Peter Phillips has made an impressive if unusual reputation for himself in dedicating his life’s work to the research and performance of Renaissance polyphony. Having won a scholarship to Oxford in 1972, Peter Phillips studied Renaissance music with David Wulstan and Denis Arnold, and gained experience in conducting small vocal ensembles, already experimenting with the rarer parts of the repertoire. He founded the Tallis Scholars in 1973, with whom he has now appeared in over 1600 concerts and made over 50 discs, encouraging interest in polyphony all over the world. As a result of his work, through concerts, recordings, magazine awards and publishing editions of the music and writing articles, Renaissance music has come to be accepted for the first time as part of the mainstream classical repertoire.
Apart from the Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips continues to work with other specialist ensembles. Amongst others he has appeared with the Collegium Vocale of Ghent, the Netherlands Chamber Choir, the Choeur de Chambre de Namur, the Finnish Radio Choir, Musix of Budapest, the Studio de Musique ancienne de Montreal and numerous others around the world. Peter also works extensively with the BBC Singers with whom he gave a Promenade concert, in collaboration with the Tallis Scholars, from the Royal Albert Hall in July 2007, which was broadcast live and attended by over five thousand people. He gives numerous master-classes and choral workshops every year around the world and is also Artistic Director of the Tallis Scholars Summer Schools – annual choral courses based in Oakham (UK), Seattle (USA) and Sydney (Australia) dedicated to exploring the heritage of renaissance choral music, and developing a performance style appropriate to it as pioneered by The Tallis Scholars.
In addition to conducting, Peter Phillips is well-known as a writer. For many years he has contributed a regular music column (as well as one on cricket) to The Spectator. In 1995 he became the owner and Publisher of The Musical Times, the oldest continuously published music journal in the world. His first book, “English Sacred Music 1549–1649”, was published by Gimell in 1991, while his second, “What We Really Do”, an unblinking account of what touring is like, alongside insights about the make-up and performance of polyphony, was published in 2003.
Peter Phillips has made numerous television and radio broadcasts. Besides those featuring The Tallis Scholars (which include live broadcasts from the 2001, 2003, 2007, 2008 and 2011 Proms, the 2007 Edinburgh Festival, the Aldeburgh Festival and the Bath Festival), he has appeared several times on the BBC’s Music Weekly and on the BBC World Service, on Kaleidoscope (BBC Radio 4), on Today (BBC Radio 4), National Public Radio in the US and on German, French and Canadian radio, where he has enjoyed deploying his love of languages. In 1990 ITV’s The South Bank Show featured Peter’s ‘personal odyssey’ with the Tallis Scholars; while in 2002 they made a special television documentary for the BBC about the life and times of William Byrd.
Peter has recently been appointed Reed Rubin Director of Music at Merton College, Oxford, where the new choral foundation he helped to establish began singing services in October 2008. In 2005 Peter Phillips was made a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture, a decoration intended to honour individuals who have contributed to the understanding of French culture in the world.