last work for the theatre, Ali Baba, ou les Quarante Voleurs. Henceforward he devoted himself to church music, and his Requiem in D minor (1836) is one of his finest works. In his last years he was affected by depression and unsettled by an uneasy relationship with the authorities.
As a composer, he is, with Gluck, an austere representative of a nobler classical style in French opera; as a teacher his influence was harmful in restricting his pupils by the narrow rules of an earlier age. Beethoven greatly admired him, but Cherubini neither understood nor appreciated Beethoven. Mendelssohn was the only young contemporary whom he openly praised.
WorksStage operas Armida abbandonata (1782), Adriano in Siria (1782), Demetrio, Ifigenia in Aulide (1788), Lodoïska (French; 1791), Médée (1797), Les Deux Journées/The Water Carrier (1800), Anacréon, ou L'Amour fugitif (1803), Faniska (1806), Pimmalione, Les Abencérages (1813), Bayard à Mézières (1814), Ali Baba, ou Les Quarante Voleurs (1833); ballet-pantomime Achille à Scyros.
Choral ten Masses and two coronation Masses, two Requiems (one for male voices) and other choral works.
Orchestral symphony in D major and overture for orchestra.
Chamber six string quartets (1834–37), string quintet.
Cherubini, Luigi (Carlo Zanobi Salvadore Maria)