Philips went to Rome and studied with Anerio. In 1585 Lord Thomas Paget stayed at the English College in Rome where Philips was organist, leaving with Paget on 19 March of that year, now in his employ. With Paget, Philips toured Europe, settling in Brussels in 1589, later moving to Antwerp after his lord’s death. Roger Walton, discovering the composer to be in Amsterdam in 1593, announced to the Dutch authorities that Philips had been involved in a plot to murder Queen Elizabeth. Philips was arrested, imprisoned and subsequently acquitted. In 1597 he was employed in the household of Archduke Albert (who married Isabella of Spain) and went on to spend the rest of his life working in the Spanish Netherlands. Until recently it had been assumed that Philips had been ordained priest, but this seems now to be untrue. He did, however, devote his life after 1603 almost exclusively to sacred music. Certainly, apart from William Byrd, Philips was the most published composer of the age, and he too became well known and highly regarded.
The anthem Ecce vicit Leo comes from the collection Cantiones Sacrae of 1613, a collection of thirty double-choir motets. It is said of Philips that he deliberately cultivated the stile antico of his forebears. If this is true, then his assimilation of the style must have been thorough as his mastery of the double-choir idiom is so complete. Some of the effects are quite breathtaking, for example at the words ‘accipere virtutem’ where the vigorous exchange of material reaches a climax.
from notes by William McVicker © 1997