Hilary Hahn & Hauschka Silfra Review

Released 2012.  

BBC Review

Music of organic yet mechanical motion, emerging out of a Jules Verne-dreamed world.

Martin Longley 2012

This is the first collaboration between German-born pianist Hauschka and American violinist Hilary Hahn, after singer-songwriter Tom Brosseau brought them together in 2009. In a meditative production role sits Valgeir Sigurõsson, who has worked previously with Björk, Bonnie "Prince" Billy and the French singer Camille. The resulting pieces are completely improvised, but often are suggestive of pre-meditated melodies.

Stillness leads into the jarringly-titled Bounce Bounce, which suddenly imparts agitation, Hauschka’s prepared piano setting off on a jagged gallop. Hahn flays her strings, savagely sawing. Their overdubs build up a chamber ensemble thickness, intensifying their attack. It sounds like Hauschka is slinging heavy objects into his piano interior. But despite this vigour, there’s a light deftness to the duo’s approach and technique.

The first three pieces are all short, establishing varied moods. Clock Winder has a quaintly mechanical character, principally due to Hauschka’s exotic ornamentations of his instrument.

Longer works follow, with Adash adopting a deep, mournful drone tone, Hahn’s citrusy violin recalling the singing string-voice of Gidon Kremer, her tremulous edge kept hovering as the piece builds to a surge. Meanwhile, Hauschka is threshing the piano innards again, vibrating strings into melancholy.

Godot is nearly 13 minutes long, its tiny sound events unwinding as carefully placed piano chords knit with sparse violin curlicues. Hauschka sets up a stutter with his dampened bass key, the sombre gestures exquisitely poised.

To follow, there’s a clutch of more conventionally melodic compositions, but the piano remains adorned with rattles, clicks and extraneous bumpings. This calls to mind the buzzing attachments of a Zimbabwean thumb piano, or the rattling metal discs of a Brazilian pandeiro drum. It’s a sympathetic undercurrent, as found in Indian classical music, or the wheezing drone of a bagpipe.

Hahn and Hauschka’s music has an organic mechanical motion, emerging out of a world that could have been created by Jules Verne or H.G. Wells. There’s a strutting roboticism, but all parts are made woody, wrinkled, leathery, walnut-crinkled and creaking like old bones. The so-called purity of the sweet-voiced piano and violin are continually subverted by carefully applied extraneous sounds.

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