Hume: Musicall Humors

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Alia Vox
WORKS: Musicall Humors
PERFORMER: Jordi Savall (viola da gamba)
Jordi Savall and Thomas Hume have been messmates for some time now: the gamba-player’s booklet note, reliving a first foray 40 years ago into this 1605 collection, reads like Hume’s own nostalgic accounts of swashbuckling soldiering on Europe’s then-bloody Baltic shores, only without the Münchhausen tendencies. In 1982 Savall made a fine LP of bass viol solos from the book; the next year his ensemble Hespèrion XX gave Hume’s Poeticall Musicke… well, the Hespèrion XX treatment: superb playing, dodgy orchestrations. Canada’s Les Voix Humaines has since done that 1607 book superbly without cornetts, recorders or dulcians, just the instruments it was conceived for, bass viols. These 1605 Musicall Humors are another matter, contrived mostly for one viol to play ‘lyra way’ – with chords aplenty, Hume’s challenge to the lute for primacy in personal polyphony. Generally, Savall’s re-recordings of gamba greats for Alia Vox gain ground on previous positions. I’m not sure this does: the playing is so poetic and free that, occasionally, it robs Hume’s humours, however elevated, of their origins in song, dance and the battlefield. And is a whole CD really the best way to present these often enigmatic solos? Either way, the recording is close but rich, the booklet lavish. Nick Morgan