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LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Peerson – Latin Motets
WORKS: Latin Motets
PERFORMER: Ex Cathedra ConsortJeffrey Skidmore
This disc unearths startlingly


unorthodox writing in an obscure

corner of English polyphony. Martin

Peerson (c1571-1651), best known

from his slim contributions to the

Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, was a

master of choristers at St Paul’s.

His fascination with that choir’s

expressive potential crystallise in his

Latin motets, here recorded for the

first time.

We normally associate Latin

motets from this period with

recusant sympathies, but Peerson’s

settings remind us how pre-

Reformation texts continued

to nourish Anglican devotion.

Peerson amplified word meaning

by allowing inflection to generate

the rhythms on which he based

his typically short points; he then

simultaneously imitated and

varied these points. The result is a

controlled crescendo – of melodic

or rhythmic intricacy – in which

irregular repetitions coalesce

in a perfectly timed harmonic

resolution. Jeffrey Skidmore’s

reading pushes the unique structure

of Peerson’s paragraphs into the

foreground: large-scale dynamic

contouring, leisurely tempos and

subtle shifts in balance create a

spacious framework in which the

composer’s large structures emerge.

The Ex Cathedra Consort triumphs

beautifully over the vocal challenges

of this music with its pellucid upper

voices, restrained yet robust basses,

and attention to textual detail.

Skidmore eschews dramatising

individual words, which can dull

passages of chordal declamation.

However, in general this

reconstruction of Peerson, enhanced

by excellent sound engineering,

manages to reveal a master at work.


Berta Joncus