"Insgesamt eröffnet die Aufnahme ruhige, intensive Klänge und offenbart eine große klangliche Schönheit - Unterhaltung auf höchstem Niveau." ~klassik.com
The Rose Consort of Viols was created to play music like this, and the collective and individual virtuosity of the six performers on this disc are on full display throughout the generous (72-minute) program. Particularly satisfying are the selections with organ, whose unique colours add another, very sonorous dimension to the viols' already warm, ear-pleasing consonance. The sound, from the very complementary acoustics of Forde Abbey, is appropriately full-bodied yet intimate. (David Vernier, classicstoday.com)
[…] this deliciously played disc focuses on Alfonso Ferrabosco the first Italian emigrant, lutenist to and, allegedly, a spy for Queen Elizabeth and his son; who refined the formal innovations of his fathers In Nomines, extended the development of the Fantasy, and added continental chromatic daring to the soon-to-be outmoded Pavan. Less acidic than Fretwork, less macho than Hesperion XX, the Rose Consort of Viols have a blend that might have been passed through muslin […] (The Independent on Sunday, July 20, 2003)
Although the first full consort of viols did not arrive in England until 1540, there were actually several intriguing examples of what are now called "consort" music from before that time. Of course, the homogenous viol consort became supreme, and the present program (also featuring some 2-lute arrangements) focuses on the first part of that repertory. This developed at Elizabeth's court in the 1570s & 1580s, among professional musicians, but based on relatively restrictive models. Some pieces in the present program are composed freely, heralding the next step in consort development which, along with the small output of Byrd, allowed the English consort idiom to fully flower. Of course that was followed closely by the even larger and more famous repertory of consort music by composers such as Gibbons which was eventually geared more toward amateur players.
Alfonso Ferrabosco the younger (b. Greenwich, c. 1575; bur. Greenwich, March 11, 1628) was an English composer and viol player of Italian descent. Although he gained access to the royal court as early as 1592, it took him almost 10 years to come to the attention of the queen, but in 1601 he became a member of the royal consort of viols. Ferrabosco marks the true beginning of the English Baroque. When Elizabeth I died in 1603, her successor James IV appointed Ferrabosco as music teacher to Henry, Prince of Wales and Ferrabosco continued to work in the king's service, becoming Composer of the King's Music in 1625, in 1626 succeeding John Coprario in the post of official court musician. The respect shown for him by his contemporaries proves that Ferrabosco was the court musician of his day, borne out by the fact that he was also the most copied.
Henry Purcell's Twelve Sonatas of Three Parts were issued in 1683, when the composer was 24 and the first wave of Italian trio sonata-like pieces was hitting France and England with earthshaking impact. Purcell followed Italian models with a pair of interlocking violin parts over a continuo, but the results are unmistakably English and hark back to the melancholy consort tradition, with oddly shaped lines and pungent dissonances scattered through the short, four-movement pieces (six or seven minutes in total).
You may remember a film from the early 1970s called Henry VIII & his Six Wives, starring Keith Mitchell, Donald Pleasance, and Charlotte Rampling; it was notable for its score, which not only featured authentic music of the period (nearly unheard-of at the time), but also was, according to David Munrow, “the first historical film in which the music has been scored entirely for historical instruments.” Munrow also added a few numbers of his own to satisfy the needs of the movie, patterned after 16th-century style and form. Although these days such attention to authenticity is common, even expected, Munrow was one of the pioneers in bringing musicological research and the more immediate practicalities of really old, original instruments and stylistic practice to the level of popular culture. Of course, also in these early days was planted the impression that period instruments must necessarily be somewhat clunky and (to varying degrees) not quite ideally in tune–and in some cases, just plain annoyingly squawky and prone to obnoxious buzzing noises. While this generally fine issue from Testament offers many reminders of those times, when musicians were still finding their way in unfamiliar territory (and often using very user-unfriendly instruments), this release will prove mostly a delight for early music fans–and will be a real treat for those who own the original LPs from which these tracks were drawn.
Both the music and this actual product are masterpieces. John Dowland's collected works here - covering 12 compact discs - exhibit the depth and power of this composer, a composer who many now regard as suffering from clinical depression. I doubt that the issue of the diagnosis of Dowland's depression can ever be settled, however, it is certainly obvious from his music, so completely on display here, that he was a man with very dark depths and corners in his mind. Dowland's various manifestations and "takes" on his own tune, "Flow my tears"/"Lachrimae" are here. This tune has haunted me ever since I first heard it when I was a child. It seems to sum up Dowland's feelings - at least Dowland seems to have thought so.