Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Carissimi - Oratorio della SS Vergine

Basilica of Sant'Apollinare, Rome
Giacomo Carissimi (1605-1674)
Oratorio della Santissima Vergine
Les Paladins
directed by Jérome Corréas

"Our dear Jacomo":

It is not easy to reconstruct the life of Giacomo Carissimi: we do not even possess a portrait. What was believed to be his portrait has proved to be that of a contemporary, Alexander Morus or Alexandre More (1615-1670), a French Protestant pastor and theologian (Gloria Rose, 1970). Of Carissimi we know only that he was "tall, slender and inclined to melancholy," as he is described by Ottavio Pitoni in his De’contrapuntisti e compositori di musica. The few things we know for certain about him - arrived at by deduction, reading between the lines and hypothesis - do not enable us to draw up a specific profile, while his works endow him with a 'mythical' aura which do not permit of the extrapolation of a historical context.

All of his autograph scores, which were preserved at the Collegio Germanico-Ungarico, were lost as a consequence of the suppression of the Jesuits during the two occupations of Rome by French troops in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. There are therefore considerable uncertainties regarding the extent of his oeuvre, and contemporary criticism is still divided.

Piazza di S Apollinare with (right) the Palazzo di S Apollinare
home of the Collegio Germanico-Ungarico
founded by St Ignatius of Loyola
Considered the "father of oratorio and cantata da camera", due to his extraordinary body of compositions, and through his famous music school which received illustrious students from all over Europe, Giacomo Carissimi invented a method of teaching which initiated the development of the European music schools we know today.

He was "an excellent composer of universal harmony, much acclaimed and pleasing to the ears of his time." Of him Athanasius Kircher, the great Jesuit scholar of that time, wrote: "Giacomo Carissimi, excellent musician of great renown. Master worthy of the church of Sant'Apollinare of the Collegio Germanico for the space of many years, surpasses the others for his invention and the happiness of his compositions, which carry the souls of the listeners towards every emotion. Without doubt his juicy compositions are full of vivacity of spirit."

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