Rose Consort of Viols; Choir of King’s College, Aberdeen; David J. Smith, harpsichord
Vox Regis VXR0004
This outstanding disc derives from David Smith’s edition of the consort music of Peter Philips and Richard Dering (2016) for the series Musica Britannica, in which it is number CI. As part of the volume’s launch in 2016 the Rose Consort visited Aberdeen and gave a recital from the contents, and also recorded their contribution to this disc. Additionally, David Smith provides a few pieces for keyboard by Philips, and yet another Choir of King’s College, besides those from Cambridge and London, this time Aberdeen, sings two motets by Philips. The consort works by Dering are particularly striking, not only for their unfamiliarity, but also for their sheer quality. Stylistically midway between Byrd and Jenkins, audibly parallel with, but distinctive from, Gibbons, the two fantasias in six parts, numbers 1 and 3, are well-wrought, substantial works with their own unique narrative rhetoric; those in five parts, numbers 2 and 5, are less philosophical but have more in the way of striking themes. Best of all is the second of Dering’s six-part In Nomines, which has a singular take on this briefly fecund form. Both the keyboard and consort versions of Philips’s Paget pavan and galliard are included, as are both of his settings for keyboard of Dowland’s Piper’s galliard, one version quite plain and true to the original, the other more varied right from the off. There are also Philips’s settings for keyboard and consort of dances by Morley and Holborne. The programme is bookended by two motets in eight parts by Philips: Hodie in monte and Beata Dei genetrix; both works are for double choir, and in either case one choir consists of voices in four parts, while the other choir consists of respectively one and two soloists and viols. Although it is known that instruments participated in the performances at the court in Brussels where Philips, a pupil of Byrd, worked in exile, the precise nature of this participation is not certain, so this distribution of forces is one hypothetical reconstruction of how such works might have been performed. One other uncertainty on this disc surrounds the authorship of Dering’s third fantasia in six parts: it is anonymous in both of its sources, but is within a sequence of four such fantasias, one of which is attributed to Dering in another source. It certainly sounds convincingly like the work of the other six-part fantasia on the disc, which is the one attributed to Dering.
With the Rose Consort listeners know that they will be hearing consummate performances. David Smith is not only the world expert on Philips now, but is also himself a fine harpsichordist. The Choir of King’s College lives up to its illustrious name, with the Canadian soprano Frauke Jürgensen in fine solo voice. The selection of material for this programme is excellent, and judiciously organized. The more familiar music by Philips is its own recommendation, but the disc is worth buying for Dering’s music alone.