Viola Da Gamba Barak Norman, London 1697
Recording Date and Place: realise du 21 au 23 Mars 2004 en la Colegiata del Castell de Cardona(Catalunya)
How I became acquainted with the "Musical Humors"
It was almost forty years ago, as the hot summer of 1964 drew to its close, that I made the fascinating discovery of the Musicall Humors of Tobias Hume. I had just completed my cello and music studies at the Barcelona Conservatoire and was beginning to study and teach myself the viola da gamba, an instrument which at that time was extremely rare and played by only a handful of pioneers and enlightened enthusiasts scattered all over the world.
After the Trattado de Glosas by Diego Ortiz (Rome, 1553), the first published work essentially devoted to the art of improvisation (for viola da gamba and accompaniment), The First Part of Ayres, containing the Musicall Humors of Tobias Hume (printed in London in 1605), was the first historical edition of works composed for the solo bass viol. With more than one hundred pieces for this instrument, it became a unique and major source for our understanding of the bass viol's repertory and historical development.
I was eager to find an opportunity to study these collections with their fascinating titles and intriguing tablatures. That opportunity came a few months later in London, in the magical silence of the British Library's Reading Room. I can still remember my excitement in that venerable place as I imagined how Loves Farewell, Death & Life, and the various Souldiers March, Galliards and Resolutions might sound, and tried to crack the code of those old notation systems and tablatures.
Some months later, poring over the newly developed microfilm, I began studying the various "Humors" of Captain Hume, each day discovering a little more about the hidden riches of that infinite range of nuances and moods that the viola da gamba was capable of creating in the service of poetry and musical emotion. It was a musical world full of fantasy and emotion, where the bow could be drawn across the strings or used col legno, the strings sometimes plucked, sometimes bowed, the instrument now singing, now dancing, going from the profoundly melancholy to the mock martial, as in the programme pieces (with descriptive texts included: A Souldiers Resolution)...
I am convinced that the expressive richness and creative dimension of a composer's music develops outside the constraints or the circumstances of his everyday life. Such is the case of "Captain Tobias Hume", whose music continues to fascinate us, despite the bombast, the eccentricities and the madcap military exploits of the man himself.
We should also remember that at that time, the art of improvisation and technical mastery of the instrument were as important as the art of composition itself. That explains why, almost 400 years after they came into being, we are immediately captivated by the freshness and spontaneity of these pieces, which were most probably created in a process half-way between improvisation and composition.
With his "Musicall Humors", in which "the Trinity of Music, Voice (Song), Passion (Expression) and Division (Improvisation), to be as gracefully united...", Tobias Hume has left us one of the earliest and most ample accounts of a fascinating process: that of an instrument which was evolving into a vehicle for the noblest and most moving expression of human emotions.
Jordi Savall (translated by: Jacqueline Minett)
Prague, 28th May, 2004