Johnson: Gaude Maria Virgo; Domine in virtute tua; I Give you a New Commandment

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Gaude Maria Virgo; Domine in virtute tua; I Give you a New Commandment
PERFORMER: Cappella Nova/Alan Tavener
Following their resounding success with Robert Carver’s music, Alan Turner and Capella Nova turn their attention to Robert Johnson (c1500-1560) with this fascinating selection of the composer’s Latin motets and English anthems. Capella Nova’s enthusiasm for this repertoire is apparent in these passionate, vigorous performances. Nevertheless, there are occasions, such as in the jubilant ‘Gaude Maria Virgo’, when I felt that the musicians allowed the music’s exuberance to get the better of them, blurring their otherwise excellently focused, finely balanced ensemble. Generally, though, this programme – with different, intricate settings of ‘Domine in virtute tua’ (tracks 1 and 9) and ‘Dum transisset sabbatum’ (tracks 2 and 8) as its frame – treats listeners to an astonishing display of vocal virtuosity. The thrilling duet in ‘Laudes Deo’, featuring a superabundance of elaborate melismas, is especially impressive. Moreover, Capella Nova deftly oppose homophony and imitative polyphony in ‘I give you a New Commandment’, and respond with satisfying expressive warmth at the emotional heart of ‘Ave Dei patris filia’, convincingly demonstrating the pleasing textural diversity in Johnson’s music. This disc makes an important contribution to ASV’s Scottish music series. Nicholas Rast