Hilary Hahn & Hauschka - Silfra | Album review
Violinist Hahn meets indie piano improviser Hauschka in Iceland to feel floes.
The plinky-plonky sound of Volker Bertelmann’s prepared piano is unmistakable. Over eight studio albums, the Düsseldorf-based composer’s instrument has been typically found weaving through delicate, cinematic soundscapes, sometimes struck by Ping-Pong balls or marbles. Under the Hauschka alias, he has improvised with indie bands Calexico and múm, dabbled in electronica and penned full-scale orchestrations.
For classical violin star Hilary Hahn, however, improvisation is new territory. For the first time, Silfra captures her without a score on hand. Pairing a conservatory-trained violinist with an experimental tinkerer could yield mixed results. But Hahn and Hauschka’s hookup feels natural and sounds even more naturalistic.
Almost all of the music on Silfra was recorded over a ten-day stretch in Iceland. The record is named after an idyllic fissure near Reykjavík where tectonic plates meet under a lake of clear water.
The pair has this landscape in mind, conjuring images of creeping glaciers and flowing water with sounds at once miniature and grandiose. The call and response of “North Atlantic” emulates the rhythm of waves. “Godot,” captured in one take, is perpetual suspense. Hauschka uses the guts of his piano as much as the keys. He taps, plucks, rubs and EBows the strings as Hahn hits the high register. The effect is like ice cracking under bright sky.