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John Browne: Music from the Eton Choirbook

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - James Manheim
Familiar Renaissance compositions of the sixteenth century tend to unfold in clear sections corresponding to units of text: the poetry of an English madrigal, the lines of a Marian motet by Josquin are reflected by distinctively shaped musical clauses, marked off by a series of imitative voice entrances or some other device. This marriage of music and text was among the legacies of the Renaissance that still shape our thinking today. Music of the late fifteenth century, however, was another story, a representative chapter of which was provided by an English manuscript known as the Eton Choirbook. The music collected there often displays a dense, unbroken flow of ...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - James Manheim
Familiar Renaissance compositions of the sixteenth century tend to unfold in clear sections corresponding to units of text: the poetry of an English madrigal, the lines of a Marian motet by Josquin are reflected by distinctively shaped musical clauses, marked off by a series of imitative voice entrances or some other device. This marriage of music and text was among the legacies of the Renaissance that still shape our thinking today. Music of the late fifteenth century, however, was another story, a representative chapter of which was provided by an English manuscript known as the Eton Choirbook. The music collected there often displays a dense, unbroken flow of unaccompanied choral polyphony that is likely to appeal to lovers of pure sound -- to those who revel in music's surface textures. John Browne, who was active around 1490, provides a strking example of this style: Tallis Scholars director Peter Phillips, in his liner notes to John Browne: Music from the Eton Choirbook, rightly calls his music "extreme." That's an odd word to encounter in connection with the homogeneous textures and basically placid mood of Renaissance religious music. But Phillips does a good job, both musically and in his notes, of making you understand this repertory and the extremity of Browne's compositions specifically. Included here are five very large motets addressed to the Virgin Mary: all are well over ten minutes long, and each proceeds in giant waves toward a midpoint cadence and a big finale. You may have read that the four-voice soprano-alto-tenor-bass texture of choral music became standard during the early Renaissance. Not for Browne, it wasn't. These pieces are for five to eight voices, with such oddities as the lowdown TTTTBB forces of "Stabat iuxta" and the eight-part "O Maria salvatoris," which was recognized as exceptional in Browne's time. The sound is rich and at times a bit overwhelming, intentionally so. Text expression comes not through the structural matching of music and text, but through the placement of emphasis on certain words and images. Check out the breathtaking first-half climax in the "Stabat mater" at the words "Plebs tunc canit clamorosa" The crowds cried out loudly, followed by "Crucifige, crucifige" Crucify Him, Crucify Him at the beginning of the second half. It's an awe-inspiring, almost savage depiction of weeping Mary and the Crucifixion -- again, "savage" is not a common word in Renaissance music descriptions, but focus on the texts while you listen to that piece, and you may agree it's appropriate here. The Tallis Scholars have done well with this fairly obscure repertory, adapting the pure, silky sound applied to music of the later sixteenth century in the direction of more oomph but not losing intonational precision. They make the wooden rafters of Norfolk, England's medieval Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul ring with sound. This disc is strongly recommended not only for Renaissance and English music enthusiasts, but for anyone who loves profoundly felt sacred choral music.
Gramophone - Fabrice Fitch
To my mind, Browne stands head and shoulders above the other Eton composers and it was high time that he was accorded an anthology of his own. The discography of early polyphonies has made such great strides that 'landmark' recordings are fewer and further between, and yet this can hardly be described as anything else.... If you don't know Browne's music, you simply must hear this.
BBC Online - Andrew McGregor
John Browne's body may lie a-mouldering in some unmarked grave, but the reasons the experts consider him the greatest English composer of his time have never seemed more apparent than they do on this remarkable disc.

John Browne's body may lie a-mouldering in some unmarked grave, but the reasons the experts consider him the greatest English composer of his time have never seemed more apparent than they do on this remarkable disc.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 4/12/2005
  • Label: Gimell Uk
  • UPC: 755138103627
  • Catalog Number: 36
  • Sales rank: 110,904

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1 Salve Regina for 5 voices - John Browne & Peter Phillips (13:25)
  2. 2 Stabat Iuxta Christi Crucem - John Browne & Peter Phillips (12:24)
  3. 3 Stabat Mater for 6 voices - John Browne & Peter Phillips (15:56)
  4. 4 O regina mundi clara - John Browne & Peter Phillips (13:55)
  5. 5 O Maria Salvatoris Mater for 8 voices - John Browne & Peter Phillips (15:43)
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
The Tallis Scholars Primary Artist
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