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Philips: Cantiones Sacrae Quinis et Octonibus Vocibus / Sarum Consort

Release Date: 12/13/2011 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8572832  
Composer:  Peter Phillips
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sarum Consort
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

PHILIPS Cantiones Sacrae Quinis et Octonibus Vocibus: selections Andrew Mackay, cond; Sarum Consort NAXOS 8.572832 (65:08 Text and Translation)

The Sarum Consort’s previous recording of works drawn from Peter Philips’s 1612 Cantiones Sacrae Quinis was enthusiastically received at Fanfare when it first appeared in 2001. Read more Martin Anderson ( Fanfare 25:3) referred to these as “loving, sympathetic, insightful performances,” and J. F. Weber ( Fanfare 25:4) wrote, “This is the place to start hearing this remarkable composer.” However, Weber also noted hopefully at the time, “Given all the Tudor composers that ASV and other British labels have tackled complete, we may be allowed to hope for more of Peter Philips.” This was not to be; ASV and its early-music label, Gaudeamus, ceased issuing recordings in subsequent years. Only now has the Sarum Consort returned to Philips on the Naxos label, with a selection that draws further from the 69 five-part motets of his 1612 publication, as well as the 30 eight-part motets of his 1613 Cantiones Sacrae Octonibus Vocibus.

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 of Anderson and Weber 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.

The texts are online, according to Naxos’s usual practice. Mackay’s liner notes (with the bio section about Philips reprinted from the ASV release) are strong, but a few minor errors appear to have crept in. Philips’s setting of the Pater Noster is described as SSATB, but the detail listing shows it as SATBB. Similarly, Mackay describes Media Via as SATTB, but it is listed as SATBB.

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.

FANFARE: Barry Brenesal Read less

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