Maya Recordings Festival: Winterthur, Switzerland, September 23-25, 2011
Together, Fernandez and Gustafsson both used their instruments to their full potential and beyond. Fernandez was often under the lid, scraping and pluckingor else using dense note clusters achieved by using his fists or armwhile Gustafsson spat and split notes before unleashing a hail of multiphonics.
The final grouping in this section of the festival brought together three percussionistsStrid, Lytton and Ramon Lopez. For much of the time they emphasized textural details, until Lopez added rhythmic elements, including some table, which produced a move towards a flurry of drumming that was worthy of the drum battles of the Swing era. There was much enjoyment to be had from watching the three of them, each puckish in their own fashion.
The trio of Parker, Guy and Lytton has been one of jazz's more outstanding groups for a very long time; despite seeing them play many times, it is always astoundingalmost overwhelmingto hear them and witness the way their music is formed. The amount of detail being transmitted is probably more than can be processed by the mind, and yet it coheres, and the implications of their quicker-than-a-thought responsivenesstheir cleaving and their cohesionare always intelligible. It is endlessly absorbing music and, on this night, through all the modulations of the musicas subtle at time as it was exhilarating at othersthey played, above all else, as a trio. Nor were they without humor. At the beginning of their encore Lytton sat for several seconds with a stick raised above cymbals and bowls before eventually saying, "I can't decide which one to hit."
The major baroque work performed at the festival was Bach's "The Musical Offering," played, on the third day, by Camerata Kilkenny, an ensemble which began in Ireland in 1999. Indeed, Maya Recordings has formed many links with Ireland, with recordings made there and including several Irish musicians on recordings of baroque music (Culture Ireland were thanked a couple of times for their help in staging the festival). Camerata Kilkenny included three Irish musicians: baroque violinist/violist Marja Gaynor, baroque cellist Sara McMahon and harpsichordist Malcolm Proud, along with Maya Homburger and Dutch transverse flautist Wilbert Hazelzet. Together, they played with such relish and commitment to the music that it sounded as fresh and new as any of the other music heard during the festival. The composition is of particular interest because it features so many forms of composition and combinations of instrumentsincluding two ricercars for harpsichord, canons for several instrumental groupings, a brief fugue and a beautiful sonata for flute, violin, cello and harpsichord. A glorious composition, magnificently played.
When Augusti Fernandez, Barry Guy and Ramon Lopez play together, the direction their music will take is entirely unpredictable. Their concert began with Fernandez playing a languid, lyrical theme, but when Guy and Lopez joined him the music assumed a very different character, moving into abstract, splintered terrain before resolving around a restating of the theme, which the pianist then toyed with, encouraged and supported by the other two players. To begin another piece Guy played some sublime arco bass, ripe with delicious overtones, before Lopez added the sharp twack of tabla and drums, with Fernandez then joining in another yearning melody, after which they again moved onto open ground where everything was possible. Only for their encore did they both begin and remain within a lyrical mode. That, too, was carefully judged and convincingly sustained.
To bring the festival to an end, Homburger and all of the improvisers Homburger came together to perform Guy's "Amphi." The highly unusual gathering of baroque violin, bass, piano, two reeds players and three percussionists seemed likely to incur problems of balance; the violin, however, was carefully and successfully integrated into this combination of instruments, with Homburger opening the seven-part suite before a tutti passage which led to solos by Parker and Lopez, followed by the violinist playing another scored passage. The music continued to move around and between all of the musiciansin combination and solowith improvisational space for all. Homburger, too, had to improvise, and did so especially well in tandem with Gustafsson's fluteophone and Guy's prepared bass. Homburger proved quite deft at moving between the written and the improvised, something classically trained musicians often find especially difficult to do.
With that, the festival ended, having effectively demonstrated how well musical forms with different histories and contrasting performance practices can be mixed to the enrichment of both.