Alexander Utendal: Meine Tage sind wie Schatten

Meine Tage sind wie Schatten
Alexander Utendal
Psalms from Septem Psalmi poenietentiales & Magnificats
Profeti della Quinta
Musikmuseum 37, CD13036. 56’18

This 2018 recording in the impressive series of recordings from the Tiroler Landesmuseen in Innsbruck, (under the banner of musikmuseum), focusses on the now little-known composer Alexander Utendal (c1530-1581). His link with the Tyrol started from his early days in Hapsburg Flanders where he was a choirboy at the court of Mary of Hungary, Regent of the Netherlands. He then sang alto in the Court chapel of Archduke Ferdinand II of Tyrol, moving to Innsbruck in 1564 where he suceeded Jacob Regnart as Vice Kapellmeister. In his time, he had a strong reputation. His collection of four-part penitential psalms, printed in 1570, have been compared to those of Orlando di Lasso (published some years later). Utendal worked for linked courts, and would have known each other well.

Three of the Psalms are included: numbers 6, 31 & 101. They are separated by instrumental versions of three Magnificats published in 1573, here performed by the accompanying viola da gamba and lute consort. The five-part Psalms are performed with four singers and one instrument, an option specifically mentioned in the original publication. Utendal writes in a rather conservation and restrained madgrigal style pf polyphony, with subtle references to the text, often through little harmonic shifts. In the introduction to his Psalmi poenietentiales he notes that they are particularly suitable as they can “nurture patience in the face of adversity”, a thought that could equally apply to the present day as to the Hapsburg’s frequent tussles with the Ottomans of Utendal’s time.

Profeti della Quinta have gone on to great things after winning of the 2011 York Early Music Young Artists Competition. They are based in Basel where they all studied at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. They sing with a supurb sense of consort and with impressive intonation, respoding well to the ebb and flow of the music. Utendal was an alto singer, so it is no surprise the alto Doron Schleifer has a prominent role in the music. His pure and unaffected voice sits neatly on top of the other singers, always beautifully integrating into the texture. Their founder and director Elam Rotem is the force behind the excellent website Early Music Sources with its informative videos on different aspects of early music.

Although little known, this is music that is well worth recording, particularly as well as in this performance.

Psalmus Poenitentialis Primus: Domine ne in furore tuo arguas me
Magnificat Secundi Toni
Psalmus Poenitentialis Secundus: Beati quorum missae sunt
Magnificat Quarti Toni
Psalmus Poenitentialis Quintus: Domine exaudi orationem meam
Magnificat Septimi Toni