I had the good fortune to find this exquisite recording of the harpsichord music of Peter Philips (1560/61 -- 1628) at a time when I was feeling overborne and sad. This flowing, expressive but nonobtrusive music helped revive me. Elizabeth Farr performs upon a recently-restored 1658 Italian harpsichord. The instrument has a soft, lyrical and bell-like sound. Farr is a rising harpsichordist and organist. I loved her recording on Naxos of the harpsichord music of the French baroque composer, Elizabeth-Claude Jacquet de La Guerre. This CD of Philips is equally lovely, and Farr also wrote the informative program notes.
Philips was a Renaissance composer who left England in 1582, based largely upon his Catholicism. He composed secular music up to 1609 when he became a priest. Subsequent to his ordination, he composed religious music, primarily motets.
The sixteen selections on this CD were composed between 1580 and 1605. Many of these works appear in the collection of English Renaissance keyboard music, the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. Most of these compositions consist of keyboard arrangements (called intabulations) of French or Italian Renaissance madrigals. The madrigals are generally on the theme of love, and, as Farr describes them, of "being smitten, being rejected, and the double entendre pain of love's end." Philips did not simply transcribe the madrigals for keyboard. Instead he elaborated upon them by adding ornamentation, runs, and trills, and arpeggios to make them idiomatic for the keyboard. Most of them are in a slow tempo, in two parts, with many shifts of mood. The collections include arrangements of madrigals by Orlando de Lassus, as well as by less familiar Renaissance composers such as Guilino Caccini, Alessandro Striggio, Luca Marenzio, and Philips himself ("Fece de voi"). These pieces capture on the harpsichord the madrigal singing of the Renaissance. I enjoyed especially the three arrangements of de Lassus madrigals.
The CD also includes several pieces which appear to have been written originally for the keyboard. These works include a lengthy F major Fantasia composed in 1582, early in Philip's career, and a shorter Fantasia in D minor. The CD also includes dance music, beginning with an early (1580) Pavan, and two extended compositions of consisting of Pavan and Gailliard. The so-called Passamezzo Pavan and Gailliard, with which the CD concludes is based upon the famous English Renaissance tune, Greensleves. The Galliard is a series of variations which works up to a more uptempo, energetic conclusion than do most of the companion pieces on this CD.
This CD helped me renew my spirits, much as madrigals must have done for performers and listeners in the Renaissance. Lovers of early music and of the harpsichord will enjoy this collection of Peter Philip's music for harpsichord performed by Elizabeth Farr.