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Barry Brenesal
Fanfare, May 2012

Andrew Mackay prefers one voice per part on this recording. I find this a wise choice, as it allows the full repertoire of contrapuntal techniques of which Philips was a past master to shine through. It helps that the recording location—Wardour Chapel, Tisbury, Wiltshire—is only moderately resonant and miked tightly, reducing the sonic bloat often associated with early music in churchly venues. To the comments…I can add little regarding the Sarum Consort itself, other than to briefly remark on the beauty of the individual voices, their perfect blend, and expressive phrasing. This is ardent music set to passionate texts, for all their sacred character. Mackay and company never lose track of that.

I can’t say whether this recording constitutes part of a series, though nowhere on the album is it referred to as Volume 2. Regardless, it is long overdue, and of a quality that makes it essential to all lovers of Tudor sacred music. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare

David Denton
David's Review Corner, December 2011

Together with William Byrd, Peter Philips was the most famous of the English composers born in the 16th century, though the details of his life are sketchy. Already a highly gifted composer and master of the keyboard, he had established a career in his native land, but in 1582, probably at the age of twenty-two, he had to make a hasty exit from the country, his Roman Catholic faith placed his life in jeopardy as the Church of England became the law of the land. Together with many other English Catholics he found sanctuary and employment in Rome, from there he travelled through much of Western Europe as a performing musician eventually settling in Antwerp. He never returned to England, but even before his departure, it appears his music was influenced by a continental style, and while his only known painting would depict a man of very severe countenance, his works were full of joy. He had already published a considerable quantity of motets when his first collection of sacred works, Cantiones Sacrae Quinis et Octonibus Vocibus was published in 1612 and 1613. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary there are twenty pieces which in total make a very substantial work, though they would not have all been performed together. They are not for the purpose of showing vocal virtuosity, but the complexity of intertwining strands does present the intonation difficulties cast aside by the excellent British group, The Sarum Consort. How Philips would view the use of female sopranos in place of boy trebles, we can only guess, but the sound produced, under the direction of Andrew Mackay, is pleasing on the ear, and, dare I say it, very commercial in today’s Early Music world. Excellent sound, the chamber organ just discreetly present.

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