Barry Guy: Folio

Barry Guy, Maya Homburger, Muriel Cantoreggi, Münchener Kammerorchester, Christoph Poppen

Featured Artists Recorded

February 2005, Himmelfahrtskirche Sendling, Munich

Original Release Date


  • 1Double-bass improvisation
    (Barry Guy)
  • 2Prelude, Ortiz I, Postlude
    (Barry Guy)
  • 3Double-bass improvised commentary
    (Barry Guy)
  • 4Folio Five I
    (Barry Guy)
  • 5Double-bass and baroque violin improvised commentary
    (Barry Guy)
  • 6Folio Five II
    (Barry Guy)
  • 7Double-bass and baroque violin improvised commentary
    (Barry Guy)
  • 8Folio Five III
    (Barry Guy)
  • 9Double-bass improvised commentary
    (Barry Guy)
  • 10Folio Five IV
    (Barry Guy)
  • 11Improvisation baroque violin and double-bass
    (Barry Guy)
  • 12Folio Five V
    (Barry Guy)
  • 13Memory (solo violin and baroque violin commentary)
    (Barry Guy)
  • 14Ortiz II
    (Barry Guy)
Jazzman, Choc du mois
Not since Penderecki’s heyday have I been so bowled over by music which so compellingly fuses startlingly inventive and ear-tingling string textures and timbres with the emotional passion and drive of a “Verklärte Nacht” or “Metamorphosen”. …
The starting point for Folio was provided by Nicolai Evreinov’s play The Theatre of the Soul, which, to quote Guy, ‘demarcates characters into the rational, emotional and subconscious aspects of the soul’. This helps structure the music’s textural multi-layering and architectural shape, which is experienced as though part of a dream-like trance. Maya Homburger’s Baroque violin plays the role of the ‘emotional’, while Barry Guy’s double bass improvisations symbolise ‘rationality’ and Muriel Cantoreggi’s modern violin and the Munich strings represent the ‘subconscious’. …
So charismatically involving is this truly virtuoso performance that at times … it feels as though the entire ensemble might literally explode with excitement. With only twelve players in the orchestra, everyone becomes a soloist, and the result is a stunningly engineered rollercoaster ride of unremitting emotional intensity.
Julian Haylock, The Strad
The hour-long Folio was Barry Guy’s response to a very specific commission from the BT Scottish Ensemble… It was, though, a prescription tailor-made for Guy: as well as a composer he is also a double-bass virtuoso who makes regular forays into the jazz world, and his wife Maya Homburger is a distinguished baroque violinist. The result of all these happy connections is an intriguing, multi-faceted work: a sequence of self-contained pieces linked by a series of improvised commentaries for the double bass and baroque violin, which carries its considerable weight of extra-musical associations lightly. … However, the textures and the command of musical layering and string techniques are impressive on their own terms.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian
Folio is a hugely ambitious piece. It consists of a series of improvisations for Barry Guy’s own double bass, sometimes with Maya Homburger’s baroque violin, interspersed with five movements for Muriel Cantoreggi’s modern violin and string orchestra. Additionally, there are two sequences, based on Diego Ortiz’s Recercada Primera of 1553, serving as a bridge between baroque violin and modern instruments. … He proves himself a composer of sure instincts with this absorbing work, which combines spontaneity and shapeliness, stasis and excitement.
Stephen Pettitt, Sunday Times
L’œuvre … tresse et alterne partitions orchestrales et improvisations de l’un ou de deux des solistes. Pas plus que le langage instrumental du contrebassiste, les improvisations des deux violons n’étonneront les habitués des musique improvisées européennes, mais on reste confondu par le naturel qui les portent cette écriture libre de tout dogmatisme et qui nouent ensemble les deux discours en un matériau d’une aussi peu discutable cohérence.
Franck Bergerot, Jazzman
“Folio” is a major statement from Barry Guy. Over the last three decades the British bassist/composer/improviser, weaving between the genres with characteristic unflagging energy, has uniquely made an impact on jazz, free improvisation and contemporary composition and been a key figure in the early music movement, a multiple distinction shared, to our knowledge, by no other musician.

Founder/leader of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra (established 1971) and the Barry Guy New Orchestra (established 2000) he is the author of many pieces for large jazz ensembles, and a virtuoso player who has changed the language of free music. He was for many years in the forefront of the early music movement, playing baroque and early classical music on historical principles for more than a decade with Christopher Hogwood’s Academy of Ancient Music. He has held principal bass positions in orchestras including the Orchestra of St. John’s Smith Square, the City of London Sinfonia, the Monteverdi Orchestra, the Kent Opera and the London Classical Players. And he is an outstanding composer of new music. Pierre Boulez premiered Guy’s piece “D” for strings back in 1974; in 1991 he won the Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Chamber Composition, later in the decade enjoying a valuable association with conductor Richard Hickox. In recent years, Christoph Poppen has been an ardent supporter. Poppen and the Munich Chamber Orchestra gave the German premiere of Guy’s “After The Rain” in 2001; the recording of “Folio” is also an important chapter in the ongoing collaboration between ECM New Series and the Orchestra, of which Muriel Cantoreggi is first violinist.

ECM has long presented Barry Guy in a range of roles. In the last decade for instance, he joined the Hilliard Ensemble in a performance of his “Un coup de dés” on “A Hilliard Songbook”. He has played extensively with John Potter’s Dowland Project (see “In Darkness Let Me Dwell” and “Care-charming Sleep”). He has been a major contributor to Evan Parker’s pioneering Electro-Acoustic Ensemble (see “Toward The Margins”, “Drawn Inward”, and “Memory/Vision”). Patrick and Thomas Demenga recorded his “Redshift” on their album “Lux Aeterna”. And Guy has featured on his own album “Ceremony”, together with Maya Homburger. (Going still further back in label history, Guy participated in Barre Phillips’s four basses project “For All It Is” in 1971 and recorded with John Stevens, Trevor Watts and Howard Riley on “Endgame” in 1979).

Since he began working closely together with Swiss-born baroque violinist Homburger – they met on an Academy of Ancient Music tour in 1986 – Guy has been bringing his musical interests closer together. Once kept distinct and separate, they are now allowed to spur each other, to alternate, or intermingle. In its November 2005 issue Down Beat magazine notes that “Barry Guy’s collaborations with baroque violinist Maya Homburger create a conduit through which music from the 17th century and earlier can mingle effortlessly with contemporary music that privileges improvisation”. Nowhere is this truer than on “Folio”.

As Irish poet/novelist/dramatist Brian Lynch writes in the liner notes: “The bringing together of forms and the fusion of composition and improvisation are cooperative ventures. At their nexus lies the composer’s partnership with Homburger. Her baroque sensibility brings to the music a disciplined yet joyful severity and, above all, a powerful propulsiveness. This sense of purpose, driving but also driven, is shared by Muriel Cantoreggi, whose modern violin may be heard as the voice of modernity itself. Between the violins there are exchanges of the deepest subtlety and tenderness. The Munich ensemble responds in kind – in music of this intensity there is no room for mere accompaniment – supplying as it were the ground for the intuitions of the soul….”

“Folio” was initially inspired by Nikolei Evreinov’s play “The Theatre of the Soul” and it explores, via musical analogy, the interrelationships and interpenetration of the rational, emotional and subconscious aspects of the human mind. Bridging the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ are Guy’s variations on a piece of music by Diego Ortiz (1510-1570), incorporated into his multi-layered ‘Folio’. The composer illuminates the concepts behind his interlacing of the diverse strands of “Folio” in his own notes in the CD booklet and – musically – in his extraordinary double bass improvisations that act as “commentaries” on the unfolding musical action.