Carissimi, Gucomo

, a Roman musical composer of the seventeenth century, whose productions were not only the delight of his contemporaries, but are still sought and hoarded by the curious as precious relics, was, very early in life, appointed master of the chapel to the German college at Rome, in preference to all other candidates. Alberto delle Valle, an excellent judge of music, speaking of the compositions of Carissimi, which he heard at Rome, without knowing his name, says, that he had heard the vespers performed on Easter Monday, by the nuns only, at the church dello Spirito Santo, in florid, music, with such perfection as he never in his life had heard before; and on the last Christmas-eve, in attending the whole service at the church of St. Apollinare, where every part of it was performed agreeably to so solemn an occasion; though, by arriving too late, he was obliged to stand the whole time in a very great crowd, he remained the*re with the utmost pleasure, to hear the excellent music that was performed. In the beginning, he was particularly enchanted by the “Venite exultemus,” which was more exquisite than words can describe. “I know not,” says Valle, “who was the author of it, but suppose it to have been the production of the Maestro di Capella of that church.” There was no master in Italy at this time, 1640, whose compositions this description will so well suit, as those of the admirable Carissimi, who was now, in all probability, the Maestro di Capella in question. It was in composing for this church that he acquired that great and extensive reputation which he enjoyed during a long life, and which his offspring, or musical productions, stifl deservedly enjoy.

Kircher, in his Musurgia, (tom. i. p. 603.) after describing his music and its effects in terms of high panegyric, speaks of him as a master then living, 1650, who had Jong | filled the place of composer to the Collegio Apoliinare with great reputation, and according to Mattheson, he was living in 1672. His sacred and secular cantatas, and motets, have always had admission into every collection of good music. It has been often asserted by musical writers that he was the inventor of cantatas; but these monodies had a more early origin. Carissimi, however, must be allowed not only the merit of transferring the invention from the chamber to the church, where he first introduced cantatas on sacred subjects, but of greatly improving recitative in general, rendering it a more expressive, articulate, and intelligible language, by its approximation to speech and declamation. Many of Carissimi’s works are preserved in the British Museum, and in Dr. Aldrich’s collection at Christ church, Oxford. 1

1 Hawkins and Burney’sHisU of Musk, and Dr. Burney in Rees’s Cyclopædia.