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Peter Philips

(1560 - 1628)

Peter Philips (1560 or 1561 - 1628) was an English composer and organist who spent most of his working life in Belgium. He was a Catholic, and as such chose to leave England after a tenure as singer at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. He first went to Brussels, and then quickly on to the English College in Rome where he met the English Catholic landowner Lord Thomas Paget. Philips and Paget traveled throughout Europe together, before settling in Antwerp shortly before Paget's death. There, Philips obtained a position as organist to the chapel of the Archduke Albrect, and met his colleagues John Bull and Pieter Cornet, as well as probably Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck. He was also highly regarded as a virginal player, and made a living teaching on this instrument.

Philips was one of the most prolific Northern composers of Latin sacred choral music, with a few hundred surviving motets. He also composed music for both instrumental consort and keyboard, many of these pieces surviving in arrangements of both types. These pieces involve the best-known genres of English instrumental music of the time, the fantasia and pavan & galliard. Philips' motets also contain something of the English style in that they are all written with organ accompaniment; his style of vocal composition, however, is more in keeping with the great continental masters of the period, such as Orlandus Lassus. His vocal and instrumental writing is extremely smooth, with well-planned harmonies, and a general lack of contrapuntal artifice. Philips was one of the outstanding vocal composers of his day, publishing motets in German as well as Latin. ~ Todd McComb (6/94)

Recommended Recordings


Accent 8862
23 Motets "Paradisus Sacris Cantionibus"/Accent ACC8862D reissued as ACC10062
Erik Van Nevel/Currende Vocal Ensemble
16 Motets "Cantiones Sacrae Octonibus Vocibus"/Hyperion CDA67945
Rupert Gough/Royal Holloway Choir/English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble
16 Motets "Cantiones Sacrae Quinis Vocibus"/Naxos 8.555056
Peter Walls/Tudor Consort
14 Motets/Hyperion CDA66643
Peter Holman/Winchester Cathedral Choir & The Parley Of Instruments
20 Motets "Cantiones Sacrae Quinis et Octonibus Vocibus"/Naxos 8.572832
Andrew Mackay/Sarum Consort

Keyboard Music

Etcetera KTC1022
Harpsichord Music/Etcetera KTC1022
Anneke Uittenbosch (harpsichord)
Harpsichord Music/Harmonia Mundi HMC901263
Emer Buckley (harpsichord)
Keyboard Works/Hyperion CDA66734
Paul Nicholson (harpsichord & virginal)
Organ & Keyboard Works, Vols. 1 & 2 w/ Marenzio/Dabringhaus & Grimm MDG3411257-2 & MDG3411435-2
Siegbert Rampe (organ, clavichord, virginal & haprsichord)