Studies on Zacara's music are all relatively recent, and much remains to be solved in terms of chronology and attribution. He seems to have been active as a composer throughout his life, and a stylistic development is evident, with two general phases taking shape: an early period, dominated by song forms such as the ballata, similar in style to the work of Jacopo da Bologna or Francesco Landini; and a period possibly beginning around 1400, when he was in Rome, during which his music is influenced by the ars subtilior.
Both sacred and secular vocal music survive by Zacara, and in greater quantity than most other composers from the period around 1400. Numerous paired mass movements, Glorias and Credos, are in a Bologna manuscript (Q15), compiled beginning around 1420; seven songs appear in the Squarcialupi Codex (probably compiled 1410–1415) and 12 in the Mancini Codex (probably compiled around 1410). Three songs are found in other sources, including the ars subtilior, Latin-texted Sumite, karissimi, capud de Remulo, patres.
Apart from one caccia (Cacciando un giorno), a Latin ballade (Sumite, karissimi), and a madrigal (Plorans ploravi), his secular songs are all ballate (Fallows 2001). A recent study proposes attribution to Zacara of a French-texted two-voice composition, Le temps verrà, found in the manuscript T.III.2, in part on stylistic grounds, and in part on the basis of the politically charged, satirical subject matter of the text.
The songs in the Squarcialupi Codex and Mancini Codex differ greatly in style. Those in the former document were probably written early in Zacara's career, and show influence from lyrical mid-century Italian composers such as Landini; the music in the Mancini Codex is more closely related to the mannerist style of the ars subtilior. While exact dates on the music have not been established, it is possible that some of the music in the Mancini Codex was written after Zacara left Rome, and was more likely to be influenced by the Avignon-based avant-garde ars subtilior style; on the other hand he may have been consciously trying to create a Roman response to the music coming from the court of the schismatic antipopes.
One of the strangest of Zacara's songs, occurring in the Mancini Codex, is Deus deorum, Pluto, a two-voice invocation to the Roman god of the underworld; the text is filled with the names of the inhabitants of the infernal regions. It is "an enthusiastic prayer to Pluto, king of the demons"— not the kind of composition one would normally expect from a pious Vatican secretary. Zacara even used this song as a basis for one of his settings of the Credo of the mass.
Zacara's mass movements appears to have been influential on other composers of the early 15th century, including Johannes Ciconia and Bartolomeo da Bologna; some of his innovations can even be seen in Dufay. Zacara may have been the first to use 'divisi' passages in the upper voices. His movements are much longer than other 14th century mass movements, and use imitation extensively, as well as hocket (a more archaic technique). In general, his paired movements — Gloria, Credo — are a link between the scattered, ununified movements of the 14th century (Machaut's Messe de Nostre Dame being the significant exception) and the cyclic mass which developed in the 15th century.
Some of Zacara's pieces are found in very distant sources, indicating his fame and wide distribution, including in a Polish manuscript and in the English Old Hall Manuscript (no. 33, a setting of the Gloria).
Read more about this topic: Zacara Da Teramo
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