No 1: O bone Jesu
No 2: Adoramus te, Christe
No 3: Regina caeli laetare
The brief F major setting of ‘O bone Jesu’ consists of a pair of simultaneous canons in contrary motion between Soprano I/Alto II and Alto I/Soprano II. In addition to the Moderato espressivo heading, the closing bars are further marked espress[ivo] by Brahms, an instruction used comparatively rarely by this most restrained of late Romantic composers, and an illustration of his obvious concern that the sheer technical ingenuity of this music should not inhibit freedom of musical interpretation. ‘Adoramus te, Christe’ is a four-part canon, with answers at the fourth, fifth, and octave below. A harmonic sleight of hand just before the final cadences deftly moves the music up a step away from an implied finish in G, to the home key of A. The structural background to ‘Regina caeli laetare’ is a canon in inversion, although the contrapuntal textures are enlivened throughout by a series of antiphonal ‘Alleluias’, clearly reflecting the influence of Giovanni Gabrieli.
from notes by Julian Haylock © 1991