Historia di Jephte
, b) Chorus: Plorate filii Israel
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 4 Track 39
Carissimi commiserated with Filia by offering her a dirge. Musically, a dirge is very useful. It can be effective in comic as well as tragic settings. It can contrast with previously static moments as easily as it can contrast with previously hectic moments. A dirge can lift you up or bring you down. Filia, who just completed a stunning aria in Latin (which included a request for commiseration), was in need of the kind of respite only a dirge could bring.
It is the steady descending line prominent in the bass that is most evocative of a dirge. In this example, the chorus as a whole tends to conform to the walking rhythms of its lowest voice. As this bass line is applied to other dramatic situations by other composers and becomes more familiar, we will find the upper parts more independent.
What I like about this chorus is that though all the parts are generally the same, they are not always singing at the same time. Carissimi has employed a six voice choir and has made good use of this number. Every now and then, the chorus does sing the same rhythm at the same time. Because these moments are few and carefully placed, Carissimi has achieved a steady momentum throughout.