Cherubini, Luigi


Cherubini, Luigi

Souvenir pour son cher baillot for string quartet (score & parts)


Cherubini, Luigi

Souvenir pour son cher baillot for string quartet (score & parts)


Luigi Cherubini is considered to be one of the most prominent composers of eighteenth century music. Born in Florence, Italy, the composer spent the majority of his life working in France. He is known mostly for composing vocal music, but he did write one symphony and several pieces of chamber music including string quartets. By the age of 18, Cherubini had just as many works to his credit. He held many positions in Paris and his music was often a direct reflection of the political climate in which he worked, given the events of the French Revolution.

In Cherubini’s chamber music, the first violin typically introduces the thematic material while the other instruments either serve as the harmonic foundation or establishes and develops the thematic material presented initially in the first violin. His phrase structure is clearly periodic, not unlike the Viennese composers of the day. Cherubini composes his works by using short motives that are developed throughout the work and then are juxtaposed and contrasted with one or more new ideas, which is in direct contrast to the style of the composers of the First Viennese School: Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. Often, he treats his motifs sequentially, presenting harmonic changes in the middle voices, managing to do this without altering the harmonic structure or integrity of the work. However, Cherubini constantly introduces new thematic ideas throughout a single chamber work, but the relative frequency of harmonic changes in combination with these new thematic introductions present the audience with regular moments of surprise.

At the time that Cherubini composed Souvenir Par L. Cherubini pour son cher Baillot in September 1828, he was the director of the Ecole Royale de Musique et de Déclamation, or the Paris Conservatoire (it had received its new name in 1816). Also in 1828, François-Antoine

Habeneck founded the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire and he appointed Cherubini as its honorary president. The work was written for Cherubini’s composition student, virtuoso violinist and chamber musician, Pierre Marie François de Sales Baillot (1771-1842), with whom Cherubini had a close friendship. We may assume, given this dedication and Baillot’s status as preeminent violinist of the day and founder of his own string quartet, that Cherubini intended for him to play first violin on the piece. Baillot was a well-known musician in Paris, concertizing frequently and, by the time Cherubini’s piece for him was complete, he was the leader of the Paris Opéra, a post that he held until 1831. Baillot was simultaneously the leader of the orchestra of the Chapelle Royale.

Souvenir Par L. Cherubini pour son cher Baillot, a string quartet, is a work in one movement. This in itself is unusual since his other six string quartets are in three movements. That this was not labeled and numbered by the composer as a string quartet is telling. Musically, it differs from his typical quartet style while remaining faithful to the musical style of the days. In fashion typical for Cherubini, the work alternates homophony with points of imitation, mainly in the two violins, but points of imitative counterpoint also exist between the first violin and the cello. Descending scalar passages form the basis of the thematic repetition throughout the work. There is also another motive that keeps returning in various guises, first appearing in the first and second violins in measures 6-7. As one might expect, given for whom the work was written, the first violin part receives the most active motion with elaborate figuration and the cello part comes a close second. For the most part, the second violin and viola parts serve as the harmonic foundation of the work, predominantly playing harmonies that support the first violin. The cello line also plays this role in some cases. Given the extreme musical activity present in the first violin combined with the relative sparseness of material in the other strings, one might venture to say that the work may have been conceived as one that showed off Baillot’s virtuosity with the other three instruments serving only a supportive role, as in a violin concerto.

Reba Wissner, 2017

For performance material please contact Boccaccini & Spada, Rome.

Score No.







Go to Top