Album Review: Hilary Hahn & Hauschka - Silfra

10 July 2012 | 1:53 pm | Sky Kirkham

For all the unsettling moments, the unusual treatment of instruments and the occasional atonality, each track reaches a point of resolution that fulfils and changes the nature of the piece.

Hilary Hahn & Hauschka bring different classical approaches to their main bodies of work. Hahn is a virtuosic violinist who has played with the London Symphony and New York Philharmonic orchestras, among many others. Hauschka works with prepared piano, inspired by the likes of John Cage and Erik Satie. For most of their combined oeuvres though, they have dealt in beauty, occasionally abstract as that may be.

Silfra saw the pair retreat to the Icelandic studio of Valgeir Sigurdsson, head of the Bedroom Community record label, to work together on a series of improvisational pieces that have combined their compositional aesthetics and bred something entirely different. Krakow is the closest to traditional classical, a sepia-tinged track with slow melancholic string progressions and pretty piano melodies (this is in fact the only track on the album to feature entirely non-prepared piano).

Most of the other tracks are closer in spirit to the work typically found on Sigurdsson's label. Hauschka's piano twitches mechanically, while Hahn's violin stretches and shrieks, creating an unsettling wash of music that dances on the border of discordance before settling back into melody. The more ambient tracks, meanwhile, give a powerful sense of place; wind seems to blow and footfalls creak across empty halls while distant strains of music echo, lost.

For all the unsettling moments, the unusual treatment of instruments and the occasional atonality, each track reaches a point of resolution that fulfils and changes the nature of the piece, the sunrise after a dark night, and proves that experimentation aside; these two composers are still working in the realm of beauty.

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