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Giacomo CARISSIMI (1605 - 1674): "Motetti e Sacri Concerti"

Ensemble Il Cantar Novo
Dir: Pietro Ceccarelli
rec: 3 - 5 October, 2004, S. Fortunato di Rimini, Abbazia di Santa Maria Annunziata Nuova di Scolca
Tactus - TC 602801 ( 2006) (62'13")

Alleluja, jubilat Ecclesiaacde; Annuntiate gentesabcde [3]; Ardens est cor nostrumbcde [2]; Beatum virumacd [1]; Dicite nobisabcd [3]; Domine quis habitabitabd [3]; Emendemus in meliusbcd; Laxentur caelia; Militia est vita hominisabe [1]; Pulchra et decoraacde; Salve, amor nosterab [2]; Veniat dilectus meusbcde

(Sources: [1] A. Phaei (ed), Floridus Concentus, 1643; [2] M. Cortellini (ed), Floridus de Sylvestris, 1655; [3] Sacri Concerti Musicali, 1675)

Cristina Curtia, Francesca Cassarinib, soprano; Cristina Calzolaric, contralto; Giovanni Cantarinid, tenor; Alberto Salarellie, bass; Cecilia Amadori, cello; Elena Dalla Casa, organ


Giacomo Carissimi was born in 1605, and the 400th anniversary of his birth has been celebrated with a flood of recordings. Most of them are devoted to his oratorios, the genre for which he was most famous. This disc sheds light on other sacred music, which until now has been largely neglected: motets and sacred concertos. It has to be added, though, that there is no clear distinction between these pieces and the oratorios. Some of Carissimi's oratorios were also referred to as motets, and some sacred concertos on this disc are written in the form of a dialogue, just like the oratorios.

In 1629 Carissimi became maestro di cappella of the Jesuit Collegio Germanico in Rome, and his oratorios were performed in the Collegio. His motets were written for the daily services at the church of the Collegio, the S. Apollinare. Most of Carissimi's compositions were kept in the Collegio, and when it was looted in 1773 his musical heritage was also destroyed. Fortunately he had many pupils from all over Europe who held his music in such high esteem that they owned copies of his compositions which have been found in many different places, and thanks to them we can still listen to his music.

The five pieces on this disc for which no source is given are from a manuscript which is preserved in Bologna, the others are from three different collections which were published in 1643, 1655 and 1675 respectively. In particular the three works from the collection of 1675 come close to the genre of the oratorio: Domine, quis habitabit, for instance, is a dialogue between Jesus and two souls. A number of pieces contain contrasting sections for soli and tutti.

It isn't very difficult to understand why Carissimi had such a huge reputation during his life and beyond. The text is painstakingly translated into music, and these works demonstrate that Carissimi was a master of musical rhetorics and affetti. These are explained at length in the programme notes. Unfortunately this is lost on those who don't understand Latin as no English translation of the lyrics is given.

That is not the only problem of this recording. Everyone knows that recordings as they are released are the result of a lot of cutting and pasting. But the listener shouldn't hear that. But at several occasions the cuts are clearly audible. The way Ardens est cor meum ends is a striking example of this unprofessional negligence. There is also far too little time between tracks.
The voices are generally good, although I find the slight tremolo of Cristina Curti irritating. Francesca Cassarini, on the other hand, has a very beautiful voice, which is crystal clear and blends far better with the other singers than Curti's. But the interpretation hasn't really satisfied me. First of all, most voices - in particular the tenor and bass - are not strong enough, and there are some intonation problems as well. Secondly, the rhetorical features of these motets and sacred concertos as described in the booklet are not fully exploited in the performance. There is a lack of dynamic contrast in most pieces and the 'affetti' are much stronger than one would guess on the basis of these interpretations. Furthermore there should be more variety in the ornamention. On the whole there is just too little real passion and excitement in this recording.

As I don't know any other recording of this repertoire I recommend it to those who are curious to know what else Carissimi has written apart from his oratorios. But these pieces deserve a much better recording than Il Cantar Novo is offering here.

Johan van Veen ( 2006)

Relevant links:

Giacomo Carissimi


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