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Ecce vicit Leo

Cantiones Sacrae, 1613
author of text
Revelation 5: 5, 12

Another composer working in the early seventeenth century was Peter Philips (c1561–1628). Philips was English, although he fled abroad in 1582. He was a chorister at St Paul’s in 1574 and is mentioned in the will of Sebastian Westcote, who was Almoner there. Westcote died in 1582, had been appointed to this post in the reign of Queen Mary and enjoyed ‘a measure of royal protection’. His will left £5 to each of four boys (including Philips); perhaps he had been protected by Westcote who was an ardent Roman Catholic. Philips was also a Catholic, and his certificate of residence in Brussels states that he fled ‘pour la foy Catholique’.

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


Passiontide at St Paul's
Philips: Motets


Track 1 on CDH55254 [3'07]
Track 12 on CDH55436 [3'36]

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