The 1604 Royal May Day celebrations—the ‘Proms in the Park’ of their day—headlined with a madrigal by Martin Peerson. His career can be traced through posts at Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral, and his powerful patrons enabled a considerable quantity of music to be printed and published.
Today little remains. These fifteen Latin motets survive in a single, incomplete source. Their performance here—the first for some three hundred years—is possible thanks to a pioneering reconstruction (by Richard Rastall of Antico Edition) of the missing voice part.
Despite their pre-Reformation Latin texts (at a time where few institutions were permitted such Popery) and Peerson’s 1606 conviction for recusancy, the composer’s evident position at the heart of the new Anglican establishment confirms the overall esteem in which he was held. And the music more than lives up to this reputation—harmonies of sustained intensity and an intricate understanding of the contemporary imitative technique lend the collection a rare cohesion and give testimony to a man of immense compassion and faith.
The Ex Cathedra Consort—the twelve-voice ‘soloistic’ ensemble from Ex Cathedra—gives performances every bit as good as the group’s enviable reputation would predict.