Recorded & mixed at Christuskirche Mülheim / Ruhr, May 2005 by Albrecht Maurer. Mastered by Reinhard Kobialka, Topaz Studio Cologne. Grafic Design by Christiane Resch. Produced by Albrecht Maurer.

by Ken Waxman Toronto 01/06


When most contemporary improvisers refer to early music, depending on their orientation, they probably mean the bop breakthroughs of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie in the 1940s or perhaps the historical foundation created by Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong in the 1920s.

      But Albrecht Maurer and Norbert Rodenkirchen are atypical. Their take on early music dates from more than half a millennium before that. This unique concept involves melding modern sounds and styles with medieval instruments.

      Although one is an acclaimed medievalist and the other an accomplished modern improviser, this isn’t as much a stretch as it may seem. While Köln-born Rodenkirchen is known for his membership in the Sequentia ensemble, he also spent time in pioneering German Free Jazz vibraharpist Gunter Hampel’s Coming Age Orchestra. Moreover, while the bulk of Aachen-born Maurer’s time is spent improvising with modernists such as American bassist Kent Carter, German drummer Klaus Kugel and Dutch trombonist Wolter Wierbos, the virtuoso fiddler also plays early music with prominent medieval ensembles such as Dialogos.

      This is why Hidden Fresco is unique. While its 12 tracks utilize the most modern instrumental techniques, both men have chosen to perform these original compositions and improvisations while sticking with medieval instruments – transverse flute and harp for Rodenkirchen and gothic fiddle in Maurer’s case.

      A further clue to their strategy lies in carefully examining three items: the CD’s title, Hidden Fresco; the artistic transformative qualities implicit in titles such as “Craquelé”, “Sfumato”, “Erosion” and “Tempera”; and the quote from Leonardo da Vinci’s Treatise on Painting that adorns the cover. Essentially, Leonardo posited that an artist viewing stained walls or common rock formations can “see” how to transform this material into diverse forms. Sonically rather than visually the German improvisers do the musical equivalent of that here. Utilizing particular instrumentation and timbres, they expose unexpected aural tinctures and colors.

      Take the fiddler’s “Aura”, for instance, which features pealing col legno tones from the strings that coalesce into fiery stops from Maurer and resonating guttural breaths from Rodenkirchen. Eventually the sensation radiates key thumping percussion and descending sul tasto string lines. Alternately, the fully improvised “Erosion” – an appropriately da Vinci-styled title – suggests rock’s transformation with a harmonic convergence that results from ground bass-like pitches from Maurer encircling wraithlike, pinched flute tones. Transformation is complete when spiccato fiddle lines harden and Rodenkirchen’s tone darkens.

      Elsewhere string technique variously suggests spiky old-time mandolin picking or rasgueado guitar fills. Not only do flute sounds include formalist legato and wheezy staccato breaths, but harp strokes can sometimes be compared to guzheng textures.

      Leonardo cited the transformative power of music when in the Treatise, he compared his visual discovery with the sound of bells “in whose tolling your imagination hears and conjure up names and words”. With Hidden Fresco, Maurer and Rodenkirchen express similar phenomena in their own characteristic fashion.

John Barron - Jazzreview.com / 2007

Beauty is unearthed and unabashedly displayed throughout Hidden Fresco, the latest release from the German duo of Albrecht Maurer and Norbert Rodenkirchen. Their use of medieval instruments to explore contemporary sounds cultivates a fresh perspective on modern improvisation. The warm timbre of the instrumentation softens the edge of harsh dissonance while enhancing tonal resolve. There’s a sense of urgency that permeates the entire disc. Maurer (gothic fiddle) and Rodenkirchen (medieval flutes and harp) are not intent on wasting sonic space. From the frenzied opening notes of the title track to the passionate evocation of “Behind,” the duo is unwavering in their search for musical unification. ... Maurer and Rodenkirchen are both technical masters; their incorporation of percussive effects, chords, and rapid lines portray sympathetic artists who are able to push the boundaries of archaic instrumentation to express a full range of emotion.



George Harris - All about Jazz / Januar 07, USA

"There aren´t many jazz recordings that include gothic fiddle or medieval flute in its repertoire, but the duo of Albrecht Maurer and Norbert Rodenkirchen don´t seem to be intimidated by that fact. This tapestry is a collection of improvised compositions that alternate between Eastern and Western music. ... Experimental, lurking and inquisitive, the music by Maurer and Rodenkirchen on HIDDEN FRESCO has many appealing layers to peal away."



www.sonic.net / 2007

"...Oddball combination of gothic fiddle and medieval flutes... Improv duets with an almost Asian feel in both instruments. Nice."



Steven Ritter - audaud.com / 2007

" ...Though both of these players dabble in the classical and jazz worlds, there is very little of what even remotely resembles jazz here? so you can relax if you thought that you were in for a jam session of crumhorns and sackbuts! And I must admit that after careful listening, there is a lot of skill at play here. Both players are carefully listening to one another and playing off each other. The fiddle may execute a curlicue melody that the harp then picks up and turns into a rhythmic accompaniment. ... there are some who will appreciate the evident talent of these two players."



Massimo Ricci - www.touchingextremes.com /July2007 Rom, Italy

The name of Albrecht Maurer kept ringing a bell in my head, then I suddenly remembered him as a part of a fantastic Emanem project by Kent Carter's String Trio; conversely, this is my first meeting with Rodenkirchen. Both artists are virtuosos in their respective trades, coming from different backgrounds that somehow found a perfect trait d'union in the music they perform as a duo. Using gothic violin, medieval flutes and harp, the couple conceived an album containing almost one hour of outstanding music, motivated by many factors but definitely sounding like a strange brew of middle age, native Indian and traditional Asian, the whole in a modern classical dress. Even more impressive is the fact that this stuff is mostly improvised, because the bulk of the pieces contained in "Hidden fresco" is more or less comparable to scored compositions with just a modicum of variations. The title refers to Leonardo Da Vinci's theory according to which artists see the object of their creation in advance when observing a rock formation or a stained wall, and several tracks refer to pictorial and visual techniques ("Tempera", "Craquelé"). But this is not so important when compared to the splendid timbral poems that Maurer and Rodenkirchen bring out of their instruments, which the high quality of the recording exalts and enhances. Like every other Nemu release, this is a gorgeous example of over average sonic craftmanship, a record whose beauty does not depend on genres or classifications.

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more information about Albrecht Maurer and Norbert Rodenkirchen are available under the following links:

Maurer&Rodenkirchen

AlbrechtMaurer.com

NorbertRodenkirchen.com


Albrecht Maurer – gothic fiddle
Norbert Rodenkirchen - medieval flutes, harp

For the last years, the duo has been specialized on the exciting Vexierspiel between old and new sound. It only composes and improvises own Contemporary Music on medieval instruments – gothic fiddle, medieval flutes, lyra.

Since 1996, Norbert Rodenkirchen has been member of the world-famous ensemble „Sequentia“. Today, he is „artist in residence“ of the music of the Middle Ages. Albrecht Maurer has been member of the Heidelberg Chamber Orchestra, before he began to work as a composer for improvised musicians. Both are members of the Parisian Ensemble „Dialogos“.