Why, oh why, aren’t Peter Philips and his music better known? As a committed English Catholic he spent his working life abroad. His first sojourn abroad was to Rome, where he fell under the spell of the Italian madrigal, but he soon settled in the Low Countries, working for the Archduke Albert in Brussels. In 1622 Henry Peacham wrote that Philips was “one of the greatest masters of Musicke in Europe”, and everything so far committed to disc from his melodious and engaging oeuvre supports that claim.
The present disc explores his eight-part motets, written for two choirs and intended to celebrate major feast days of the Church year. The musical language avoids the harmonic extremes of a Gesualdo or even a Monteverdi, but Philips shows his Italianate leanings with colourful effects illustrating text. Changes of speed and metre abound, and there is much passing of phrases from one chorus to the other. Rupert Gough and his excellent Royal Holloway choir have been recorded in the warmly resonant acoustic of St Alban’s Church, Holborn, and these lively, committed performances have great bloom. Sackbuts and cornetts enhance the richness of some of the motets, adding additional lustre to what is a most welcome disc containing some very fine music.