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Maya Homburger and Barry GuyCeremony

Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber: Annunciation, Praeludium of Mystery Sonata No. 1; Barry Guy: Celebration, for violin; Immeasurable Sky, for baroque violin and double-bass; Ceremony, for baroque violins; Still, for double-bass; Breathing Earth, for baroque violin and double-bass.

Maya Homburger: baroque violin; Barry Guy: double-bass

ECM New Series 1643 CD 453 847-2

Ceremony explores the field of tension between old and new music, and between composition and improvisation, and shows the way in which phrasing, textures and colours employed in one area can impact upon another. The album introduces Maya Homburger, baroque violin specialist, to the New Series and reintroduces Barry Guy as composer and interpreter. The Swiss born violinist and the English bassist have worked together in many different contexts over the years but Ceremony marks their recorded debut as a duo.

The album opens - as Homburger/Guy concerts often do - with Biber's "Annunciation" Áand echoes of the First Mystery Sonata recur throughout the disc. Beyond the swooping beauty of the music, Guy has a particular sympathy for the 17th century Bohemian composer as an innovator in performance practise. (Biber's colourful instructions for other pieces included threading the bass strings with parchment and beating with the bow for drum effects - an episode that could easily occur in Guy's free improvising). The bassist/composer is also drawn by the way in which "dissonances slowly form out of consonance" in older music, and vice versa. Long fascinated by these changes Guy has incorporated similar transitions in his writing for the London Jazz Composers Orchestra.

Centrepiece of the new album is the mesmerizing sixteen-minute "Ceremony" composed for baroque violins and seven-track tape: Homburger plays against and above layers of her own violin sound. Guy: "I knew the sound of the baroque violin very well since I worked with the Academy of Ancient Music for many years, buÊt had not previously composed for the instrument." During the compositional process Guy "accumulated masses of material", some of which was channelled into other pieces including the intense "distillation" for solo violin entitled "Celebration." The latter was the first piece of Guy's that Homburger performed. She describes it as "an extremely dense piece with high technical demands. I'm still discovering more and more music within the structure, new sound worlds, new possibilities."

"Immeasurable Sky", subtitled "four songs for baroque violin and double-bass" leaves space for guided improvisation. Homburger: "The violin part is more precisely notated than the bass part, But within the notation there is a lot of rhythmic freedom. We love it when violin and bass are slightly apart rhythmically. With these small shifts you can get the most wonderful dissonances - a tiny shimmer, a moiré which we love."

"Still" gives notice of Barry Guy's enormous gifts as improvisor: a virtuoso perfoÏrmance, incorporating rapid-fire phrasing, it succeeds nonetheless in conveying a central mood of quietude, repose, stillness. Finally, there is "Breathing Earth", inspired by the last movement of the Biber Mystery Sonata with which the duo opened their programme. Homburger: "The bass improvises mainly within certain tonalities and I have great freedom too. Already at the beginning I quote freely from some of the end material....Towards the end of the piece we swap roles, as opposed to the first movement of the 'Annunciation'. I hold the pedal while Barry improvises."

* * *

Maya Homburger was born in Switzerland and studied the violin at the Bern Conservatory, continuing her studies with Ivan Galamian in America and Eduard Melkus in Vienna. In 1986 she moved to England to join John Eliot Gardiner's English Baroque Soloists, Trevor Pinnock's English Concert and other period instrument groups. Since meeting Barry Guy - on the occasion of an extended concert tour with the Academy of Ancien·t Music - she has managed his London Jazz Composers Orchestra, while concurrently developing her personal style on the baroque violin, focussing increasingly on chamber music and solo performance. In 1992 she founded Trio Virtuoso with cellist David Watkin and harpsichordist Howard Moody. Other regular associations have been with the Chandos Baroque Players, La Folia and the Cambridge Baroque Players. With Barry Guy, she launched and continues to co-direct the record label Maya Recordings, which specializes in free improvised music but has also featured Homburger's recordings of Bach and Telemann.

Maya Homburger plays an Italian violin made in 1740 by Antonio dalla Costa of Treviso, which is in its original baroque condition.

Barry Guy was born in Lgondon and worked as an architect's apprentice in the mid-60s before becoming a professional musician. As with Xenakis, whose work Guy admires, it could be argued that an architectonic sense of proportion informs all his work, however diverse the context. As the 20 year old bassist in the Spontaneous Music Ensemble in 1967, Guy helped to forge the basic grammar of British free improvisation. Simultaneously he studied composition at Goldsmiths College. By the early 70s he had acquired a reputation as a double-bass virtuoso and innovator, had formed the London Jazz Composers Orchestra (which he continues to lead and whose extended works are, he says, his "symphonies"). In 1974 Pierre Boulez premiered Guy's D (for solo amplified strings); in recent years the bassist/composer has had a close association with Richard Hickox and the City of London Sinfonia. Alongsidae contemporary music endeavours,. Barry Guy has been in the forefront of the early music movement, playing baroque and early classical music on historical principles with Christopher Hogwood's Academy of Ancient Music.

Guy's two previous ECM New Series appearances have been in very different contexts. He is featured as both composer and bassist on the Hilliard Ensemble's A Hilliard Songbook: New Music for Voices with his setting of Mallarmé's Un coup de dés, and as free improvisor with the Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble on Toward The Margins. ECM projects in preparation include an album based around the music of Dowland, with the Hilliard Ensemble's John Potter and others, and a further recording with the Evan Parker group.

CD Package includes 28-page German/English booklet with an interview with Maya Homburger and Barry Guy by Patrik Landolt