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GRAMOPHONE (10/2014)
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Reviewer:   Julie Anne Sadie


This recording was inspired by the Rose Consort’s recent acquisition of a ‘chest’ of six viols (treble, two tenor, two bass and a great bass) made by Richard Jones and modelled on a single surviving 16th-century instrument attributed to the Venetian maker Francesco Linarol. Distinctively Gothic in shape, the original was constructed much like a guitar, with a flat soundboard and no sound post. The sound the copies make is clear but warm and, largely because of the relative slackness of the gut strings, pleasantly textured. To show the instruments off to best advantage, the Rose Consort have produced a series of prisms, reflecting the peculiar diversity of music at the time in each of four countries.


Their programme begins in Italy with a cross-section of music – arrangements of popular songs and dances, contrapuntal confections and madrigal transcriptions – by composers working there at the time. It continues in Germany, with arrangements of German songs, sometimes used as canti firmi in newly composed works, and a transcription of a motet by Lassus. Then on to France, where we’re treated to an early ensemble fantasy and various instrumental arrangements of Pierre Sandrin’s chanson Doulce mémoire, notably that embellished by Ortiz; and concludes in England, with arrangements of indigenous songs and dances – pavans and galliards by Augustine Bassano (a Venetian in London) – as well as examples of the fantasy (one by Byrd, no less) and the In nomine.


The Rose Consort of Viols offer lively and resonant but always intimate and understated interpretations, executed with precision and piquancy. John Bryan’s admirable notes serve as the listener’s Baedecker.

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