Captain Tobias Hume was long an obscure, little-known
English composer from the 17th century. Thanks to several recordings
by Jordi Savall and others, his solo viol music has become one of the
staples of the repertoire of this period. There are fewer recordings
of his Poeticall Musicke, a book of songs and instrumental works, or
his First Part of Ayres, a collection of songs. This disc is a selection
from these two collections.
Humeís music bridges the gap between the Elizabethan and the later music
of the 17th century, recalling both the earlier sound and hinting at
what was to come. His instrumental works are firmly rooted in the solo
or consort viol tradition, though some of them use larger ensembles
or other instruments.
But the performances here are rough and almost grating
at times. Montserrat Figueras sounds like an amateur, her voice imprecise
and wavering. The balance between instruments in some of the instrumental
works is disappointing, with instruments floating in and out of the
soundscape. An example is The Lady canes delight, where the lute and
recorder are almost impossible to hear, and the cornett and trombone
overwhelm the other instruments. This piece plods on like a local brass
band playing on VE Day, with little energy or emotion.
Paul Hillier, in his rare appearances, is quite good;
his voice and timbre fit perfectly with Humeís music. Alas, poore men
is perhaps the finest work on this disc. It features Hillier singing
solo over Savallís haunting bass viol, sometimes bowed, sometimes plucked.
While the balance between the two is not perfect, this long (more than
nine minute) song is a plaintive lament that expresses all the despair
with which Humeís music is often replete.
This is a disappointing recording of some fine music
by Tobias Hume. The uneven performances and recording balances detract
too much from the music for this to be worthwhile. Get a copy of Savallís
groundbreaking recording of Humeís solo viol music, Musicall Humours,