O Rosa Bella (c. 1450), late medieval song

  1. Martin Jonas
    Martin Jonas
    This is a very well known late medieval/early renaissance song, appropriately enough from the time of the War Of The Roses (Wikipedia). It used to be attributed to John Dunstaple (1390-1453), but is now more commonly attributed to John Bedyngham (1422-60). The tune is set to a poem by Leonardo Giustiniani (1388-1446). There is also another setting of the poem, to an unrelated tune written by Johannes Ciconia -- the Bedyngham tune is the better-known, but there are a fair number of vocal renditions of both settings on Youtube, sometimes a single singer with instrumental accompaniment, sometimes polyphonic choral settings.

    Here is Alfred Deller singing it in 1950, fairly swiftly, with accompaniment on three viols: Link. A more recent (and slower) version, by a Japanese soprano with viola da gamba, recorder, lute and harpsichord accompaniment is here: Link.

    O rosa bella,
    O dolce anima mia
    Non mi lassar morire
    In cortesia, in cortesia.

    My recording is an instrumental version, arranged by Albert Folop for three tenor viols. Sheet music is available at:


    I have recorded it on:

    Tenor 1: Ozark tenor guitar
    Tenor 2: Mid-Missouri M-111 octave mandolin
    Tenor 3: Mid-Missouri M-111 octave mandolin

    The arrangement sits nicely on the octave mandolin, with the tenor guitar taking the vocal line. The first seven bars are an introduction played solo by the Tenor 3 voice, with the other two parts coming in on bar 8. My tempo is fairly slow, similar to the Japanese recording linked above.

  2. Martin Jonas
    Martin Jonas
    Listening back to my recording posted yesterday, I felt that the arrangement would improve by having the melody line emphasised -- Folop's arrangement for three tenor instruments compresses the range and leaves the melody a bit drowning in the mix. So, I've now doubled the Tenor 1 part one octave higher on nylon-strung mandolin (aka "Baroq-ulele"). I think that improves the clarity of the voice leading.

    Here is the new version with the doubled melody part:


    I've also updated the Youtube link in my initial posting to point to the revised version.

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