Rise, Ancient Song

I have been listening a lot to this motet, Adesto dolori meo, Deus, by the late-Renaissance Flemish composer Alexander Utendal recently. The rising chromatic line that forms the basis for the opening imitative entries is mind-blowing in its deployment, displaying freshness and ingenuity despite being nearly 500 years old. By the time the soprano reaches her top D and the harmony reaches its widest point, I am always struck by the feeling of something having gradually come towards me, emerging from a mist. Utendal seems to be a relatively unknown figure, but there are a few internet resources, including: videos on YouTube of Oltremontano and the Capilla Flamenca performing some of his works; some people have helpfully reproduced Hellmut Federhofer’s Grove Dictionary of Music article here and here (Flemish musicologist Ignace Bossuyt disagrees with Grove’s date of birth, suggesting c. 1543-5 as correct); and if you search the old Google you’ll pull up the odd other thing, including a few things in Dutch.

This recording is of my father’s group The Art of Music, a group of (usually) six singers living and working in Luxembourg who have now been going for over fifteen years with varying personnel and who specialise in the performance of music from the Renaissance and Middle Ages.

Alexander Utendal Adesto dolori meo, Deus
The Art of Music (Flash Compact Editioun FCE 209/504)

Music score

First page of Adesto dolori meo, Deus by Alexander Utendal

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This post first appeared on an older version of this site: v2.chrisswithinbank.net/2009/07/rise-ancient-song/