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Peter Philips Cantiones Sacrae Quinis Vocibus
(Antwerp 1612)

The Sarum Consort Olivia Robinson, Alison Bullock - sopranos Deborah Mackay - alto Duncan Byrne - tenor Aidan Oliver - bass Nigel Gardner - organ

Directed by Andrew Mackay

Recorded in Milton Abbey, Dorset UK on 15-17 August 1999

ASV "Gaudeamus" CD GAU 217 [68'54"]

Of the 18 motets on this stunning disc, 12 are recorded here for the first time. It is amazing that a composer of the stature and mastery of Peter Philips (not to be confused with the eponymous director of the early music vocal group The Tallis Scholars) has not yet had a complete works recording, let alone that there should be this many pieces from his first, and one of his most important publications, still able to receive premiere recordings in the 21st century. The music is sublime and the performances do it great justice.

Philips was an English recusant who spent most of his life on the continent. during his lifetime his fame was wide, and he was published more frequently that any English composer save Byrd. That situation changed in the revival of early music. One aspect that may account for Philips' neglect, but which now stands decisively in his favour is the mixing of English and continental sounds in his works. It is clear that he was an Englishman from the languid flow of the lines of his polyphony, but at the same time there is a colour and flavour to the overall sound that shows a marked influence of composers from Josquin through to Sweelinck. The result is highly individual and interesting.

In this recording the Sarum Consort blend their voices admirably, while never loosing the clarity of line and texture that is only possible with one-to-a-part performance. The wide range of techniques that Philips employs are exploited by the performers; ranging from the leaden, slow harmony depicting weeping in Mulieres sedentes to the exultant imitation of instruments in Ascendit Deus. All of this is interestingly coloured by the sublte organ accompanyment of Nigel Gardner, playing a chiffy three-stop organ by William Drake. This is another concession to the continental style and adds to the distinctly individual flavour of the performances. It is well over-due for this splendid music to be made available. A highly recommendable disc.

Peter Wells

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