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Tobias HUME (1569-1645)
Captain Hume’s Journey to India
Captain Humes Pavin [6:11]
A Souldiers Galliard - A souldiers March [5:54]
Harke, harke [2:00]
The spirit of Gambo [2:23]
A pollish ayra - A pollish vilanel [2:18]
My Mistress hath a prettie thing [2:34]
Tickle me quickly - Tickell, tickell [2:02]
Adue sweete Love [1:46]
I am melancholy [4:03]
Sunrise by the riverside [9:53]
Death [8:31]
A tune to Hume [6:59]
Lamento di Tristano [8:27]
Philippe Pierlot (lyra-viol), Dhruba Ghosh (sarangi), Nitiranjan Biswas (tabla), Roselyne Simpelaere (tanpura)
rec. 2006
FLORA 1006 [63:03]

Captain Tobias Hume was a career soldier, if not an out-and-out mercenary, fighting at various times with the armies of Denmark, Sweden, Russia, and Poland. It was only as recently as 1991, when court accounts of the year 1606 from Anne of Denmark were unearthed, that he was confirmed as being Scottish. Up to that point his origins and nationality were a complete mystery, and he seems to have spent much of his early life on the move, earning a reputation as an outsider, which he desperately tried to overcome by cultivating connections with the nobility. Music was obviously something of an enthusiasm, and he seems to have been one of those rather irritating figures who appear at musical gatherings, pushing himself to the fore ahead of established composers. John Dowland certainly resented his presence on the London scene, dismissing him as a “stranger from beyond the seas”, while a more recent commentator has labelled him “one of the oddest composers of his time or any other”. In 1629 Captain Hume was admitted to Charterhouse, in the City of London, which was a home for impoverished old soldiers. He lived out his days there, foraging for snails among the nettles, his pathetic petitions to parliament largely ignored.

Extensive as Hume’s travels were, it is inconceivable that he ever got as far as India – there is certainly no evidence to suggest such a journey - so the title of this CD is misleading. But there again, there is a sense of confusion and opaqueness about the whole presentation of the disc. The booklet is a mess of odd and speculative writings and photographs largely presented in dark ink on even darker paper, rendering it all virtually indecipherable. Which may be just as well since shabby editing has meant one page has been wrongly placed, another printed twice, another omitted, and any reliable details on the music or performers overlooked altogether.

But, certainly, for the first three-quarters of the disc, the playing of Philippe Pierlot and the sumptuousness of the recorded sound, more than amply compensate for shortcomings in the presentation. Here we have 12 excerpts from Captain Humes Musicall Humors of 1605, played with great verve and dramatic gusto on a ‘lyra viol’ – a six-stringed bass viol. Among these are the deeply affecting “I am Melancholy”, the buoyant “Souldiers Galliard”, the stately “Souldiers March”, the spirited “Spirit of Gambo” and the decidedly cheeky “My Mistress hath a prettie thing”. These are invigorating and colourful performances, which pay handsome tribute not only to Hume but to Hume’s belief that, in opposition to Dowland, the viol was by far the superior instrument to the lute.

If that were all this disc contained, one could be content and revel in the elegant and perceptive music-making of Pierlot. But even as the strains of the lovely “I am Melancholy” die away, we are not so much transported as catapulted across continents to India, where we are instantly greeted by the jangling of bells and the drone of the tanpura. Sunrise by the Riverside is an evocative work which, for many, encapsulates the essence of India, the strangely bubbling rhythms of the tabla and the ghostly tones of the sarangi, which, it is not too fanciful to suggest, bears a passing resemblance to the viol.

Where, might we ask, does Captain Hume come into this sudden and abrupt leap into India? Three improvised pieces which follow provide the answer. Death is an improvisation for sarangi on one of Hume’s own songs, which is given out on the lyra-viol by Pierlot, before the tanpura starts its drone and the sinuous sarangi weaves its way in a seamless transition from west to east. Without a break, this slides into a wholly Indian A Tune to Hume, in which an unattributed male voice (we can probably assume it is Dhruba Ghosh) sings passionately in Hindi. The tanpura carries us into the final track, a 14th century Italian song Lamento di Tristano, played by Pierlot, ghosted by Ghosh on the sarangi, and finally moving away from the original altogether in a fluid, sensuous, and quite magical improvisation.

Marc Rochester

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