> Peter Philips [RBr]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Peter PHILIPS (1561-1628)
Cantiones Sacrae. Quinis Vocibus: Salve Regina; Christus resurgens; O nomen Jesu

The Tudor Consort/Peter Walls
Recorded August 1999 in the Chapel College, Island Bay, Wellington, New Zealand.


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It is remarkable that Peter Philips has not attained the status now accorded to his contemporary William Byrd, to whom, during the Counter-Reformation in England, he was considered an equally famous composer of religious music, though Philips spent his later years in the Netherlands and is, perhaps, better known as a composer for keyboards.

These five-part motets display all the originality, passion and sophistication of Byrd, and the subtle "word painting" that characterises much Italian 16th and 17th century sacred music. Cantiones Sacrae is a title frequently used from 1535 onwards for collections of similar works by composers such as Byrd, Tallis and Thomas East. Their imitative polyphonic texture calls for flexible forms in which successive voices spin out contrapuntal lines in a complex and interesting manner, declamatory passages alternating with independently developed themes closely associated with the Latin texts (obligingly translated in the insert booklet).

The title page of the 1612 edition of the Cantiones (published two years later than Monteverdis better-known Vespro della Beata Vergine) states that these motets were "intended for the principal parts of the whole year, and the common of the saints". Unusually long for their period, they wonderfully display the burgeoning of an English style that has moved purposefully away from the austere polyphony of Palestrina towards the emotional intensity and colourful harmonic spectrum of the early baroque period.

The Tudor Consort is completely at home with these works, and the recording lives up to their subtle interpretations and meticulous enunciation. The acoustic is not over-resonant, which helps the listener follow the intricate weaving of the voices into a resplendent tapestry of sound. Yet another important rescue operation by Naxos which should earn the gratitude of early music enthusiasts.

Roy Brewer


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