1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Carissimi, Giacomo

CARISSIMI, GIACOMO (c. 1604–1674), one of the most celebrated masters of the Italian, or, more accurately, the Roman school of music, was born about 1604 in Marino (near Rome). Of his life almost nothing is known. At the age of twenty he became chapel-master at Assisi, and in 1628 he obtained the same position at the church of St Apollinaris belonging to the Collegium Germanicum in Rome, which he held till his death on the 12th of January 1674, at Rome. He seems never to have left Italy. The two great achievements generally ascribed to him are the further development of the recitative, lately introduced by Monteverde, and of infinite importance in the history of dramatic music; and the invention of the chamber-cantata, by which Carissimi superseded the madrigals formerly in use. His position in the history of church music and vocal chamber music is somewhat similar to that of Cavalli in the history of opera. It is impossible to say who was really the inventor of the chamber-cantata; but Carissimi and Luigi Rossi were the composers who first made this form the vehicle for the most intellectual style of chamber-music, a function which it continued to perform until the death of Alessandro Scarlatti, Astorga and Marcello. Of his oratorios Jephthah has been published by Novello & Co., and is well known; this work and others are important as definitely establishing the form of oratorio unaccompanied by dramatic action, which has maintained its hold to the present day. He also may claim the merit of having given greater variety and interest to the instrumental accompaniments of vocal compositions. Dr Burney and Sir John Hawkins published specimens of his compositions in their works on the history of music; and Dr Aldrich collected an almost complete set of his compositions, at present in the library of Christ Church, Oxford. The British Museum also possesses numerous valuable works by this great Italian master. Most of his oratorios are in the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris.