Two from the Rose Ensemble

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Program: #16-06   Air Date: Feb 01, 2016

The viol gives us music from the Lowlands around 1500, and, in a collaboration with the Marian Consort, music from the Baldwin Partbooks.

NOTE: All of the music on this program features the Rose Consort of Viols. For more information:

I. Mynstrells with Straunge Sounds (Claire Wilkinson, mezzo/Rose Consort of Viols). Delphian CD DCD34169.


From Gramophone: The Rose Consort of Viols’ first collaboration with mezzo-soprano Clare Wilkinson, the Awards-nominated ‘Adoramus te’ (Deux-Elles, A/14), was a domestic affair, exploring the English repertoire of William Byrd and Peter Philips. Now, in their follow-up disc ‘Mynstrelles with Straunge Sounds’, they broaden their scope to include the music of the continent in works from Josquin, Isaac, Peñalosa and their lesser-known contemporaries. Subtitled ‘The earliest consort music for viols’, the album exposes a nascent repertoire still in the process of finding its textures and techniques – a musical portrait of an entire genre under construction. The variety of responses to this new instrumental phenomenon is striking, ranging from anonymous homophonic dances and simple song accompaniments to elaborate, large-scale chamber works like Alexander Agricola’s Cecus no iudicat de coloribus and Johannes Martini’s La martinella – some of the first examples of true chamber music.
Wilkinson’s androgynous, straight tone chafes vividly against the viols – a smooth gloss on a pitted sound that creates necessary variety and beauty in a disc that might easily have been a historical curiosity. National variety in style and character adds further interest, taking us from lively Spanish dances to contemplative melancholy from Josquin.

Anyone familiar with the Rose Consort’s signature soft-grained, dusky sound will be startled by the rougher textures on display here. The ensemble play a set of instruments modelled on those depicted in a 1497 altarpiece from Bologna, and the effect is bright, forward – even brassy at times – a less sophisticated tone than we’re used to, certainly, but also one that mirrors rather evocatively the modal rusticity of many of these works. Rather than blending into a coherent body of sound, the viols each retain an assertive individual voice, allowing the ear to follow the details of part-writing. The results are fascinating, and much closer to a live encounter than a recording.

And I war a maydyn
De tous biens plaine a 4
Fortuna desperata
Helas Madam
De tu biens plaene
De tous biens playne
Fortune Esperee
Missa, 'Fortuna Desperata'
Vita dulcedo/Agnus Dei II
Cecus non judicat de coloribus
Triste España sin ventura!
Des biens amors a 4
La martinella
In te Domine speravi, per trovar pietà
In te Domine sperabo
La quercia
Fata la parte
La Spagna
La mi sola Laureola
Fa la sol a 3
Con amores, la mi madre
Agnus Dei II
Adieu mes amours

II. Loquebantur: Music from the Baldwin Partbooks (Marian Consort/Rory McCleeery/Rose Consort of Viols). Delphian CD34160.

Loquebantur: Music from the Baldwin Partbooks

From Early Music Review: This superb disc manages to be both rewarding and frustrating: rewarding, because of the fine performances and excellent repertory; frustrating, because so many of the pieces are already available in equally distinguished recent versions, leaving other material from John Baldwin’s partbooks awaiting commercial recordings. On the one hand, it can be argued that there cannot be too many recordings of the title track, Tallis’s Loquebantur variis linguis, the luminous Whitsun Respond in seven parts which survives only in manuscript. On the other hand, the two motets by William Mundy on this disc, Adolescentulus sum ego and Adhaesit pavimento, are available in equally fine performances by Magnificat on “The Tudors at Prayer” (Linn CKD 447), while Sive vigilem by the variously spelt Derrick Gerarde (who with a name like that nowadays would be playing in goal for Tranmere Rovers) is on Signum Classics’ first disc of music from the Baldwin Partbooks “In the Midst of Life” sung superbly by Contrapunctus (SIGCD408). It all raises the question as to whether the putative purchaser would wish to own all these recordings, or would stick with just one. The latter would be a serious misjudgement because, despite the overlapping contents, all three consist of wonderful music, at least some of it not duplicated elsewhere; on the disc under review, one such work is the premiere recording of the Canon 6 in 1 by Byrd, played by The Rose Consort. These days Byrd premieres are few and far between, so this item is valuable discographically, but it is also valuable in its own right as an intriguing and delightful piece of music. It is followed appropriately by Byrd’s early motet O salutaris hostia whose violent discords are triggered by its complicated canonical construction. The Marian Consort’s interpretation does not begin as assertively as that of The Cardinall’s Musick (ASV CD GAU 178) but by the end is singeing listeners’ eardrums.
Another premiere recording is Christian Hollander’s Dum transisset Sabbatum which, despite possible first impressions, should emphatically not be dismissed as mere Franco-Flemish note-spinning. Concluding the disc is a work seldom recorded, but which becomes more remarkable as it proceeds, and which then compounds that remarkableness in subsequent hearings: this is John Sheppard’s Ave maris stella, a selection all the more welcome during what is being regarded as his quincentenary. Finally, multiple recordings have helped me out of one particular quandary. Hitherto I have been unable to decide whether I think that Taverner’s sublime six-part piece Quemadmodum, which survives with the Latin title but no text, was intended by the composer as a work for instruments or voices. Comparing the brisk performance on this disc by The Rose Consort with the more leisurely performances by Contrapunctus and Magnificat on the discs mentioned above, has convinced me that Taverner intended it as a vocal setting of Psalm XLII. For example, the sonority at the first appearance (in the modern edition) of the words “ad te Deus” is far more successful when sung; and the musical phrase accompanying the words (again in the modern edition) “et apparebo” sounds much more like a phrase that would be set to words (even if not these) rather than one composed for instruments. In summary, this is a superb disc, and however many pieces from it one might possess on other recordings, its outstanding performances, wonderful repertory and profound interpretations justify its purchase, without hesitation.

Aston, H:

Hugh Ashton's Maske

Baldwin, J:

Coockow as I me walked




Canon Six in One

Ferrabosco, A I:

Da pacem Domine


Sive vigilem

Hollander, C:

Dum transisset Sabbatum


Ubi est Abel

Mundy, W:

Adolescentulus sum ego

Adhaesit pavimento

Parsons, R:

The Songe called Trumpets

Sheppard, J:

Ave maris stella


Loquebantur variis linguis

Suscipe quaeso Domine


Quemadmodum desiderat cervus

Composer Info

Hugh Aston, John Baldwin, Bevin, Byrd, Ferrabosco, A.I., Derrick Gerarde, Hollander, C., Lasso, William Mundy, Parsons, R., John Sheppard., Tallis , Tavener.

CD Info

CD DCD34169, Delphian CD34160.