Peter Philips was born in c. 1561 and was a chorister at St. Paul's Cathedral, London. In 1582 he left England, like many others at this time, 'pour Ia foy Catholique'. He spent the following eight years in various European countries, including three years in Rome, developing his musical experience before settling in Antwerp in 1590. In 1597 he took up an appointment as organist in the Royal Chapel in Brussels, and he remained in this post until his death in 1628. Philips' large output, much of it published in his day, includes motets, madrigals, keyboard and instrumental works.
The first of his two major published collections of motets, the Cantiones Sacrce (1612), consists of 67 five-part pieces. The second, the Cantiones Sacrce Octonis Vocibus (1613), comprises 30 eight-part works. Both sets ran to second editions, a decade or so later, which included sparsely figured Basso Continuo parts- an indication that, despite the innately conservative style of the motets, Philips was responding to new trends at this time. The Basso Continuo, added to the second (1625) edition of the 1613 set, has not been included in this edition.
The two motet collections essentially reflect the late sixteenth-century contrapuntal style while also including newer elements, notably contrasting homophonic passages and a keen sense of expressiveness and imagination. Benedicta sit sancta Trinitas recalls the restrained double-choir works which Philips encountered in Rome rather than the flamboyant polychoral pieces of the Venetian School with their abrupt changes of mood. The doubling of voices by cornetts and sackbuts and trombones, especially on festive occasions, was quite common in the early seventeenth century both in Venice and elsewhere in Europe, and such players were available in the Archducal Chapel when Philips served there. However, on a more routine basis the motets would have been performed a cappella.
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