Bassadanza Cover



Rosasolis was released in December 2001 and is the first CD to use the orpharion as its featured instrument. The album has 31 tracks and comprises three sections…


1. Music for oak panels – a recital of orpharion and cittern solos by some of England’s finest composers.


2. The great outdoors – two medleys of hurdy-gurdy tunes taken from John Playford’s English Dancing Master from the 17th century.


3. The top shelf – a collection of five humorous but indelicate songs.


On this CD Dante is joined by Michael Sargeant who contributes to eight of the tracks on ten different wind instruments, including english bagpipes, recorders and shawm.


Rosasolis has been featured on BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction.



This record is almost incomparable: I know of no other where the gut-strung lute family is entirely forsaken for its wire-strung relatives. One is accustomed to hearing occasional orpharion tracks on lute recordings, largely to offer an alternative timbre, and usually recorded rather distantly and diffidently. Ferrara takes his cue from Francis Bacon (‘even in the Open Aire, the Wire String is sweeter, than the string of guts’). He plays only wire-strung instruments, and the recording is close-miked and assertive.


The record is divided into three sections, beginning with Music for Oak Panels. This is a sequence of 25 late Elizabethan and Jacobean dance pieces, ordered as mini suites by Dowland, Allison, Holborne, John and Robert Johnson, Robinson, anon and Cutting. The lion’s share of these is taken by a 9-course orpharion by Peter Forrester, and very fine it sounds most of the time. Just occasionally the tendency of low-tension metal strings to sound out of true cannot be avoided, and open strings ring longer than the counterpoint justifies, but only occasionally. There are too many tracks to list individually, but Ferrara seems to have a particular affinity with John Johnson: his playing of both ‘The Delight Pavan’ and its associated galliard is truly a delight. Stylistically he is a very solid, sound player whose sense of pulse is pretty well perfect, and who rarely even slows at the final cadence in the dances. This is absolutely to be encouraged in my opinion. Exceptions to the orpharion are the Holborne suite and a Thomas Robinson Almain which are given to an Italian cittern, and a Jig by Francis Cutting, where he is multi-tracked and joined by Michael Sargeant on various blown instruments.


The second section is The Great Outdoors, which comprises just two medleys of anonymous and Playford dance tunes, arranged in setting that include bagpipes and hurdy-gurdy and have just the right edge to them.


The final section is entitled The Top Shelf. I confess I approached this in some trepidation, after Dante Ferrara’s choice of songs at his recent performance for The Lute Society. I love honest bawdry, but lose interest in the scatological and coprophagic. Fortunately these are at the healthy bawdy end. Nothing to scare the horses (or the children).


I rather hope this record inspires other leading players to explore a solid body of golden age music on orpharion. It could be a very fertile avenue to explore.


Meic Goodyear - The Lute Society




‘Dante Ferrara is a rarity. Rosasolis, his second CD, named for a tune penned by Thomas Robinson in the year of Elizabeth’s death, takes a bold overview of Elizabethan/Jacobean life. Ferrara cannily divided his CD in three parts: Music for Oak Panels is a collection of stately instrumental pieces for solo orpharion and its cousin the cittern; The Great Outdoors is a boisterous selection of music for hurdy-gurdy, recorders and reed instruments; The Top Shelf consists of five vocal tracks that explore the grittier side of life, ranging from frank sexuality to “The Wager” by William Ellis, a ribald tale of a Jacobean farting contest.


Make no mistake about it, Rosasolis is a compelling and winning CD and the only recording to showcase the orpharion, an English instrument created (it is believed) for Elizabeth and strung with wire to produce a bright, shimmering sound.

Going from the scented parlors of the wealthy, the Elizabethans also enjoyed the outdoor – boating, hunting, and dancing – to music played on woodwinds, hurdy-gurdys, and bagpipes whose sound would carry. The Great Outdoors offers a half-dozen selections that show the vitality and élan of Elizabethan musical life and provides a welcome contrast to the mannered, fine-groomed courtly compositions that comprise the bulk of Rosasolis.


Rosasolis may go from the sacred to the profane, but it always does so delightfully. More importantly, it opens a window – so to speak! – on the virtually forgotten orpharion and the wonderful wicked tunes and amorous amusements of in an era that was every bit as polarized, multifaceted and complex as our own. In short, Rosasolis is a bold and original CD that is a badly needed breath of fresh air – well, almost.’


Rating ****

from ‘Renaissance Magazine’ Copyright © Marc Cramer, 2004