Peter Philips: An Englishman Abroad

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Featuring performances by Alexander Norman and Convivium Singers.

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About this release

Peter Philips (1560/1 – 1628) has long existed on the margins of English music. Resident in England until 1582, Philips spent the rest of his life in exile in the Netherlands. It is presumed that Philips’s Catholicism was the motivation behind this move, as Catholics were not permitted to openly practice their faith in England at the time. As many scholars have observed, the long-term neglect of Philips’s music has been partly due to his separation from England and its choral tradition. In recent years, Philips has begun to enjoy the acclaim he deserves as choirs rediscover his glorious motets. The present disc is part of this rediscovery, and marks the 450th anniversary of Philips’s birth.

Commissioned Programme Note

Peter Philips (1560/1–1628) has long existed on the margins of English music. Resident in England until 1582, Philips spent the rest of his life in exile in the Netherlands. It is presumed that Philips’s Catholicism motivated this move, as Catholics were not permitted to openly practice their faith in England at the time.

As many scholars have observed, the long-term neglect of Philips’s music has been partly due to his separation from England’s choral tradition. Byrd, also a Catholic, did not suffer the same fate: unlike Philips, Byrd also composed English- language madrigals and Anglican church music in addition to his many Latin motets. Byrd remained linked to the English musical establishment, despite his faith. Besides keyboard music, Philips remained little-known in England. In recent years, he has begun to enjoy the acclaim he deserves as choirs rediscover his glorious motets. The present disc is part of this rediscovery.

After leaving England Philips secured the position of organist at the English College in Rome, and whilst in the city, it is likely that he would have had some contact with composers such as Palestrina, Marenzio, Anerio and Victoria. Philips’s vocal music is indebted to this ‘Italian’ style of composition, and has little in common with his English contemporaries – a further reason for its neglect.

Philips resided in Rome from 1582 until 1585, when he left in the retinue of Thomas Lord Paget (another exiled English Catholic). He settled in Antwerp in 1590, teaching the keyboard and composing instrumental music. In 1597, Philips moved to Brussels to take up the position of organist at the Archducal Court of Albert and Isabella, where he remained until his death. All of his sacred vocal music was published during this period: indeed the scholar David Smith has noted that Philips’s compositional career was carefully tailored to suit his patron’s needs. Read more