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Tobias HUME (? - 1645): "Captain Tobias Hume - A Scottish Soldier"

Concerto Caledonia
Dir: David McGuinness

rec: August 16, 2012, Midlothian, Crichton Collegiate Church
Delphian Records - DCD34140 ( 2014) (57'22")
Liner-notes: E; lyrics - no translations
Cover & track-list

A Galliard 3 (72)il [1]; A Galliard 5 (74)dh [1]; A merry conceit: The Q[ueens] delight (34; 3)bcdfhjl [1; 2]; A Merry Meeting (54)dh [1]; A Pollish Vilanell (16)dfik [1]; A Souldiers Galiard (48)bcdgikl [1]; A Spanish humor: The Lord Hayes favoret (21)bcefhjl [2]; A Toy (52)dh [1]; A Toy (64*)di [1]; An Almayne (83)eil [1]; Be merry a day will come (9)i [1]; Captaine Humes Galliard (50)il [1]; Cease leaden slumber: The Queenes New-yeeres gift (1)aefhjl [2]; Fain would I change that note (112)abdghj [1]; Give you go[o]d morrowe Madam (82)bcdgikl [1]; Ha Couragie (65*)bcdgikl [1]; I Am Falling (36)dfhj [1]; Maister Crasse his Almayne (53)dh [1]; My hope is revived: The Lady of Suffolkes delight (4)bcdfhjl [2]; Start: The Lady of Sussex delight (8)bcdfhjl [2]; The Dukes Almayne: The Duke of Holstones Delight (99; 10)dfikl [1; 2]; The Earle of Pembrookes Galiard (2; 20)bcdfhjl [1; 2]; The Souldiers Song (1)abcdgikl [1]; The Spirit of the Almayne (84)eil [1]; The virgins muse: The Lady Arbellaes favoret (17)bcdfj [2]; Tickell, Tickell (34)dfhj [1]; Tickle me quickly (37)hj [1]; Tobacco (3)adfik [1]; What greater griefe (113; 14)aeik [1; 2]
[(*) A Toy and Ha Couragie are misprinted as Nos. 63 and 64 respectively in the original print.
If two numbers are given, the pieces are included in both collections; the first number refers to the 1605 edition, the second to the 1607 edition.]

Sources: [1] The First Part of Ayres: Captain Humes Musicall Humors, 1605; [2] Captain Humes Poeticall Musicke, 1607

Thomas Walker, tenora; Chris Norman, renaissance fluteb; Clara Salaman, nyckelharpac; Alison McGillivray, lyra d'amoreh, bass violi; Liam Byrne, tenor violj, bass violk; Elizabeth Kenny, orphariond, theorboe; Tommy Johansson, orpharionf, citterng; David McGuinness, virginalsl

Some composers attract attention for other than strictly musical reasons. One of them is Gesualdo, for murdering his wife and her lover. Another is Stradella, who paid for his womanizing with being stabbed to death. Tobias Hume is also someone who fascinates, especially because he led an adventurous life as a professional soldier. His comments about his exploits further incite the imagination: we meet a person who is not exactly modest about his qualities as a soldier or about his musical skills. The fact that so little is known about his life leaves the field clear for the imagination. It is impossible to write his biography: we don't know when he was born and there is even a gap in the information about his whereabouts between 1607 and 1629.

In the former year he published a second book with vocal and instrumental pieces. It was preceded in 1605 by his first collection of basically the same content, although less organised. These were not so much a token of his social standing but rather of his precarious position. The second book was dedicated to Queen Anne, and he described it as "the last hope of my labours". It is also telling that his name is hardly ever mentioned by other musicians and composers of his time. A remark from the pen of John Dowland is rather negative, as he defended the lute against Hume's championing of the viol.

The two collections were first and foremost intended for the viola da gamba, the instrument Hume himself played. However, Hume suggested alternative scorings, with ensembles of various instruments, including wind. It is this suggestion which has been picked up by the Concerto Caledonia, which plays gambas, flutes, virginals and several plucked instruments, such as the orpharion and the cittern. The ensemble includes a nyckelharpa, a traditional Swedish instrument which is used here as "an acknowledgement of his [Hume's] time in Sweden, and as a counterpart to the lyra d'amore, a tenor viol with sympathetic strings". I find this aspect of the scoring on this recording the least convincing. Hume's two collections were intended for the English market, and in the article on the nyckleharpa in New Grove I haven't found any suggestion that this instrument may have been known, let alone played, there in Hume's time.

However, it is hardly an issue in the assessment of this disc. Hume's music is well represented in the catalogue, and his music is sometimes performed with various instruments, but mostly viols are dominating. That makes the approach by Concerto Caledonia all the more interesting, and they defend it with zest and imagination. This is a most delightful disc which will give any listener about an hour of first-class musical entertainment. Thomas Walker gives a brilliant performance of The Souldiers Song, with its sound imitations, but is equally convincing in the more delicate Cease leaden slumber dreaming.

The booklet includes informative programme notes, and - most praiseworthy - a list of the selected pieces with their numbers in the two books of 1605 and 1607.

Johan van Veen ( 2015)

Relevant links:

Concerto Caledonia

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