Ouverture: Allegro spiritoso
The question of why Démophon caused such perplexity still remains to be investigated, but there can be no doubt that a movement such as the Ouverture stands revealed as an indisputable masterpiece, the potent expression of a symphonic genius who had already attained full maturity and was destined to make a profound impression on Beethoven. It possesses a truly symphonic momentum, conveyed by a powerful body of instruments—flutes, oboes, bassoons, horns, trumpets and timpani, in addition to the strings, and even trombones and clarinets. Cherubini, only twenty-eight years old at the time, makes the extraordinary gesture of assigning to the ‘fatal’ key of C minor (later to become the Beethovenian tonality par excellence, the key of the Fifth Symphony) the intense tragic import of the entire overture. Its opening bars immediately strike a sombre, anguished, almost funereal note, leading to a motif laden with noble pathos in the bassoon and the violins. From this suddenly erupts the blazingly dramatic Allegro spiritoso, charged with a sonic vehemence and rhythmic excitement so implacable as to be positively unsettling. After a contrapuntal discussion of this material, a new idea appears in the major, more delicate in profile, which leads in turn to the recurrence, unusual in itself, of the wistful cantabile motif from the introduction. But the implacable theme once more gains the upper hand; its development finally ushers in a forceful coda that asserts the luminous key of C major, hammered out by the peremptory final chords.
from notes by Francesco Ermini Polacci © 2012
English: Charles Johnston