The pairing of the Catholics William Byrd and his student Peter Philips is logical both biographically and musically. Precisely because Byrd’s music is the better known, the opportunity to confront them in closely related genres is instructive. Byrd’s consort songs and motets are balanced by motets by Philips, with Clare Wilkinson as the soloist. The penitential tone of the vocal pieces lends the recital a clear focus, leavened by the more varied affects of the instrumental pieces by Philips that make up the remainder of the recital. These are very fine, barring the odd passage that coins the stylistic small change of the time. The ‘Dolorosa’ Pavan and Galliard pair is splendid.
These are impressive interpretations. The Rose Consort’s tone is placid and soft centred but they cope very well with energetic passagework. This isn’t faint praise, for there’s surely room for a more relaxed approach than the exhilarated calisthenics of Phantasm. Clare Wilkinson turns in perhaps the finest performances I can remember from her in this repertory. The elegy for Lady Margaret Montague, With lilies white, is particularly memorable. It bears a strong resemblance to the better-known laments for Sir Philip Sidney and Thomas Tallis. A nice touch is the use of period anglicised Latin pronunciation for the Byrd motets and Roman pronunciation for Philips’s, but whether the latter would have applied in the Low Countries where Philips worked is a moot point. In other respects, the comparison does Philips no harm at all.