An Emerald in a Work of Gold

Music from the Dow Partbooks

The Marian Consort & Rose Consort of Viols, Rory McCleery

For its second Delphian recording, The Marian Consort have leafed through the beautifully calligraphed pages of the partbooks compiled in Oxford between 1581 and 1588 by the Elizabethan scholar Robert Dow, to present a deeply satisfying sequence of some of their brightest jewels. Sumptuous motets, melancholy consort songs and intricate, harmonically daring viol fantasies are seamlessly interwoven, all brought to life by seven voices and the robust plangency of the Rose Consort of Viols in the chapel of All Souls College, Oxford – where Dow himself was once a Fellow.

The Marian Consort is a young, dynamic early music vocal ensemble founded in Oxford in 2007. Combining academic insight with high levels of performance practice, the ensemble predominantly explores the repertoire of Renaissance and early Baroque music with its director Rory McCleery. They are joined by the Rose Consort of Viols, which takes its name from the celebrated family of viol makers, whose work spanned the development of the English consort repertoire.


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"It's a well-designed programme in which the two groups alternate, only partly combining when the viols accompany a vocal soloist....The Marian Consort's contributions are cleanly and calmly delivered, though offering less scope for variety than the instrumental numbers."


"Performances are uniformly excellent, the Marian Consort’s rich, sweet timbre, immaculate tuning and clear diction … complemented by the Rose Consort’s own gloriously rich yet transparent sound … Mention too should be made of the sympathetic, detailed and quite intimate recording itself, made in the chapel of All Saint’s College, Oxford – sympathetic, detailed and intimate"

International Record Review

"Forty years after the creation of the Tallis Scholars, bright young things from Oxford still form small-scale vocal groups devoted to Renaissance polyphony. The Marian Consort is one of the finest...the ensemble sings with eloquence and expressive finesse."

The Sunday Times

"This disc restores the music to the chapel of All Souls, Oxford, where he worked, a sonorous but clear acoustic that warms the viol pieces and allows the voices of the Marian Consort to bloom. The two sopranos are very different, one with ample vibrato, one very straight, but each is suited to [the repertoire]...A beautiful picture of one man's enthusiasms."

The Observer