Every now and then, a CD is released that knocks one's reviewing socks off with its combined originality of repertoire and quality of musical performance. Suzanne Heinrich's first disc, Mr Abel's Fine Airs, was one of these. Her viola da gamba recital of music by Karl Friedrich Abel, a long-forgotten 18th century British composer, begged a listen for novelty value alone, but also turned out to be one of the experiences of the year. It garnered a rave review on this website, and we weren't the only ones. It was awarded the Diapason d'Or, and was also named Editor's Choice in the 2008 Gramophone Awards. This, her second disc, is no less of a pleasure, and another musical discovery.
Once more, Heinrich has plumbed British musical history to pluck a long-lost composer from obscurity. Not much is known about Captain Tobias Hume, but what we do know points towards a fascinating character. Born around 1579, he earned his living as a soldier and mercenary, wandering Europe to the scenes of various political and religious conflicts. Despite such a violent and unpredictable day job, he was musically successful enough to share the same patron as William Shakespeare. This, his first of two collections, was published in 1605. As titles such as Tickell, Tickell and Deth indicate, the pieces span a wide range of subject matter, and Heinrich has breathed life into them in the same way as she did with Abel's. In fact, Hume himself almost becomes flesh and blood under her fingertips: it's impossible not to ruminate over his personality when listening to her tender, melancholic reading of Captain Humes Pavan.
Across the whole recital, the music dances, muses and mourns within her warm tone. The ornamentation is clean and elegant, rubatos are beautifully judged, and technical challenges are carried off with a sense of effortlessness. All these qualities come together to great effect in A Souldiers Resolution, with its rumbling echoes of the battlefield.
Heinrich owns in her engaging sleeve note that this is living room music rather than repertoire capable of sustaining an entire concert programme. That's probably true, but her reading of it deserves a place in every music collection. --Charlotte Gardner
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The First Part of Ayres-Captain Humes Musicall Humors (1605) / Susanne Heinrich, viole de gambe