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GRAMOPHONE (11/2014)
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Reviewer:  Lindsay Kemp


Time is always well spent in the musical company of Captain Tobias Hume. For the

Scottish-born professional soldier-for-hire, music was ‘the onely effeminate part of me…alwayes Generous, because never Mercenarie’, and the sense that for him it was an escape from the grim realities of the military life is strong in the works he composed for the instrument he himself played and loved, the viol. The variety and invention of the dances, song transcriptions and character pieces he published in the early 1600s suggest a man for whom the viol was a true comfort and companion (did he take it on campaign with him, I wonder). They may not always be the most sophisticated but they have heart, honesty and, for the modern ear, a deeply evocative quality.


Bruno Cocset’s group Les Basses Réunies are joined by guest artist Guido Balestracci to perform 25 Hume pieces on combinations ranging from solo viol (Balestracci) to three viols and harpsichord. The viols themselves are carefully chosen; though each is subtly different, the effect of all the bowing, plucking ‘lyra-way’ (chordplaying), even a harpsichord strung in gut, is of distinct sounds uniting over the course of the programme into what seems like one great all-embracing viol. And what a beautiful instrument that is!


The performances are exemplary, as full of vitality in The Lady of Sussex Delight, A Jigge and The Spirit of Gambo as lyrical depth in What Greater Griefe and Alas Poore Men or virtuosity in The Earl of Pembroke his Galliard. There is a hint of the Celtic here and there, while A Souldiers Resolution is admirably fluid through all its battle sounds and shouted descriptions.


The booklet shows the four musicians recording in a tranquil pool of light; how easy it is to imagine Hume among them, escaping the noise of war with his beloved viol.

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