Philips, Peter, important English composer; b. 1560 or 1561; d. Brussels, 1628. His surname was also rendered as Phillips or Phillipps; after leaving England, he was known as Petrus Philippus, Pietro Philippi, and Pierre Philippe. He was born into a Roman Catholic family, and his name appears in the list of choirboys at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London in 1574. He was befriended by a Roman Catholic almoner of St. Paul’s, Sebastian Westcote, who was in charge ci the music and choirboys there. Upon Westcote’s death in 1582, Philips received a bequest of “five poundes thirtene shillings fower pence.” He left England in 1582, and arrived at the English Coll. at Douai on Aug. 18. He then proceeded to Rome, arriving at the English Coll. there on Oct. 20. He was its organist until 1585, and also was in the service of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese. In Feb. 1585 Lord Thomas Paget, a Roman Catholic refugee from England, arrived at the English Coll. Philips entered his service, and on March 19,1585, they set out for Italy and Spain; they went to France in Sept. 1586, spending most of their time in Paris from early 1587 to June 1588. They subsequently went to Antwerp, remaining there until Feb. 1589; they then proceeded to Brussels. After Paget’s death in early 1590, Philips went to Antwerp and maintained himself by teaching keyboard playing. In 1593 he went to Amsterdam, where he heard and met Sweelinck. On his return to Antwerp, he stopped in Middelburg due to illness. During his stay, he was accused by a fellow Englishman of complicity in a plan to assassinate Queen Elizabeth. He was arrested by the Dutch authorities and taken to The Hague for questioning. After inquiries were made in England, he was exonerated and released. He returned to Antwerp in late 1593; publ, his 1st book of 6–part madrigals in 1596. He entered the service of the Archduke Albert in Brussels in 1597, being employed as one of the 3 organists of the vice–regal chapel until his death. His collection of 8–part madrigals was publ, in 1598, and it proved highly popular. In later years he held a number of appointments as canon and chaplain, but he was never ordained. On March 9,1610, he was appointed to a canonry at the collegiate church of St. Vincent, Soignies, but continued to reside in Brussels. On Jan. 25, 1621, he exchanged his prebend at Soignies for a chaplainship at St. Germain Tirlemont. In 1623 he is also described as canon of Bethune in the title page of his Litaniae Beatae Mariae Virginis. His first extensive collection of sacred works, the Cantiones sacrae for 5 Voices, was publ, in 1612. Other collections followed in 1613 and 1616. His last publication was a major collection of motets, Paradisus sacris cantionibus (Antwerp, 1628). Philips was highly esteemed as both composer and organist, his keyboard music reflecting the English style at its finest. His outstanding madrigals and motets reflect his adoption of the Roman school as a model for his vocal music.
P. Bergmans, L’Organiste des archiducs Albert et Isabelle: P. P. (Ghent, 1903); P. Lyder, The Latin Sacred Music of P. P. (diss., N.Y.U., 1955); F. Pearson, The Madrigals of P. P. (diss., Univ. of Mich., 1961); L. Pike, The Vocal Music of P. P, Its Technique and Transcription of Selected Items (diss., Oxford Univ., 1969–70).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire