Captain Tobias Hume: “Harke, harke!” – Lyra Violls Humors and Delights

Reviewed on Tue 11 Nov, 2014

Unlike Dowland, with whom he engaged in a professional dispute, the wonderfully eccentric Tobias Hume (c1569-1645), a mercenary in the Swedish and Russian armies, preferred the viola da gamba over the lute. He published two books (in 1605 and 1607) dedicated to the instrument and, although he did not pretend to be a musician by profession, his compositions pushed the technical limits of the instrument in a distinctively lute-like polyphonic direction – though their sophistication is often undercut by suggestive titles such as 'Tickle me quickly' and 'My Mistress hath a pritty thing'. Bruno Cocset and Les Basses Reunies, joined here by gambist Guido Balestracci, perform a selection from Hume’s eclectic oeuvre on three brand-new instruments by luthier Charles Riche – two lyra viols and a ‘great’ bass viol. Balestracci is an expressive soloist, and the team make a persuasive case for taking Hume a little more seriously than he himself apparently did.
–Mark Walker