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rose consort of viols
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The Rose Consort of Viols takes its name from a famous family of sixteenth-century viol makers, whose instruments coincided with the growth of English consort music. With its unique blend of intimacy, intricacy, passion and flamboyance, this music ranges from Taverner and Byrd, to Lawes, Locke and Purcell, and forms the nucleus of the Rose Consort’s programmes.

About us and our music

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For nearly four decades the Rose Consort has been delighting audiences across the UK, Europe and further afield. It has performed in London’s Wigmore and South Bank Halls, is heard regularly on the BBC, and makes frequent appearances at York Early Music Festival and at the London International Exhibition of Early Music. It has performed at Festivals in Canada (Festival Vancouver) and the USA (Boston, New York, Boulder, Portland and Seattle), and also featured as a guest ensemble at the Pan-Pacific Gamba Gathering in Hawaii.

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Our instruments

By using instruments and playing techniques appropriate to the various pieces we perform, we bring the musical riches of the past to life again. For the earliest viol music, from c. 1500, we use specially commissioned viols based on those in a 1497 painting by Lorenzo Costa in Bologna. We also have a set of instruments copied from originals from mid-sixteenth century Venice, and for later English music, viols based on Tudor and Stuart originals.

Our concert programmes

We have received awards for research and performance of specially devised programmes, and have also commissioned and performed new pieces for voices and viols by Judith Bingham, John Woolrich, and Ivan Moody. For many years the Consort appeared at Dartington International Summer School, giving concerts and coaching ensembles, activities it continues at Benslow Music in Hitchin.

Rose Consort programmes often include internationally renowned guest artists. These have included soprano Emma Kirkby, mezzo-soprano Clare Wilkinson, the vocal groups The Marian Consort, Gallicantus, I Fagiolini, Stile Antico, Red Byrd and the BBC Singers, lutenists Jacob Heringman, Jakob Lindberg, and keyboard player Timothy Roberts.

Our recordings

The Rose Consort can be heard on a series of more than 20 highly acclaimed recordings for the Delphian, Deux-Elles, Naxos and other labels, each representing a different aspect of the Consort’s wide-ranging repertory of music for viols, often with voices, lute or organ.

Rose Consort Music

Below are some sample tracks


Tallis In Nomine 2

A jaunty piece by a composer who worked during the reigns of all four Tudor monarchs.

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1 Thomas Tallis c.1505–1585 In nomine 2 from Four Gentlemen of the Chapel Royal (2008)

Tallis worked during the reigns of four Tudor monarchs: Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth. In this jaunty In nomine you hear the plainsong, used by so many English composers, in slow notes in the alto part, surrounded by three new energetic lines that jostle for attention.

Heinrich Isaac: Agnus Dei

From the Missa La Spagna, this sounds like a courtly basse danse, played on our ‘Costa’ viols (1497).

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2 Heinrich Isaac c.1450–1517 Agnus Dei from Mynstrelles with Straunge Sounds (2015)

Early viol consorts often played music taken from sacred pieces, such as this section from Isaac’s
Missa La Spagna. Without its text it sounds just like a courtly basse danse, and we play it here on the set of viols specially made for us based on an altarpiece in Bologna by Lorenzo da Costa, dated 1497.

John Dowland: M. Buctons Galiard

A dance published in 1604, based on Lassus’s famous song ’Susanne ung jour’.

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3 John Dowland 1563–1626 M. Buctons Galiard from Dowland: Consort Music and Songs (1995)

One of the elegant dances published by Dowland in 1604 as part of his
Lachrimae collection. For five viols and lute (played here by Jacob Heringman) it takes the music of Lassus’s famous song ’Susanne ung jour’ and cunningly converts it into a stately galliard.

Ludwig Senfl: Ich stund an einem Morgen

A melancholy German popular tune in a cunning arrangement, played on viols after Linarol.

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4 Ludwig Senfl c.1486–1542/3 Ich stund an einem Morgen from Serenissima (2013)

This rather melancholy piece by Senfl, who was court composer for the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, takes a German popular tune and arranges it for three slow moving parts while the fourth part weaves a seemingly improvised line between them. Played here on a set of viols after Linarol made by Richard Jones

Vincenzo Ruffo: La Gamba

A thoroughly Italian piece published in Milan in 1564, but copied out in Elizabethan England by Robert Dow.

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5 Vincenzo Ruffo c.1508–1587 La Gamba from An Emerald in a Work of Gold (2012)

A thoroughly Italian piece using a dance tune as its basis, published by Ruffo in Milan in 1564, but copied out in England by Robert Dow, whose personal manuscript collection of music gives a snapshot of the sort of piece played in England by viol consorts in the Elizabethan period.

Peter Philips: Paget Galliard

This beautiful galliard was composed for Thomas, Baron Paget, a Catholic exile from Protestant England.

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6 Peter Philips 1560/61–1628 Paget Galliard from Exiled (2017)

As a Catholic, Philips emigrated from Protestant England to find work in continental Europe. In Rome he met another English exile, Thomas, Baron Paget, for whom he composed a beautiful pavan and galliard in versions both for keyboard and consort.

Rose Consort News

Less acidic than Fretwork, less macho than Hespèrion XX, the Rose Consort of Viols have a blend that might have been passed through muslin.

The Independent on Sunday

Perhaps no instrumental sound evokes a past age more completely than that of a group of viols. The Rose Consort spoke irresistibly of the Elizabethan worlds of theatrical, courtly and domestic music making.

Gower Festival

Beguiling: the Rose Consort is rightly well established as one of the world’s premier ensembles of its type.


About the Rose Consort of Viols

The Rose Consort of Viols takes its name from the celebrated family of viol makers, whose work spanned the growth and flowering of the English consort repertoire.


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