Vanitas Vanitatem - Music of Carissimi's Rome

by Magnificat

  • Digital Album
    Streaming + Download

    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    Purchasable with gift card

      $5 USD  or more

    You own this




"The most excellent Iacomo Carissimi, a composer of great fame, most worthy maestro di cappella of the Church of S Apollinare of the German College for a period of many years, outshines others in originality and in case of compositional style, moving the spirits of the listeners into many moods; for his compositions are full of life and vivacity of spirit."

Writing in 1650 in his widely circulated tome Musurgia Universalis, Athanasius Kircher was unreserved in his praise for his fellow Jesuit Iacomo Carissimi and drew on many of the master's works to exemplify the use of music to express emotion and touch the affections of an audience. His reputation as a composer and teacher was promoted by the singers he worked with and his many students, most notably Marc-Antoine Charpentier. Händel famously plagiarized some of Carissimi's works and Charles Burney, writing over a century after the composer's death, devoted more space to Carissimi in his General History of Music than to any other composer of the 17th century. Please visit for more information about Carissimi.

This EP presents live recordings of three works by Carissimi - his setting of the dialogue "Alma, che fai, che pensi?", the madrigal "Fuggi, fuggi" and the oratorio "Vanitas Vanitatum" - along with two instrumental works by other musicians working in Rome during the 17th Century, a canzona for violins by Girolamo Frescobaldi and an organ toccata by Michelangelo Rossi. The performance took place at St. Gregory Nyssen Episcopal Church, San Francisco on September 24, 2004.

Warren Stewart, artistic director

Catherine Webster, soprano
Jennifer Ellis Kampani, soprano
Paul Elliott, tenor
Scott Whitaker, tenor
Peter Becker, bass

Rob Diggins, violin
Jolianne von Einem, violin
Warren Stewart, violoncello
David Tayler, theorbo
Hanneke van Proosdij, organ

Live performance St. Gregory Nyssen Episcopal Church, San Francisco on September 24, 2004.


released November 1, 2004

Mark Lemaire & David Tayler, engineers. David Tayler, mastering & editing.


Some rights reserved. Please refer to individual track pages for license info.



Magnificat San Francisco, California

For 20 years Magnificat has explored the emotionally charged music of the 17th Century, each season bringing together an assembly of internationally recognized musicians to present innovative programs that inspire the imagination. With dramatic flair and sensitivity to historical context, Magnificat imbues each concert with an infectious joy and a delight in musical make-believe. ... more


contact / help

Contact Magnificat

Streaming and
Download help

Shipping and returns

Report this album or account

Track Name: Carissimi Alma, che fai, che pensi?
Text & Translation

Alma che fai, che pensi?
Perché piangi e sospirir,
perché meco t’adiri
e de’ miei fidi sensi,
ch’a servirti son usi,
mille offerti piacer, folle, ricusi?

Dimmi, dimmi, o bell’ alma,
perché mi schivi e fuggi,
perché di duol ti struggi
e lasciar questa salma
(se per te solo è viva)
di vita or vuoi nonché di gioia priva?

O mio caduco albergo,
per te piango e sospiro
e teco ancor m’adiro,
che volto al cielo il tergo.
Non credi aver le porte
de’ sensi aperte alla vicina morte?

E mentre ch’a me chiedi
perché ti schivo e fuggo,
perché di duol mi struggo,
veggio ch’esser non credi,
pria ch’altro fine arrivi,
cadavero che spiri, ombra che vivi.

E veggio quasi spenta
nelle tue luce, o cieco,
la luce ch’io t’arreco.
Almen questo rammenta
ch’io dirti solo agogno:
l’uomo è sogno d’un ombra, ombra d’un sogno.

Ma se teco son tale
or che m’avvivi, quando
nemica morte in bando
da me terratti, quale
rimarrà questo pondo,
che per te sembra un pargoletto mondo?

Qual tu deggia restarti,
privo di sensi e senza
la mia vital presenza,
io non saprei spiegarti,
ché solo, o fragil corpo,
in pensarvi, d’orror aggiaccio e torpo.

Dirò sol che la nostra
vita sì breve mena
i giorni suoi ch’appena
a questo ciel si mostra,
se tu vuoi meco intanto
aggiumger luce agl’occhi e voce al canto.

Sì, voglio, e pria che lasso
rimanga il nostro suono
io, che formato sono
di terra, mi terrò basso,
ma tu, che spirto sei
sceso dal ciel, al ciel alzar ti dei.

Anima e Corpo
La nostra vita è polve
che, da rapido vento
alzata in un momento,
su per l’aria si volve;
ma tosto in secco nembo
sciolta sen riede alla gran madre in grembo.

Altri fumò la stima
che con oscuro velo
il chiaro volto al cielo
tenti ombrar, ma non prima
va con cieco furore
contra il sereno ciel ch’in aria more.

Rassembra il mar, ch’armato
di turbini e procelle
osa infino alle stelle
gir con sembiante irato,
ma repente quell’ onda
che minacciava il ciel l’inferno inonda.

È simil alla spuma
che del mar che si frange
nascendo in modo piange
ch’in pianto si concuma,
sì che ben dirsi deve
che la vita è di morte un pianto breve.

Anzi è voce ch’uscendo
fuor del materno seno
viene in maniera meno
ch’ella more nascendo,
ne’ labbri ha cuna e negl’orecchi ha tomba.

Anima e Corpo
Chiamala fior di campo
ch’aprendo al primo riso,
se dirla non vuoi lampo
che tra le nubi appare,
in guisa tal ch’in apparir dispare.

(English Translation)
Soul, What are you doing, what are you thinking?
Why do you weep and sigh,
why do you take offense at me
and scorn my faithful senses
which have been used to serve you,
offered a thousand times to please you, foolish one?

Tell me, tell me, o gracious Soul,
why you shun and flee me,
why you are consumed with sorrow
and why do you wish to let this body
(which lives solely because of you)
be deprived of life now, as well as of joy?

O my fleshly dwelling place,
for you do I weep and sigh,
and I take offense at you again
because you turn your back on Heaven.
do you not think to hold the gates
of the senses open to the nearness of death?

And while you ask me
why I shun and flee you,
why I am consumed with sorrow,
I see that you do not believe that you are—
even before you reach your end—
a corpse that breathes, a shadow that lives.

And I see nearly extinguished
in your eyes, o blind one,
the light that I bring you.
therefore remember this
one thing, which I earnestly desire to say to you:
man is a dream of a shadow, a shadow of a dream.

But if you say I am this sort of creature
even now when you give me life, when
cruel death sends you away
from me into exile, what
will be the prospect for this burdensome flesh,
that because of you is like an innocent child?

What would remain for you then,
deprived of your senses and without
my lifegiving presence,
I wouldn’t know how to explain to you,
o frail Body, because of the
shivering horror and shock in thinking about it.

I will only tell you that our
very short life goes through
its days as soon
as it shows itself to the heavens,
in case in the meantime you wish through me
to bring light to your eyes and your voice to song.

Yes, I do, and I leave while
our song remains:
I will go down low to earth,
since I am made of earth,
but, since you are a spirit come down
from heaven, you must rise up into heaven.

Soul and Body
Our life is dust,
that, raised up
in a moment by a swift wind,
spins around up in the air;
but as soon as it is in a dry cloud,
it easily returns to the bosom of Mother Earth.

And then consider smoke,
that with a thick veil
tries to obscure
the clear face of heaven, but it no sooner
goes in blind fury
against the serene heavens than it dies in the air.

The sea is like this, in that, armed
with whirlwinds and storms,
it dares to spin up
to the stars with a furious face,
but suddenly this wave
that once was threatening heaven now floods hell.

It is like the spume
of the sea that, as the sea breaks up,
in a way weeps as it grows,
and in its weeping it consumes itself.
thus it is, to put it nicely,
that life is a brief weeping of death.

Likewise is the voice, which, in going
outside the chest that produces it,
comes to be, in a way, except
that it dies as it is born:
on the lips it has its cradle and in the ears its grave.

Soul and Body
Consider the flower of the field
that I see at its freshest bloom:
you could say it’s a like lightening flash
that appears amidst the clouds,
such that as it appears, it disappears.
Track Name: Carissimi - Fuggi, Fuggi
Text & Translation

Fuggi, fuggi quel ben che tanto alletta
l'incauto cor de' miseri mortali!

Dolcezza stabile
tra noi non è
e variabile
non serba fe’.

È fior ma velenoso,
è velen ma vezzoso;
allor inganna più quando più ride,
quando gl'occhi lusinga i cori uccide.

Corri corri a quel ben che solo accende
il puro cor de’ più felici amanti!

Gioia più nobile
il ciel non ha,
ché ferma immobile
sempre sarà.

L’ardor non è penoso,
arde, sì, ma pietoso,
e quando infiamma più tanto è più grato:
rende gl’occhi piangenti e’l cor beato.

(English Translation)

Flee, flee that love that so entices
the incautious hearts of wretched mortals!

Sweetness is not
constant between us,
and changeable
devotion does not last.

It is a flower but poisonous,
it is a poison but pretty;
the more it deceives more, the more it smiles.
when it charms the eyes, it slays the heart.

Run, run to that love that alone enflames
the pure hearts of the happiest lovers!

Joy more noble
the heavens don’t have,
that constant and unmoving
will always be there.

Passion is not painful;
it burns, true, but compassionately,
and the more it enflames, the more it is pleasing:
it makes the eyes weepy and the heart happy.
Track Name: Carissimi - Suonera l'ultima tromba
Text & Translation

Suonerà l’ultima tromba
nè vi pensano i mortali.
Ha la morte al tergo l’ali,
E dappertutto il nome suo rimbomba.
Oh, da qual cieca nube, egri viventi,
S’offusca il vostro core?
Sa ciascun che si more,
nè si trova fra noi chi ne paventi.
Son domestici spaventi
i terrori della morte,
cred’ ogn’ huom’ d’avere in sorte
viver più degl’ elementi,
pur non passano momenti
chi sepolchri aperti sono,
e mentr’ io così raggiono,
Quanti andran’ morti alla tomba?
Suonerà l’ultima tromba
nè vi pensano i mortali.
Ha la morte al tergo l’ali,
e dappertutto il nome suo rimbomba.

Che noi siam’ cenere e polve,
che breve è questa vita,
ch’al girar di poch’ ore, il Ciel dissolve
la vanità, sì follemente ambita,
si sa ch’è verità, scesa da Cieli.
E pur sogni parrà ch’io vi riveli:
che quanto è di vago
a credula gente
è semplice imago
D’un bene apparente.
Che quanto risplende
negl’ occhi d’un volto
da brevi vicende
negl’ ombre è sepolto.
Che a reggia Fortuna
d’invito Monarca
crudel’ importuna
non cede la parca.
Si sa ch’è verità, scesa da Cieli.
E pur sogni parrà ch’io vi riveli.

Parlate voi, parlate
cadaveri sepolti
e contro noi rivolti
spettacoli d’orror’ l’ossa mostrate
parlate voi, parlate
e dite fra piaceri
quanti giaccono qui trassar la vita
di gioventù fiorita
sperando al volto lor secoli interi.
Morte al fin tra quest’ ombre ecco gl’involve,
e non resta di loro altro che polve.

In fresch’ età
quei che si fidano
mal si confidano,
gioir si credano,
ma poi s’avvedano
ch’è vanità.
D’un solo dì
quei che si pentano
non si dispensano.
L’ore che sonano
Sempre v’intonano
viver così.
Ieri già fu,
come vi lassano
Gl’anni che passsano.
Le tombe insegnano
che mal s’impegnano
l’alme qua giù.

Io, dall’ ossa sepolte e incenerite,
cerco ritrar’ consiglio per l’alme non pentite.
E pure in vano
chiedo aiuto lontano,
se frequenti qua giù sono i perigli.
Amico, a cui poch’ anzi
su le guancie fiorivan ligustri e rose,
tra gl’infelici avanzi,
d’una morte crudel le membra ascosi.
Ahi che veduto esempio
non vale a mover l’empio,
che ne falli sepolto in varie forme.
Benchè il Cielo lodesti con funesti,
dal letargo dei vizi oppresso, dorme.

(English Translation)

The last trumpet will sound,
though mortals do not think of it.
Death has wings on his back,
and everywhere his name resounds.
Oh, from what blind cloud, infirm beings,
does your heart grow dark?
Each one knows that he must die,
though there is none among us that fears it.
They are common alarms,
the terrors of death,
each man thinks it is his fate
to live longer than the elements,
yet moments do not pass
that graves are not opened,
and while I discourse thus,
how many will go dead to the tomb?
The last trumpet will sound,
though mortals do not think of it.
Death has wings on his back,
and everywhere his name resounds.

That we are dust and ashes,
that this life is short,
that in the turning of a few hours Heaven dissolves
the vanity so foolishly desired,
we know that this truth descends from Heaven.
And yet it will seem to be dreams that I reveal:
that what is pleasing
to credulous people
is a mere image
of a seeming good.
That which glitters
in the eyes of a face
by brief events
in the shadows is buried.
That cruel importunate Fate,
Does not yield
To wealth , nor the bidding
Of a Monarch.
We know that this truth descends from Heaven.
And yet it will seem to be dreams that I reveal..

Speak, speak
you buried corpses,
and turned towards us,
you spectacles of horror, show your bones.
Speak, speak
and tell how many lie here
who spent among pleasures a life
of thriving youth
hoping to last whole centuries.
Death at last folds them in these shadows,
and nothing remains of them but dust.

Those who trust
in youthful age,
trust ill,
they think to rejoice,
but then find
that it is vanity.
Those who repent
of one day only
are not exempt.
The hours that strike
ever warn us
to live thus.
Yesterday is gone.
how they leave you,
the years that pass.
The tombs teach that souls
do wrong to engage
themselves down here.

I, from bones buried and reduced to ashes,
seek to win counsel for unrepentant souls.
And yet I ask in vain
for distant help,
if down here the dangers are many.
Friend, on whose cheeks
lilacs and roses bloomed a little before,
go forth among the unfortunate ones,
your limbs hidden by a cruel death.
Ah, but the example seen
does not avail to move the impious one,
who may sin, buried many ways.
Though Heaven alerts him with grievous warnings,
He, oppressed with the torpor of vices, sleeps on.
Track Name: Carissimi - Vanitas Vanitatem Part 1: Proposui in mente mea
Text & English Translation

Tenor (Scott Whitaker)
Proposui in mente mea quærere et investigare sapientes de omnibus quæ sunt super terram. Vidi omnia quæ fint sub sole, et contemplatus sum quæcumque magis expetunt filii hominum, et ecce universa vanitas et afflictio spiritus.

Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas.

Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas.

I decided in my mind to ask and survey the wise about all the things that there are in the world. I saw all that happened under the sun, and I contemplated all those things most desired by the sons of men, and so all is vanity and affliction to the soul.
Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.

Vanity of vanities , all is vanity.
Track Name: Carissimi - Vanitas Vanitatem Part 2: Cogitavi transferre animum ad sapientiam
Text & English Translation

Cantus Primus (Catherine Webster)
Cogitavi transferre animum ad sapientiam, dedi cor meum et scirem prudentiam atque doctrinam ut stultitiam evitaren et viderem quod esset utilis filiis hominum numero dierum vitæ suæ, et cognovi quod in his quoque esset labor et afflictio spiritus.

Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas.

Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas.

First Soprano
I meditated on dedicating my spirit to wisdom; I gave my heart to know prudence and the Doctrine so to avoid foolishness and sought what is useful to the sons of men to help them proceed with the days of their lives and I realized that even in this there is anxiety and affliction of the soul.

Vanity of vanities , all is vanity.

Vanity of vanities , all is vanity.
Track Name: Carissimi - Vanitas Vanitatem Part 3: Dixit in corde meo
Text & Translation

Altus (Paul Elliott)
Dixit in corde meo: Vadam, et affluam dedictus, et frurar bonis. Magnificavi opera mea, ædificavi mihi domus, plantavi vineas, hotos et pomaria, et extruxi piscinas aquarum ad irrigandas silvas lignorum germinantium. Et vidi quod essent omnia vanitas et afflictio spiritus.

Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas.

Omnia vanitas, vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas.

I said to my heart: I should go and enjoy all delights, and use good things. I exalted my works, built palaces, planted vineyards, orchards and gardens, and built reservoirs of water to irrigate the forests of budding plants. And I found true that all these were vanities and affliction of the spirit.

Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.

All is vanity, vanity of vanities, all is vanity.
Track Name: Carissimi - Vanitas Vanitatem Part 4: Coacervavi mihi argentum et aurum
Text & Translation

Bassus (Peter Becker)
Coacervavi mihi argentum et aurum et substantias regnum et provinciarum, possedi quoque et ancillas, multamque familiam habui, armenta quoque et magnos ovium greges comparavi, et supergressus sum opibus omnes qui fuerunt ante me. Et vidi quod hoc quoque esset vanitas et afflitio spiritus.

Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas.

Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas.

I collected silver and gold, and the goods of kingdoms and countrymen. I also owned slaves and had many servants, armor too and I bought large flocks of sheep and I surpassed the riches of those before me. And I found true that even this is vanity and affliction of the spirit.

Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.

All is vanity, vanity of vanities, all is vanity.
Track Name: Carissimi - Vanitas Vanitatem Part 5: Feci mihi cantores et cantatrices
Text & English Translation

Cantus Secondus (Jennifer Ellis Kampani)
Feci mihi cantores et cantatrices, et delicias filiorum hominum, nec prohibui cor meum quin omni voluptate frueretur, et oblectaret se in his quæ præparaverum. Cunque me convertissemad omnia quæ feceram, vidi in omnibus vanitatem et afflictionem spiritus, et nihil permanere sub sole.
Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas.

Omnia vanitas, vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas.

Second Soprano
I hired men and women singers and the delights of the sons and men and I did not deny myself enjoyment from my heart, or to lavish in all things I prepared. But looking on to all the things I had done, in all I saw vanity and affliction of the spirit, and that nothing lasts under the sun.

Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.

All is vanity, vanity of vanities, all is vanity.
Track Name: Carissimi - Vanitas Vanitatem Part 6: Hinc, mortales, ediscite
Text & English Translation

Cantus Primus et Cantus Secondus (Catherine Webster & Jennifer Ellis Kampani)
Hinc, mortales, ediscite
quod vana mundi guadia,
inanes labores,
fugaces honores,
mendaces favores:
omnia vanitas et umbra sunt.

Altus, Tenor et Bassus (Paul Elliott, Scott Whitaker, Peter Becker)
Sceptra, coronæ, purporæ,
pompæ, triumphi, lauræ,
decora, ornatus, gloriæ,
et lusus, et deliciæ,
et fastus, et divitiæ:
omnia vanitas et umbra sunt.

First and Second Soprano
From here, oh mortals learn
that the joys of the world are vain,
struggles are vain,
honour is frivolous,
favors are false:
all things are vanities and darkness.

Alto, Tenor, Bass
Sceptres, crowns, robes,
ceremony, triumphs, victories,
honors, ornaments, glories,
and games, and delights,
and splendors, and riches,
all are vanities and darkness.
Track Name: Carissimi - Vanitas Vanitatem Part 7: Omnia vanitas et umbra sunt
Text & English Translation

Omnia vanitas et umbra sunt.

Ubi sunt præclari reges
qui dederunt orbi leges,
ubi gentium doctores,
civitatum conditores?

Pulvis sunt et cineres.

Ubi septem sapientes,
et scientias, adolentes,
ubi rectores discordes,
ubi artifices experti?

Pulvis sunt et cineres.

Ubi fortes sunt gigantes,
tanto robore præstantes,
ubi invicti bellatores,
barbararorum domitores?

Pulvis sunt et cineres.

Ubi heroum inclita proles,
ubi vastæ urbium moles,
ubi Athenæ, ubi Carthago,
veterisque Thebæ imago?

Solum nomen superest.

Ubi dictatorum gloriæ,
ubi consolum victoriæ,
ubi laureæ triumphales,
ubi decus immortale
romanorum onorium?

Solum nomen superest.

Heu, nos miseros.
Sicut acquæ dilabimur
et sicut folium
quod vento rapitur,
deficimus, eripimur.

Votis decipimur,
tempore fallimur,
moret deludimur;
quæ nos anxii quærimus,
quæ solliciti petimus,
omnia vanitas et umbra sunt.

Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas.

All are vanities and darkness.

Where are the famous leaders
who created laws for the world,
where are the guides of the people,
the founders of the cities?

They are dust and ashes.

Where are the seven wise ones,
the adorers of the sciences,
where are disputing orators,
where are the creative experts?

They are dust and ashes.

Where are the giant strong ones,
outstanding for their power,
where are the invincible fighters,
where are the tamers of barbarians?

They are dust and ashes.

Where is the famous descent of the heroes,
where are the vast piers of the cities,
where is Athens, where is Carthage,
and the ancient face of Thebes?

Only the name remains.

Where are the glories of the dictators,
where are the victories of the counselors,
where are the triumphal laurel leaves,
where is the immortal dignity
of the honorable Romans?

Only the name remains.

Oh, we the miserable.
We disperse like water
and like a leaf
that is taken by the wind,
we fall, we are dragged away.

We are deceived by our dreams,
fooled by time,
deluded by death;
the things we anxiously sought,
that we urgently asked for,
all these are vanity and darkness.

Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.