Antonio ZACARA da Teramo(c1350/60
- 1413 or later) Ferito già d'un amoroso dardo [5:08] Movit'a pietade [4:16] Benché lontan me trovi in altra parte [4:56] Plorans ploravi perché la fortuna [8:31] Nuda non era, preso altro vestito [5:37] Le temps verra tam-toust après [4:08] Spinato intorno al cor (instr) [4:34] Un fiore gentil m'apparse [4:25] Rosetta che non canbi may colore [6:32] Spinato intorno al cor [5:58]
Currentes (Kristin Mulders (soprano), Kjetil Almenning (tenor),
Hans Lub (medieval fiddle), David Catalunya (clavisimbalum), Jostein
Gundersen (recorder)/Jostein Gundersen
rec. 8-10 October 2010, Hoff Church, Norway. DDD
LAWO CLASSICS LWC 1026 [54:10]
One has to look closely at the frontispiece of this disc to track down the
name of the composer to whom it is devoted: Antonio Zacara da
Teramo. The last part of his name refers to the town where he
was born. The name 'Zacara' is in fact a term of abuse in the
dialect and means "a splash of mud". This refers to his severe
physical handicap, called phocomelia, a congenital disorder
which stunted his growth and resulted in missing fingers. His
physical disorder is clearly visible in his portrait in the
Squarcialupi Codex, in which several of his compositions
are preserved. It didn't stop him from making quite a career
as a scribe and composer. His life was bu no means easy, though,
and that was not just due to his physique.
Zacara lived at the time of the Papal Schism which lasted
from 1378 to 1417 (more about this can be found here).
In the early 1390s he was a member of the chapel of Pope Boniface
IX. He was also employed as copier of the apostolic writings
by the Papal Chancellery and as teacher of the children at a
hospital. After some years he decided to devote himself completely
to music and became a singer in the chapel of Pope Innocent
VII. After having lost his wife he also lost his only son during
a revolt against the Pope. Zacara wrote a remarkably personal
madrigal to express his sadness, Plorans ploravi. When
Gregory XII was elected Pope, some cardinals elected Alexander
V in Pisa as Antipope. Zacara had followed them, and as a result
he lost his position in Rome. He moved to Florence where he
stayed for a number of years. After a while he wanted to return
to his former position as singer in the Papal chapel. Since
his relationship with the Pope in Rome was severely damaged
he associated with Alexander V who died suddenly.He then auditioned
for his successor, John XXIII, who resided in Bologna.
The political upheavals connected to the Papal Schism left their
mark in Zacara's oeuvre. Some of his songs have politically
subversive texts. The programme on this disc includes a remarkable
piece which also refers to the schism: Le temps verra tam-toust
après. It expresses hope for an end to the conflict:
"Very soon the time will come when the faith of Christians will
be ordered anew." It ends with a dialogue between Zacara and
John XXIII. Zacara composed a relatively large and versatile
oeuvre of secular and sacred pieces. His music found wide dissemination
and is preserved in various manuscripts. The strong contrasts
within the body of his secular songs have raised doubts as to
the authenticity of some of them. Some songs are also different
in form from what was common in the ars subtilior, the
dominant musical style of his time in Italy.
There are difficulties with performance of this repertoire.
As the ensemble's director, Jostein Gundersen, writes in the
booklet, composers left few clues as to how their music was
to be performed. This leaves considerable freedom to the performers,
and modern interpreters need to invest much energy and time
in trying to find out how this music was performed at the time.
One of the controversies among experts is the use of instruments:
when and where, which and how many? In this recording a 'liberal'
stance is taken. Only some pieces are performed with the same
number of performers as the number of parts: either two or three.
In other cases an instrument plays colla voce or even
adds a part of its own. There is also much ornamentation in
the playing of the instruments. With one exception all the pieces
are performed with voice(s) and instruments. Some songs have
survived without a text or with an incomplete text. In those
cases where some sort of reconstruction was impossible, the
textless parts are played.
Not for nothing has the term ars subtilior been invented
for this repertoire. This is highly complicated music which
requires great technical skill from the performers, but also
a great deal of concentration. Plorans ploravi, for instance,
includes very long melismas which have to be sung legato,
without breaking them up in a baroque manner. As strong as the
sentiments in this song are, there is no such thing as text
expression. It requires a more or less instrumental performance
of the vocal lines. The two singers, Kristin Mulders and Kjetil
Almenning, are absolutely convincing in this department. They
have fine and very agile voices which are perfectly suited to
the repertoire. The blend with the instruments is immaculate.
The ensemble may take some liberties in regard to the use of
instruments, but it is always decent and tasteful and the instruments
never overshadow the voices. Fortunately they didn't include
any percussion as that would have been at odds with the essential
subtlety of this music.
Zacara da Teramo is definitely one of the most intriguing composers
of around 1400. Currentes delivers captivating performances
which may inspire the listener to look for more recordings with
music by him or from his time. I hope to hear more from this
Johan van Veen
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