John Browne (composer)

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John Browne (fl. ca. 1490) was an English composer of the Tudor period. Despite the high level of skill displayed in Browne's compositions, few of his works survive; the entirety of Browne's extant music is found in the Eton Choirbook, in which he is the best-represented contributor. His choral music is distinguished by innovative scoring, false relations, and unusually long melodic lines, and has been called by early music scholar Peter Phillips "subtle, almost mystical" and "extreme in ways which apparently have no parallel, either in England or abroad."[1]


Little is known of Browne's life. A John Browne from Coventry, believed to be the composer, was elected scholar of Eton in July 1467; he is described as having been 14 years of age at the time of his appointment, making him a slightly younger contemporary of Walter Lambe, who was likely at Eton during Browne's tenure.[2] Nothing is known of his later career or death.


All of Browne's surviving works are found in the earlier folios of the Eton Choirbook, dating from between 1490 and 1500. According to the index of the Choirbook, ten more Browne compositions were originally published; five of these compositions have been lost, while two survive in fragmentary form.

Browne's music is notable for its varied and unusual vocal instrumentation; each of his surviving works calls for a unique array of voices, with no two compositions sharing a given ensemble scoring. A prime example of Browne's penchant for unorthodox groupings is his six-voice antiphon Stabat iuxta, scored for a choir of four tenors and two basses. His choral music often displays careful treatment of the dramatic possibilities of the text and expressive use of imitation and dissonance; the aforementioned Stabat iuxta, in particular, has been noted for its "dense, almost cluster chords" and "harsh" false relations.


O Maria salvatoris mater in the Eton Choirbook
  • O Maria salvatoris mater
  • Stabat mater dolorosa
  • Stabat virgo mater Christi
  • Stabat juxta Christi crucem
  • O regina mundi clara
  • Salve regina mater misericordiae
  • Salve regina mater misericordiae
  • Ave lux totius mundi (lost)
  • Gaude flore virginali (lost)
  • O mater venerabilis
  • Stabat virgo mater Christi
  • Magnificat: Et exultavit spiritus meus (lost)
  • Magnificat: Et exultavit spiritus meus
  • Magnificat: Et exultavit spiritus meus (lost)
  • Magnificat: Et exultavit spiritus meus (lost)
  • Jesu, Mercy, How May This Be?


  1. ^ Phillips, Peter. "Notes to John Browne: Music from the Eton Choirbook". Retrieved 28 November 2012. 
  2. ^ Whent, Chris. "John Browne". (early music database). Retrieved 28 November 2012. 

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