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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger

Giacomo CARISSIMI (1605-1674)
Historia di Jepthe [21:38]
Dai più riposti abissi [12:09]
Historia di Ionas [19:30]
Consortium Carissimi
Recorded at the Museo Civico, Marino Italy, 25-28 November 2003
NAXOS 8.557390


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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 considerably.

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.

Jonas receives 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.

Kevin Sutton

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