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Silfra / Hilary Hahn, Hauschka


Release Date: 05/22/2012 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 001679802   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Hilary Hahn
Performer:  Hilary HahnHauschka
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Hilary Hahn's adventurous musical mind reaches towards exciting new territory.

With Silfra she follows her heart down a daring new path by collaborating with acclaimed "prepared piano" artist/composer Volker Bertelmann, known to music fans as Hauschka.

From their shared classical background this beautiful album exploits fresh and daring textures, creating unexpected moods - some grooves upbeat, others meditative, all hypnotic, catchy and quirky.

Guided by Bjork's producer, Valgeir Sigurosson, Hilary Hahn and Hauschka incorporate improvisation into innovative music for something utterly exciting and new.

Silfra works as a full-bodied entity, something even greater than the
Read more sum of its parts. As Hahn suggests, "you're hearing exactly what evolved at the moment it came to life, in every second of this album. It was such a rewarding experience making the record that I get a little nostalgic when I hear it."

When you listen to this record, you are hearing the music the first time it was played. There were no retakes. These are the moments that brought these ideas to life.

The album was recorded in Iceland - a symbolic location for the two of them between their continents of origin. Silfra, a rift just outside of Reykjavik, marks the divide between North America and Eurasian tectonic plates.

REVIEWS:

Daring in concept, the result is an accessible and admirable success.

Hilary Hahn’s reputation as an acclaimed soloist in a wide variety of repertoire and in settings from solo and chamber to concerto is well established. Here she appears in a set of improvised performances along with the German ‘prepared piano’ artist/composer Hauschka (Volker Bertelmann), whose Foreign Landscapes album from the Fatcat label is worth seeking out if you want to find out more. This particular recording is produced by Valgeir Sigurðsson, who has worked with artists such as Björk. In other words, this is quite far removed from your usual classical violin/piano album. The recording is often quite close, emphasising that fragile ‘nowhere to hide’ feel to such musical experiments, though there are effects used such as overdubbing and extra reverb where appropriate. The general acoustic picture is intimate but non-fatiguing.
 
“When you listen to this record, you are hearing the music the first time it was played. There were no retakes. These are the moments that brought these ideas to life.” Each title, and each ‘moment’ is given its own little story in the booklet, and it can be useful to see which associations and context the music has for its protagonists. Silfra itself is described as “the divide between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. It is preternaturally still, coloured in shades of blue and green not found anywhere else…” These kinds of atmospheres are a rich resource of inspiration on this album, and the opening track Stillness is a good introduction: a brief, relatively simple but sustained statement with the ebow – a kind of electronic sustain gadget – making the piano strings ring like a glass harmonica. Bounce Bounce does what it says on the tin; a restlessly up-beat number with plenty of rhythmic rubbery thuds from the lower piano strings. Clock Winder has fascinating patterns of repetition: little mechanical cycles over which sustained layers build to create a pleasant musical arch form.
 
Hahn’s violin tones are given their first real voice in Adash, which is linked to the inner world of a boy “who loves music and scratches lines into his CDs to create unpredictable catches, so he can hear a section over and over again…” Ouch! I feel all you collectors of precious silver discs cringing at the thought, but the result here is a substantial organic growth of textures and melodic fragments. Godot is the longest track by far but has the least explanation – a single continuous take and the recording given no further subsequent treatment. This is an extended atmosphere of considerable hypnotic power. The piano taps and grinds, and while there are lengthy moments of static repose there is also always something ‘going on’ in all kinds of subtle ways, and the gently lyrical apotheosis is magical. If we are Waiting for Godot, then at least there is plenty to keep our imaginations fired up while keeping the park bench warm.
 
After the epic Godot, the poignantly song-like Krakow sounds like light relief. North Atlantic takes us back into nature, but retains a grounding in clearly cadenced tonality, with chill flecks of ocean spray spitting out from the violin, and the buzz of prepared piano strings heightening the upper harmonics from an ostinato texture. Draw a Map refers to the unpredictable geography of Iceland, and the syncopated rhythms suggest the playful nature of the way people occupy it during the long summer days. The Ashes are of the volcanic kind as you might expect, and the changing colours of the sky are portrayed in this open sounding statement. Sink sees the musicians separating into different spaces and only communicating through their playing as heard through headphones. This results in a healthily spontaneous feel in what turns out to be one of the liveliest miniatures in the programme. Gently expressive and another poignantly minor-coloured number, Halo of Honey refers to a song by Tom Brosseau, who was the catalyst for the meeting of these two artists. Rift almost sounds like a continuation of the previous track, referring to Silfra “as a tribute to the deepness and isolation there, and the sense of being engulfed by a beautiful phenomenon.”
 
I wasn’t sure in advance whether I would like this, but on listening seriously I soon found myself drawn into convincing worlds of sound created by two musicians who have become attuned to each other over years of working together. The violin can sound a trifle thin against the rich repertoire of resonances created in the piano, and it rarely takes flight in a genuinely red-blooded solo sense. This is of course not entirely necessary, but even in a collaboration like this it pays to make use of your strongest resources, and some extra power from the violin here and there would have helped in terms of contrast and expressive range. There is a sentimental feel to some of the numbers which contemporary music fans may find a bit much, but for listeners tentatively preparing to cross the bridge into the territory of improvised music there is much which is easily accessible here, and the ‘easy’ numbers will help you tap into the deeper regions of the more exploratory tracks. There are mercifully few moments where you feel the level of invention is fizzling out or that certain moments are being over stretched, though the fall-back piano accompaniment is one of ostinati with relatively few surprises in store once a pattern has been established. The ‘prepared’ element of the piano sound adds colour, texture and interest, and should hold no fears for the inquisitive.
 
-- Dominy Clements, MusicWeb International

"Silfra unfolds like half-remembered scenes from dreams. Textures and images shift randomly, triggered by an odd assortment of sounds that can frighten or delight...With persistent buzzes and bonks in the keyboard (he sets household items like the aluminum shells of tea lights on the piano strings) and whistling, icy scrapes from the fiddle, the piece ebbs, flows and builds slowly in a mesmerizing way.

Yet Hahn and Hauschka have more practical descriptions of the music. In "Bounce Bounce," a rubber ball — like a bass drum — gets bounced against the piano frame...Other songs were inspired by the ash of erupting volcanoes and heaving ocean waves.

The title, Silfra, comes from the serene Icelandic landscape near Reykjavik where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates almost touch within a lake of uncommonly clear and cold water...It's a handy metaphor for this fascinating new album — where two opposite and unlikely musicians meet in a special place to make music of the unknown." -- Tom Huizenga, NPR
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Works on This Recording

1.
Stillness by Hilary Hahn
Performer:  Hilary Hahn (Violin), Hauschka (Prepared Piano)
Notes: This work was written in collaboration with Hilary Hahn and Volker Bertelmann (Hauschka). 
2.
Bounce Bounce by Hilary Hahn
Performer:  Hilary Hahn (Violin), Hauschka (Prepared Piano)
Notes: This work was written in collaboration with Hilary Hahn and Volker Bertelmann (Hauschka). 
3.
Clock Winder by Hilary Hahn
Performer:  Hilary Hahn (Violin), Hauschka (Prepared Piano)
Notes: This work was written in collaboration with Hilary Hahn and Volker Bertelmann (Hauschka). 
4.
Adash by Hilary Hahn
Performer:  Hilary Hahn (Violin), Hauschka (Prepared Piano)
Notes: This work was written in collaboration with Hilary Hahn and Volker Bertelmann (Hauschka). 
5.
Godot by Hilary Hahn
Performer:  Hilary Hahn (Violin), Hauschka (Prepared Piano)
Notes: This work was written in collaboration with Hilary Hahn and Volker Bertelmann (Hauschka). 
6.
Krakow by Hilary Hahn
Performer:  Hilary Hahn (Violin), Hauschka (Prepared Piano)
Notes: This work was written in collaboration with Hilary Hahn and Volker Bertelmann (Hauschka). 
7.
North Atlantic by Hilary Hahn
Performer:  Hilary Hahn (Violin), Hauschka (Prepared Piano)
Notes: This work was written in collaboration with Hilary Hahn and Volker Bertelmann (Hauschka). 
8.
Draw a Map by Hilary Hahn
Performer:  Hilary Hahn (Violin), Hauschka (Prepared Piano)
Notes: This work was written in collaboration with Hilary Hahn and Volker Bertelmann (Hauschka). 
9.
Ashes by Hilary Hahn
Performer:  Hilary Hahn (Violin), Hauschka (Prepared Piano)
Notes: This work was written in collaboration with Hilary Hahn and Volker Bertelmann (Hauschka). 
10.
Sink by Hilary Hahn
Performer:  Hilary Hahn (Violin), Hauschka (Prepared Piano)
Notes: This work was written in collaboration with Hilary Hahn and Volker Bertelmann (Hauschka). 
11.
Halo of Honey by Hilary Hahn
Performer:  Hilary Hahn (Violin), Hauschka (Prepared Piano)
Notes: This work was written in collaboration with Hilary Hahn and Volker Bertelmann (Hauschka). 
12.
Rift by Hilary Hahn
Performer:  Hilary Hahn (Violin), Hauschka (Prepared Piano)
Notes: This work was written in collaboration with Hilary Hahn and Volker Bertelmann (Hauschka). 

Sound Samples

Stillness
Bounce Bounce
Clock Winder
Adash
Godot
Krakow
North Atlantic
Draw A Map
Ashes
Sink
Halo Of Honey
Rift

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 Twenty first century impressionism October 30, 2012 By S. Livingston (Peabody, MA) See All My Reviews "I really enjoyed listening to this on LP. It was great to hear new music on LP instead of recycled music from the past of which I already own many of the original LPs. Thank you DGG for putting this out on LP. I am buying the CD just to compare the sound. It is great to hear Hahn for a change not on CD, but closer to what she really sounds like in concert. The LP is 180gm with very silent backgrounds. If you are into music on the 2L label by such composers as Johny Berg, you will like this amazingly impressionistic, touching and humorous music. It will carry you to new soundfields and dimensions of great music making. Hope you enjoy it." Report Abuse
 Hilary Hahn "Silfra" recent release. June 29, 2012 By Eric VonMagnus (Woolwich, ME) See All My Reviews "Hahn is a brilliant and imaginative violinist. Unfortunately, the music itself in "Silfra" is unimaginative and somewhat boring." Report Abuse
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