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Stephen Rose


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Personal profile

Personal profile

Stephen Rose is a specialist in music history of the 16th to 18th centuries, especially in German-speaking lands and in England. He uses methods from book history, social history and the digital humanities to understand how music travelled between communities, and to illuminate attitudes to the writing and performing of music in this era.

He has published extensively on music printing, including the circulation, control and symbolic meanings of printed music in German lands. His book Musical Authorship from Schütz to Bach explores what the term ‘author’ denoted for Lutheran musicians during the 17th century, as revealed in the production, ownership and performance of music. His interest in music in cultural exchange has led to new discoveries about German sacred music preserved in English collections, including a new critical edition of Leipzig Church Music from the Sherard Collection. Much of his work explores sources previously overlooked by music scholars, as in his 2011 book The Musician in Literature in the Age of Bach which uses novels and fictional narratives to uncover social attitudes towards musicians.

Stephen collaborates closely with libraries and archives to boost access to their musical holdings and increase public understanding of this cultural heritage. He directed Early Music Online, a JISC-funded collaboration with The British Library that digitised over 320 books of 16th-century printed music. Subsequently he directed A Big Data History of Music, an AHRC project that made The British Library’s music catalogue records available as open data, and showed how these large-scale datasets could be analysed to give new insights into music history. Currently he is developing a large-scale project to unlock the musical heritage held in the county record offices of England, and thereby open a new, decentralised understanding of English music history.

He contributes extensively to the infrastructure and management of music research. He is a peer reviewer for the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and the European Research Council. He was a subpanellist for Music, Drama, Dance, Performing Arts, Film and Screen Studies (sub-panel 33) in the Research Excellence Framework 2021 (REF 2021), and he serves on the Advisory Council of Bach Network and as a Trustee of RISM UK. He is Co-Editor of the Oxford University Press journal Early Music, having previously served as its Reviews Editor.

Stephen’s commitment to research training for postgraduates and early career scholars is shown in his leadership of the research training network Musical-Cultural Exchange in Early Modern Europe (jointly with Uppsala University and the Bach-Archiv, Leipzig). More recently he has convened collaborative training seminars in the study and critical editing of musical sources, funded by the New Berlioz Edition Trust.

At Royal Holloway, Stephen is currently Head of the Music Department. Previously he was Director of Research in the Music Department, where he led the submission to REF 2021 (jointly with Drama). He also developed and implemented research strategy, and mentored colleagues in their research plans and grant applications. From 2019 to 2021 he was Co-Director of Research in the School of Performing & Digital Arts. Previously, as Director of Undergraduate Studies, he designed and implemented a new BMus programme structure. He has also held the role of Director of Exams in Music. 

He teaches on the core undergraduate History of Music and Theory & Analysis courses, and leads courses on Digital Tools for Music Studies, J. S. Bach: Context and Reception, Music and Society in Purcell’s London, The Art and Craft of 18th-Century Composition, and Baroque Performance Practice. He teaches the MMus courses Techniques of Historical Musicology and Techniques of Performance Studies.

Stephen welcomes proposals from PhD students wanting to work on aspects of music history from the 16th to 18th centuries, particularly from the perspectives of material culture, book history, performance practices, or social history. He has supervised collaborative PhDs with the British Library and the Foundling Museum, and encourages collaborative projects. He has supervised the following PhD students to successful completion:

Katherine Butler, ‘Image and influence: the political uses of music at the court of Elizabeth I’ (now Associate Professor at Northumbria University)

Lizzy Buckle, ‘Concerts, commerce, and charity: musical networks and benefit performances in Georgian England, 1750-1780’ (in collaboration with the Foundling Museum)

Clémence Destribois, ‘Between theory and practice: aspects of pitch organisation in north Italian instrumental ensemble music, 1610–1670’ (now Assistant Professor at Brigham Young University)

Louisa Hunter-Bradley, ‘Christopher Plantin as publisher of polyphonic music: business practices, material formats and sales patterns’ (now Postdoctoral Research Associate at King’s College London)

Matthew Laube, ‘Music and confession in Heidelberg, 1556–1618’ (now Assistant Professor at Baylor University)

Ester Lebedinski, ‘Roman vocal music in England, 1660–1710: court, connoisseurs, and the culture of collecting’ (now Senior Lecturer at Örebro University, Sweden)

Caroline Lesemann-Elliott, ‘Music, power, and place at exiled English convents in France and the Low Countries, 1660–1740’ (now Albi Rosenthal visiting fellow at the Bodleian Library, Oxford)

Micah Anne Neale, ‘“The fiddling footman”: the social history of music-making among English and Welsh servants in the long 18th century’

Elena Pons Capdevila, ‘Arranging the canon: keyboard arrangements, publishing practices and the appropriation of musical classics, 1770-1810’

James Ritzema, ‘The printing and publication of sacred music in England, 1603–1649’ (in collaboration with the British Library)

Jenifer Raub, ‘Sarum liturgical music printing in Tudor London’

Nigel Springthorpe, ‘The lives and works of Johann Christian Röllig and Johann Georg Röllig’

Roya Stuart-Rees, ‘Convivial connoisseurship: amateurs and ancient music in 18th-century London clubs’

Laura Ventura Nieto, ‘Controlling and fashioning the sounding body: Italian depictions of women making music, c.1520–c.1650’


Stephen’s current PhD students work on the following topics:

Music at charity schools of the 18th century (Alan Browning)

The transfer of French performing styles to late 17th-century England (Alex Norman)

Johann Kuhnau’s sacred music (Adrian So)

The Bergreihen in 16th-century German lands (Richard Hollingdale)

Instrumental music in the London playhouses c.1600 (William Lyons)


  • cultural exchange
  • music
  • musicology
  • performance practice
  • book history
  • print culture
  • creativity
  • authorship
  • Selfhood
  • Social History
  • early modern
  • England
  • music history
  • Bach
  • Purcell
  • early music
  • editing
  • Schein
  • Kuhnau
  • Schelle
  • Leipzig

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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