Giacomo Carissimi was
one of the most respected and important
musicians of the seventeenth century,
and as a teacher had international influence
through such musicians as Johann Kaspar
Kerll and Marc Antoine Charpentier.
A prolific composer, he left behind
a vast output of sacred vocal music,
oratorios, secular cantatas and instrumental
works. He is perhaps best known today
for the two oratorios presented here,
works of great genius and invention.
In addition we have the added bonus
of the serenade Dai più riposti
abissi (From the most hidden abysses),
originally scored for two sopranos,
but sung here by a tenor and baritone,
the voice switch being a common practice
of the day.
This being the four
hundredth anniversary of Carissimi’s
birth, a spate of recordings have appeared
recently, with discs of his sacred works
appearing on both the Naïve and
CPO labels in just the past few months.
Although there are some merits to the
Consortium Carissimi’s efforts here,
I found that the flaws outweighed them
To begin with, the
choral movements, rich in drama, are
given rather haphazard readings here,
with ragged ensemble and a raucous,
unblended choral tone. Equally disappointing
is the rather un-dramatic reading that
most of the soloists deliver. Completely
devoid of ornaments, the singing to
a person is clinical, under inflected
and devoid of any real emotional identification
with the text. Marco Scavazza may as
well have been reading his grocery list
as he explains to his daughter that
she must die for his arrogant mistake.
More annoying still is the nasal, whiny
quality of soprano Nadia Caristi, whose
unsupported, ‘earlier than thou’ tone,
again devoid of any ornamentation and
pathos, became more and more grating
as the piece went on.
The highlight of the
disc is the beautiful serenade Dai
più riposti abissi quite
ably delivered by Fabio Furnari and
Marco Scavazza, although some of the
very opening lower notes are a bit beyond
Mr. Scavazz’s reach. That little issue
aside, the performance is memorable
and well sung.
the same manner of phoned-in performance,
although Fabio Furnari’s performance
of Jonas’ achingly beautiful lament
is quite superb. I would still have
enjoyed some ornaments though. To hear
the music in plain text as it were,
is a little tedious and uninteresting.
In all, this performance
is perfectly acceptable at a sort of
collegiate level, but it is not one
for the history books. Listeners will
not be offended by anything here necessarily,
but I doubt this reading will make anyone’s
desert island list either.