Italian composer; b. Marino, April 18, 1605; d. Rome, Jan. 12, 1674. Nothing definite is known about his early training. After having served as a singer and organist at the cathedral in Tivoli and as maestro di cappella at the cathedral in Assisi, he became maestro di cappella on Dec. 15, 1629, at the church of San Apollinare (attached to the German College) in Rome, where he remained until his death. He was also active at the Oratory of San Marcello and, in July 1656, was named maestro di cappella del concerto di camera at the Roman court of Christina of Sweden. Such eminent musicians as M.A. charpentier, Bernhard, Kerll, and G. P. Colonna were his students, and the wide dissemination of his music, especially in Germany and France, won him an international reputation. Attempts were made to persuade him to work in Venice and in the Low Countries, but Carissimi refused to leave Rome. He was influential in introducing into sacred music techniques of the stile moderno employed in secular music, thus hastening the demise of the stile antico. Very little of his liturgical music (Masses, motets, psalms, sacrae contiones ) is available in modern editions, but the use of concertato devices and monody is seen in the few examples that are at hand. His contribution to the nonliturgical Latin oratorio was of fundamental importance for that form, which he was the first to make artistically significant. (In fact handel borrowed whole scenes from his work.) His 16 oratorios are not only important historically, they are also excellent music.
Bibliography: f. ghisi, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. f. blume (Kassel-Basel 1949–) 2:842–845. r. eitner, Quellen-Lexikon der Musiker und Musikgelehrten, 10 v. (Leipzig 1900–04; New York n.d. ) 2:332–335. j. loschelder, "Neue Beiträge zu einer Biographie Giacomo Carissimis," Archiv für Musikforschung, 5 (1940) 220–229. m. f. bukofzer, Music in the Baroque Era (New York 1947) 123–126. p. h. lÁng, Music in Western Civilization (New York 1941). a. c. lewis, Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. e. blom, 9 v. (5th ed. London 1954) 2:70–73. p. m. young, The Choral Tradition (New York 1962). t. culley, A Documentary History of the Liturgical Music at the German College in Rome, 1573–1674 (Ph.D. diss. Harvard University 1965). r. w. ardrey, The Influence of the Extended Latin Sacred Works of Giacomo Carissimi on the Biblical Oratorios of George Frederic Handel (Ph.D. diss. Catholic University of America 1964). f. cruciani, "II motetto O Stupor et Gaudium attribuito a Giacomo Carissimi," Esercizi: Musica e Spettacolo 16–17 (1997–98) 77–86. g. dixon, Carissimi (Oxford 1986). g. massenkeil, "Giacomo Carissimi," in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. s. sadie, v. 3 (New York 1980) 785–794. d. m. randel, ed., The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music (Cambridge, Mass. 1996) 135–136. n. slonimsky, ed., Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (8th ed. New York 1992) 293. b. a. stein, Between Key and Mode: Tonal Practice in the Music of Giacomo Carissimi (Ph.D. diss. Brandeis University 1994).
Giacomo Carissimi (1605-1674) was an Italian composer of sacred and secular vocal music. His oratorios and chamber cantatas are of high importance musically and historically.
Giacomo Carissimi was born in Marino near Rome and baptized on April 18, 1605. In 1622 or 1623 he became a singer at the Cathedral of Tivoli, and from 1624 to 1627 he worked as organist there. He was chapelmaster at the church of S. Rufino in Assisi from 1628 to 1629. He was then appointed chapelmaster at the church of S. Apollinare in Rome and was simultaneously put in charge of musical instruction at the German College, an adjoining institution. Carissimi remained in this double position until his death on Jan. 12, 1674. He declined numerous invitations to other posts, and it seems that he never left Rome after 1630. His music was performed throughout Italy and abroad during his lifetime and well into the 18th century.
The extant works of Carissimi include 17 oratorios, about 150 chamber cantatas (that is, to Italian words), over 200 motets (to Latin words), at least 12 Masses, various liturgical works, some humorous Latin pieces, and a treatise on music. One or two pieces for instruments may be by Carissimi. But his music is virtually all for voices with instrumental accompaniment.
Of Carissimi's oratorios 15 are in Latin and 2 are in Italian. The majority are set to texts dealing with subjects from the Old Testament, and many include a part for a narrator, called the testo. His best-known oratorio is Jephthe, composed by 1649 at the latest, which is a masterpiece of expressive writing in both its solo and choral portions.
Most of Carissimi's chamber cantatas, in Italian, are for solo soprano voice and basso continuo; the remainder are for two or three voices and basso continuo. They are built of sections in recitative, arioso and aria style, which proceed in a manner at once varied and unified. The great majority are set to poems on amorous subjects, but some of the poems are religious in content and others are humorous. Carissimi's cantatas excel for their superb word setting and high musical quality.
In his Latin motets Carissimi used essentially the same forms and styles as in his Italian cantatas. His Masses reveal his firm mastery of contrapuntal writing in the then traditional church style.
Both directly, through his teaching at the German College, and indirectly, through the numerous copies made of his music, Carissimi was a leading influence on contemporary and later composers in Italy, France, Germany, and England.
Carissimi's music is discussed in Manfred F. Bukofzer, Music in the Baroque Era: From Monteverdi to Bach (1947), and Claude V. Palisca, Baroque Music (1968). An important general background study is Donald Jay Grout, A History of Western Music (1960).
Dixon, Graham., Carissimi, Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1986. □
Carissimi, Giacomo important Italian composer and teacher; b. Marino, near Rome (baptized), April 18, 1605; d. Rome, Jan. 12, 1674. He was a singer and organist at Tivoli Cathedral (1623–27). Following a sojourn in Assisi (1628–29), he settled in Rome and became maestro di cappella at the Jesuit Collegio Germanico in 1629. He also was active at the collegiate church of S. Apollinare. In 1637 he became a priest. He was made maestro di cappella del concerto di camera to the exiled Queen Christina of Sweden in 1656. Carissimi was a distinguished composer of oratorios, motets, and cantatas, and his works reveal his mastery of concertato writing. His MSS were lost after the Jesuit order was dissolved in 1773 but his output is known to have included 14 oratorios, among them Baltazar, Jephte, Jonas, and Judicium. His motets were publ. in three vols. (Cologne, 1665–66). L. Bianchi et al. ed. his complete works (1951–73). Carissini was the author of the treatise Ars cantandi (Italian original not extant; German tr., Augsburg, 1692).
G. Rose, The Cantatas ofC.(diss., Yale Univ., 1960); L. Bianchi, G, Stradella, Scarlatti e l’oratorio musicale (Rome, 1969); I. Buff, The Chamber Duets and Trios of C.(diss., Univ. of Rochester, 1973); C. Sartori, G: Catalogo delle opere attribuite (Milan, 1975); A. Jones, The Motets ofC.(diss., Univ. of Oxford, 1979); G. Dixon, G (Oxford, 1986).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire