Browne

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COMPOSERS: Browne
LABELS: Gimell
ALBUM TITLE: Music from the Eton Choirbook
WORKS: Salve Regina I; Stabat iuxta; Stabat mater; O regina mundi clara; O Maria salvatoris
PERFORMER: Tallis Scholars, Peter Philips
CATALOGUE NO: CDGIM 036
John Browne seems to have worked

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in the household chapel of John de

Vere, Earl of Oxford in the 1490s.

Most of his compositions appear

in the splendid Eton Choirbook – a

source recorded almost complete in

the 1990s by The Sixteen (reissued on

Coro in 2003). These performances

by the Tallis Scholars, though, are

generally better, with greater lucidity

of texture and more careful pacing.

Peter Phillips has set the

performance pitch for these pieces

somewhat higher than their notated

pitch. This allows the extraordinary

close harmonies of low men’s voices

on tracks 2-4 to remain transparent,

and it evokes a magical, bell-like

sound from the high trebles in Salve

regina I. The phrasing employed

is usually simple and untheatrical

– though I did wonder about the

self-effacing presentation of the

tenor part in Stabat iuxta that

happens to be taken from a song by

Turges (a fact perhaps unknown to

the performers). Browne’s greatest

work is the wonderful Stabat mater,

and for this one piece there is a

serious rival recording by Andrew

Parrott on Virgin Veritas. Parrott’s

rhythms are sharper, and he makes

more sense of the great dramatic

cries of ‘Crucify him!’ in the

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penultimate section. Anthony Pryer