Consort of instruments

A consort of instruments was a phrase used in England during the 16th and 17th centuries to indicate an instrumental ensemble.

A consort may be "whole", that is, all instruments of the same family. For example, a set of viols played together would be considered a whole consort. A "broken" consort would consist of instruments from various families. For example, a broken consort could consist of viols and lute playing together. The term "broken consort" is of 20th century origin. It seems to derive from the term "broken music" referring to making divisions on a melody. The term consort in the 17th century referred to different instruments consorting together rather than a set of instruments of the same type.

Composers of consort music during the Elizabethan era include John Dowland, Anthony Holborne, and William Byrd. The principal Jacobean era composers included Thomas Lupo, Orlando Gibbons, John Coprario, and Alfonso Ferrabosco. Later 17th-century composers included Christopher Simpson, William Lawes, and Henry Purcell.

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