Captain Humes Poeticall Musicke Vol 2 by Tobias Hume (Les Voix Humaines) (Les Voix Humaines) (Naxos: 8.554127)
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The Composer: Little is known regarding the personal life of Tobias Hume, though his birth has often been given as 1569, it may well have been much later. What is known of his early life brings together a career as a soldier and musician. He certainly travelled extensively, having served as an officer in both the Swedish and Russian army, and it was as a soldier that he made his living, probably as a mercenary.
How much music he wrote is equally open to conjecture, the results of his work now only known from four collections. One such collection was dedicated to Queen Anne, probably to seek her favour to enter the Royal household, though we are uncertain whether this was as a musician or soldier.
Whether he was ever trained in music is equally unclear, for though he stated that he was educated only as a soldier, it would be unusual to find someone who could write with such expertise without significant training. We do know that he was a champion of the viol, and as such he was aware of its potential compared to the lute, the stringed instrument then in favour.
Obviously Hume was taken seriously enough in musical circles, for it was no less than Dowland who published a rebuff of these ideas.
His date of birth is often calculated by his admission to Charterhouse in 1629, the institute for impoverished
officers, where the minimum age was 60. He probably lied to gain admission, as in 1642 he was seeking money to go to Ireland to help quell an uprising, which would have made him 73. He died two years later in Charterhouse.
Captain Humes Poeticall Musicke was Hume's third volume of music, and was published in London in 1607 (which probably supports his 1569 date of birth). It was written either for two basse-viols or instruments in eight parts, and though the composer left the choice of instruments to the performers, it is more than likely that he had a group of viols in mind, who would have produced a very different sound to that heard on this disc.
The volume contains 25 pieces, and opens with the song, 'Cease leaden slumber', and was the Queen's New-Year gift, probably offered as part of his quest to join the Royal retinue. It continues with pieces - that are here played by a variety of instruments - including dances, and fantasies, that are at times happy, but usually of the melancholy favoured at that time. That Hume wanted to find favour with high society, can be seen from the subtitle to each work, which 'dedicates' them to a famous personage of his time. It begs the question as to whether he worked within such high ranking company. Equally it poses the question as to why he composed 'The King of Denmarkes health' (the penultimate track on this disc). Was Hume invited to play for the King, possibly while serving in the Swedish army? The titles prove intriguing, and Keith Anderson in his excellent notes details the history of the people named in Hume's works. [On page 4 of the booklet, it would infer there are two books of works. There is only one with this title, the first book containing 117 pieces being titled, \The First Part of Ayres"]
The performers are all based in North America, and while their name, Le Voix Humaines, may not suggest string players, this outstanding duo of Susie Napper and Margaret Little, perform on viols, baroque cello, violin and viola. Both have studied in North America and Europe, and spend much of their time now working in Canada and France. Of particular interest - as most viol players have to perform on modern copies - is the fact that Napper uses a viol made in London in 1703.
The lutenists are equally well known in both continents, Paul Audet having already made over 30 recordings. His colleague on this recording, Stephen Stubbs, was born in Seattle, but made his professional debut at London's Wigmore Hall in 1976. He now lives in Germany where he is Professor of lute at the Music School in Bremen from where directs the famous ensemble, Tragicomedia.
Francis Colpron was born in Holland, studying the recorder at the Utrecht Conservatory, and now enjoying a successful career in Canada and central Europe.
Réjean Poirier is the organist at the Church of St. Denis in Montreal.
The sessions took place in January 1996 at the church of Saint-Augustin in St. Augustin de Mirabel, Canada.