Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Philips, Peter

Dates 1560/1 to 1628 in the ODNB.

PHILIPS or PHILIPPI, PETER or PIETRO (fl. 1580–1621), musical composer, was born in England, but spent his life on the continent. He was organist at Bethune in Flanders, and later became one of the three organists to the Archduke Albert and Archduchess Isabella, who were regents of the Netherlands from 1596 to 1621. On 9 March 1610 Philips was appointed canon of St. Vincent's, Soignies. In 1621 he was present at the funeral of the archduke (Fétis). Peacham describes him as ‘one of the greatest masters of music in Europe.’ Burney credits him with being an early writer of the regular fugue on one subject.

He published many works at Antwerp, including: 1. Contributions to ‘Melodia Olympica di diversi eccellentissimi musici a 4, 5, 6, 8 voci,’ 1591, reprinted in 1594 and 1611. 2. ‘Il primo libro di Madrigali a 6,’ 1596. 3. ‘Madrigali a 8,’ dedicated to Sir William Stanley, 1598–9. 4. ‘Il secondo libro di Madrigali a 6,’ 1603–4. 5. ‘Cantiones Sacræ a 5,’ 1612. 6. ‘Cantiones Sacræ a 8,’ 1613. 7. ‘Gemmulæ Sacræ, a 2 3 voci, cum basso continuo ad organum,’ 1613–14, 1621. 8. ‘Deliciæ Sacræ binis et ternis vocibus,’ 1622. 9. ‘Litaniæ B. V. M. in ecclesia Loretana cani solitæ, a 4, 5, 9,’ 1623. 10. ‘Paradisus Sacris Cantionibus a 2, 3, cum basso,’ 1628.

A little devotional book, ‘Les Rossignols spirituels,’ of which the hymns in two and four parts were founded on the harmonies of Philips, was published at Valenciennes, 1616; Philips's ‘O Pastor æterne’ is in Jewell's Mottett book; Hawkins reprinted the madrigal ‘Voi volete’ (Hist. p. 483); Simpson has some of Philips's pieces in the ‘Tafelconsort,’ and ‘Amor che vuoi’ has been re-edited by Mr. Barclay Squire, 1890.

Manuscript music by Philips is in the British Museum Addit. MSS. 14938, 17802–5 (among pieces by old English composers a ‘Pater noster’ and ‘Sancte Deus’ by ‘Master Philip van Wilder,’ presumably meant for Philips), 18938, 29366, 31390 (fifteen pieces). Among the virginal music at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, there is a pavan dated 1580, said to be ‘the first one Philips made.’ Several of his pieces for the lute are in the Royal College of Music (No. 1964 in Husk's Catalogue).

Another musician, Robert Philips (fl. 1543–1559?), is said by Foxe to have been a gentleman of the King's chapel at Windsor. Foxe describes Philips as ‘so notable a singing man (wherein he gloried) that wheresoever he came the best and longest song, with most counter verses in it, should be sett up at his coming.’ While at Windsor, Foxe continues, ‘against his coming to the antheme, a long song was set up called “Laudate vivi.” In which song there was one counter verse toward the end, that began on this wise, “O Redemptrix, O Salvatrix,” which verse of all other Robert Philips would sing, because he knew that [a fellow member of the choir named] Testwood could not abide that dittie. Now Testwood joyned with him at the other part; and when he heard R. P. begin to fetch his flourish with “O Redemptrix et Salvatrix,” repeating the same in one anothers' necks, Testwood was as quick on the other side to answer him again with “Non Redemptrix, nec Salvatrix,” and so striving there with “O” and “Non,” who should have the masterie, they made an end of the verse. … Robert Philips, with other of Testwood's enemies, were sore offended’ (Foxe, Acts, v. 469).

[Burney's Hist. iii. 86; Peacham's Compleat Gentleman, p. 102; Gerber's Musik-lexicon, Theil iii. col. 695; Fétis's Biographie, tom. vii. p. 38; Grove's Dict. ii. 705.]

L. M. M.