, August 2001
"Carissimi was a church musician from his childhood. He was a chorister and then organist in Tivoli. After 1627, he was choirmaster at the cathedral church of St. Ruffino after which he was invited to work in Rome at the prestigious Basilica of Sant'Apollinare which was already established as a centre of musical excellence. Amongst his pupils were Johann Caspar Kerll and Marc-Antoine Charpentier. He obviously enjoyed life in Rome because he turned down numerous offers of further employment including that of Saint Marks Venice after Monteverdi's death in 1643. He allowed himself a sojourn in Sweden in 1656 to work for that rather tiresome woman Queen Christina of Sweden who probably harassed him beyond measure. He later returned to Rome and died there...
"You may know Carissimi solely as a composer of oratorio as for instance 'Jepthe' published by Novello. These were written for the Oratory of Santissimo Crocifisso which created the tradition of large-scale biblical musical settings. These motets have all of the characteristics of the best of the oratorios. They also at times have an indebtedness to Monteverdi while at the same time pointing forward to Schutz and Charpentier. This can be seen by looking closely at the last motet on the disc 'Suscitavit Dominus'(track 10). ...
"Just to take a brief look at the motets not mentioned so far: they are nicely spaced out on the recording with full ensemble pieces alternating with solo motets. 'Surgantes, eamus properemus' is for full ensemble with instrumental sections. ' O vos populi' for the ensemble alternates music in triple time with that in duple time. 'Quid tandem sunt' for full ensemble is preserved in a Swedish manuscript and was presumably written for Queen Christina. The remaining motets are in a recitativic style, which breaks into melisma and arioso where the words seem to demand more elaboration. 'Quid est luc vir' is for alto and basso continuo. 'Lucifer', about the arrogance of the fallen angel, is suitably for bass and continuo, 'Quasi aquila' is for solo tenor and an instrumental ensemble which includes a lone single phrase for an off-stage tenor. 'Lamentations Jeremiae Prophetiae' is for alto and continuo.
"I thought it worth setting out these motets clearly so as to demonstrate that this is a disc of musical contrast and variety with each singer equally represented, in music of a high quality, all wonderfully performed."