Robert Johnson (1)

(c.1470-after 1554)

Scots composer and priest. Accused of heresy, he fled to England before the Reformation and may have been a chaplain to Anne Boleyn, possibly setting her lament Defyled is my name. He has left sacred compositions, some with English text, some with Latin. Of those with Latin, the Responsory, Dum transisset, in aBcB form, is written in old-fashioned cantus-firmus style. The first two words are sung in plainsong; the rest of section a and all of section B are set in polyphony a 5, with the chant disposed in long notes in the tenor. Johnson does not set c, which is presumably to be sung in plainsong. The Domine in villute tua (a 5) is a tentative work in the more modern imitative style, which the British seem to have been slow in adopting. He is represented in The Mulliner Book. He spent thirty-six years at the Abbey of Scone in Perthshire and is Scotland's greatest 16th Century composer. Has works in the Gyffard and Christ Church partbooks.

He is to be distinguished from Robert Johnson the English lutenist and composer.

IV M: England Through 1635   |   Latin Church Music 1460-1575: The Composers