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American Record Guide, June 2002

“They (Cantione Sacrae) are beautifully drilled and blended, and led with great sensitivity to the flow of part lines, together with appreciation for the composer’s frequent penchant for subdividing his five voices into an approximating of double-choir writing. This release is certainly a welcome contribution, then, to the recognition of Philips’s wonderful musical legacy. Full Latin texts with English translations join excellent notes for another Naxos winner that would be a prize even in a higher price-range.”

Fabrice Fitch
Gramophone, April 2002

“This mixed choir from New Zealand consists of some two dozen singers. They sound bright and limpid, and the quality of the sound-recording does the ensemble greater justice than do those of the other recordings. As to the interpretations, they more than stand comparison to their rivals. Indeed, the choice of pieces is arguably more varied, and gives a more satisfying picture of the composer...It is perhaps fair comment to say that the Naxos disc offers better value for money, and may be the more natural starting-point.”

Simon Heighes
International Record Review, April 2002

“The Sarum Consort perform one-to-a-part, and following the suggestion of the Cantiones 1617 reprint, they are joined from time to time by a supporting chamber organ. The Tudor Consort, on the other hand, are a 23-strong choir from New Zealand who sing entirely unaccompanied,. But despite these differences, both groups instinctively recognize the restrained splendor of Philips’s style, and offer elegantly reserved performances which suite the music admirably. The Tudor Consort have the corporate breath capacity to create seamless phrases of evolving polyphony, but although quite formal in their respect for the contrapuntal grammar, in works such as the emotional ‘Salve regina’ they are not so abstracted that they miss the subtle passion in the music. The resonant acoustic is no bad thing and helps blur one or two rough edges...Go for the Naxos bargain if you like your polyphony ethereal; pick the Sarum Consort if you fancy it nourished by the milk of human kindness.”

Elizabeth Roche
The Daily Telegraph (Australia), January 2002

“The expatriate English recusant composer Peter Philips has had to wait a good deal longer than other British-based contemporaries for a fair share of record-company attention, but now two selections from his 1612 motet book have appeared within months of each other. However, since the Cantiones Sacrae contain too much music to fit on to one CD, this second collection is as welcome as its predecessor, duplicating fewer than half the pieces on the Sarum Consort’s ASV Gaudeamus disc and containing some fine “new” ones, including two highly expressive Marian antiphons. The singing of the 23-strong choir…[demonstrates] a strong sense of genuine engagement with and enthusiasm for the music—something that is occasionally lacking in more pristine (and pricey) performances of sacred polyphony. Their flexible response to the rapid changes of mood and texture characteristic of Philips’s sensitive text-setting is particularly admirable.”

David Vernier, January 2002

“The motet Mulieres sedentes, a depiction of the scene of the women weeping outside Jesus’ tomb, is among the most poignant and musically sophisticated works of the early 17th century. This five-and-one-half-minute piece shows just how accomplished this English composer was—and how sadly neglected he is today. The fact that he—a Catholic in Protestant England—chose to leave for the continent and never return, probably helped to correspondingly banish his work from its proper place alongside that of his great contemporary William Byrd, but there’s no sound musicological reason for this treatment. This selection of 16 motets from his five-part Cantiones Sacrae collection will enlighten those unfamiliar with Philips’ choral music, and will add more solid evidence to help confirm his deserved place among great Elizabethan-era composers. The equally deserving performers are the 23 voices of the Tudor Consort, a New Zealand-based ensemble that Naxos has wisely chosen to bring interpretive life to these exemplary pieces. If you want to go the best stuff first, listen to the above-mentioned Mulieres sedentes, the masterfully structured Iste est Johannes, and the very moving O Maria Mater. This is a wonderful choir—well-focused, bright-but-not-harsh sopranos, solid bass, strong inner voices—and the repertoire suits its timbre perfectly (or is it the other way around?).

Conductor Peter Walls understands both the overall period style and Philips’ own proclivity toward occasional word painting—and he obviously cares a lot about ensemble balance and uniformity of tone and color. The acoustic, which is big and resonant, sometimes works against both the choral sound and the musical detail—for example in Alma Redemptoris Mater, with its alternately boomy, murky, indistinct bass and obscure internal parts. Fortunately this is not a prominent feature of the recording in general; for the most part we get performances that show the high competence and occasional imperfections of a finely tuned, well-rehearsed, near-world-class ensemble…Informative notes by conductor Walls, along with full texts and translations complete this recommended Naxos release.”

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