Peter Philips, Motets & Madrigaux

Peter Philips, Motets & Madrigaux


The English expatriate Peter Philips hasn't been the subject of many anthologies, though I remember a recording of his sacred music by Westminster Cathedral Choir 15 years ago. This new disc makes the case in his favour perhaps more eloquently, presenting as it does a range of genres, from instrumental and solo keyboard to motets and madrigals. For his music is a curious blend of several idioms: as an organ virtuoso living in the Low Countries he was clearly well up on the latest continental trends, yet his Englishness is difficult to miss: his Pavan in memory of Lord Paget (and to a lesser extent the hexachord fantasia Ut re mifa sol Ia) show off both facets simultaneously.

One glimpses an admirably rounded composer here, but
 just as engaging is the ebullience with which the music is brought to life: massed voices and instruments, quasi-orchestral effects that don't sound at all forced despite having been carefully planned; and a marked exuberance in the embellishment of melodic lines. Some may feel this works better in the secular music than in the sacred - the first of the motets, Cantantibu organis, begins as though it were another madrigal - but it's difficult to argue with performances of such conviction. A few of the sacred pieces appear on the earlier anthology, so a strongly contrasted alternative reading is very welcome.

Fabrice Fitch, Gramophone [4/2009]

Booklet, PDF