Choir of Royal Holloway, University of London / English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble / Rupert Gough

Peter Philips: Cantiones sacrae octonis vocibus

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Peter Philips was an English composer who spent his career outside of England: he traveled to Italy, where he absorbed both the pure Counter Reformation style of Palestrina and, apparently, the polychoral style of Venice. By the time he planned to return, the situation of English Catholics was dire, so he fled to the Low Countries and apparently spent the rest of his life there, harassed occasionally by English agents but managing, in Dutch, to talk his way out of trouble. He has never fit neatly into the categories of music history, and he is known mostly for keyboard music. These eight-part motets of 1613, separated from the mainstream of musical and liturgical history, are not often performed, and their mere presence is really the main attraction here. They lie right in between Philips' Italian models, with the sober, text-centered approach of Palestrina applied to a variety of big antiphonal structures. These in turn are treated with great variety here by conductor Rupert Gough and the Choir of Royal Holloway (Royal Holloway is one of the colleges of the University of London), including the use of cornetts and sackbuts on some pieces. Here the musicians rely on evidence from Dutch images of the period, and the realization is really quite nice, with a spacious sound that drowns out neither the choir nor the instruments. There are cleaner choirs than the young Choir of Royal Holloway, but few that seem to enter so instinctively into the spirit of the music. The engineers, working in London's St. Alban's church, have done a fine job in difficult circumstances, and this is all around an interesting offbeat find for devotees of English polyphony.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:33
2 4:57
3 3:34
4 3:49
5 4:38
6 3:09
7 4:49
8 6:01
9 4:01
10 3:57
11 7:33
12 5:31
13 3:09
14 3:42
15 4:17
16 5:09
blue highlight denotes track pick