Maya Homburger/Barry Guy: Ceremony (ECM New Series 1643)


Maya Homburger
Barry Guy

Maya Homburger baroque violin
Barry Guy double-bass
Recorded April and July 1997, Propstei St. Gerold and Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Peter Laenger and Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

By definition, the concept of “ceremony” is rooted in an abiding adherence to formality, regularity, and gesture. As the title of this equivocal recording, it bends to a different set of rules. The quill that writes them belongs in the alternating grips of Baroque violinist Maya Homburger, making her New Series debut, and bassist Barry Guy. Dipping into the ink well of Heinrich Franz Biber, the inestimable duo scratches its captivating deconstructions in a jagged improvisational script. Yet it is in between the lines where the real ceremony takes place.

Annunciation chalks the Praeludium of Biber’s Mystery Sonata No. 1 (“The Annunciation”) as the denominator by which Guy’s compositional numerators come to be defined. Its signals are grand and highly detailed, each evocative of an era relived through its instruments. Stepping out of this door, we walk into Celebration, a free-spirited violin solo distilled from a wealth of motivic information. Looking up into the Immeasurable Sky, we enter a gangly dream in which the progress of travel is meted out slowly at the hands of an unseen guide. Dancing turns into language, and language turns into art: the cartographer’s aspirations brought to light in sound. And when at last the Ceremony commences, it paints a lush fantasy that never quite sets its feet upon solid ground. Throughout its nearly 17-minute duration, the magic of multitracking allows Homburger to work her fractal spell. Perfect fifths are drawn out into a fine mesh to catch the dizzying agitations that follow. Forged by well-tempered strings, each intention is magnified by its situatedness in the dying echo of the last. We then find ourselves Still. Counterpart to the Celebration, this piece for bass alone circumscribes the ceremony with pensive cleansings before Breathing Earth takes the last movement of the Biber sonata and works it into a similar transfiguration of elements.

The Baroque passages glimmer like reflections of some hidden genius, exposing the dedication poured into a craft before it is opened to scrutiny. The sensitivity of their denouement is what really captivates throughout this fine disc, and in it we can always find a burnished string onto which we might place our own tattered bow of appreciation.

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