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4.1 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Audio CD, May 22, 2012
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Editorial Reviews

Silfra is the impressive result of a musical collaboration that developed gradually and organically over more than two years. American violinist Hilary Hahn and German pianist Hauschka were introduced by the American folk musician Tom Brosseau, who is signed to the same label as Hauschka. He and Brosseau had recently done a joint concert tour of the United States, and shortly before that Hilary Hahn had featured on Brosseau s album Grand Forks. So when the award-winning violinist performed a concert in Dusseldorf in October 2008, Brosseau made sure that Hauschka was in the audience. The mood at their brief meeting after the concert was positive and friendly, although at that point there was no talk of them working together. This changed a few weeks later, however, when Hauschka performed with Brosseau and the Magik*Magik Orchestra at the Hotel Utah in San Francisco, and Hilary Hahn joined them for the last, improvised piece. An idea was born. Another few weeks passed before Hahn and Hauschka had the opportunity to discuss it in more detail. Both knew that they wanted to work together on something completely new. The idea was to find a form of collaboration that would allow them to venture into new musical terrain but still preserve their singular virtuosity. There was to be no specific objective, however the project was centred on exploration and experimentation. Both of these exceptionally gifted musicians have said that their curiosity about and interested in the other person s work was an important motivation behind their collaboration.
Hahn and Hauschka began rehearsing together in early 2009 although these cannot really be described as rehearsals in a traditional sense. Through improvisation they discovered more about their respective musical approaches while defining a shared musical language.When they were in different parts of the world they would send each other music files and then improvise on these pieces or layer them with additional sound tracks. The only public indication of their collaboration was when Hahn played solo violin on the track Girls on Hauschka s album Salon des Amateurs, which was released in 2011.
For Hauschka, who prepares the strings of his piano with small pieces of metal, clips or different kinds of foils to create new sounds and modify the dynamics of the instrument, improvisation is a crucial element in his everyday life as a performer. And for Hahn, too, improvising is a way of adding new dimensions to her interpretations of composed works.
In early 2011 Hauschka and Hahn first began talking about going into the recording studio. Here, too, the process itself was the goal, and for this reason they didn t tell anyone what they were planning neither their colleagues nor their record companies were informed, so that no commissioning agent or external pressure could influence the outcome of their collaborative efforts. In May 2011 Hahn and Hauschka met at the prestigious Greenhouse Studios in Reykjavik, Iceland. They took no scores with them and ignored the set pieces they had already developed, as everything they were going to record was to be improvised.
The only exception to this was the piano line of Krakow. Hauschka had previously sent this to Hahn and asked her to improvise on it. Its sepia-tinted nostalgia intrigued her. During the recordings, they revisited the track and Hahn reworked the violin parts on the spot. Krakow is also the only track on the album where Hauschka did not prepare the piano.
This unconventional working method after all, musicians usually go into the studio to record music they have already prepared enabled Hahn and Hauschka to integrate the prevailing mood and their spontaneous impressions into their recondings. Producer Valgeir Sigurðsson, who has worked with a diverse array of artists ranging from Björk to Bonnie Prince Billie, und


1. Stillness
2. Bounce Bounce
3. Clock Winder (Before Stroll)
4. Adash (Before Clock Winder)
5. Godot
6. Krakow
7. North Atlantic
8. Draw A Map
9. Ashes
10. Sink
11. Halo Of Honey
12. Rift

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Product Details

  • Composer: Hilary Hahn, Hauschka
  • Audio CD (May 22, 2012)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • ASIN: B007FOV0UI
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #102,932 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By T. Fisher VINE VOICE on May 22, 2012
Format: Audio CD
First of all, anyone expecting this to resemble any of violin virtuosa Hilary Hahn's previous work will be severely disappointed. However, this album does fit in very well with certain contemporary music, including a lot of other great music coming out of Iceland. Judged against this background, Hahn and Volker Bertelmann, a master of prepared piano who performs under the name Hauschka, have come up with an exciting set of recordings that pack an artistic and emotional punch.

The album was recorded at the studio of Icelandic producer Valgeir Sigurðsson, who founded the Bedroom Community record label and has frequently worked with Björk. The recording sessions for Silfra lasted ten days, and Hahn and Hauschka brought practically no material with them to the studio. They set out to create new music, and the recording process appears to have mainly been based on basic tracks recorded in joint improvisation which were then filled out with successive layers of overdubs to fill out the sound and add new dimensions.

Broadly speaking, I found two main types of music on this album: rhythmically driven tracks and slower, atmospheric pieces. Where rhythms are strong, they are often downright exuberant. Many tracks -- particularly Bounce Bounce, Adash, Draw a Map, and Sink -- are just a lot of fun. Others, such as Stillness, Ashes, and Rift, are more subdued, wistful and/or contemplative.

The centerpiece of the album, the 12-minute opus Godot, varies between searing atmospherics and edgy, often jackhammer-like percussive sounds from the prepared piano.

The most traditionally structured track is Krakow, which was the only piece of music that did not wholly originate from the Iceland sessions as Hauschka recorded the basic piano track at his home.
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Format: Audio CD
I'm quite fond of prepared piano and certain minimalist works, and I think Hahn is a formidable violinist. When the news about this CD reached my ears, I was excited; I like it when classical musicians record something that hasn't been recorded for a hundred times. After listening to the album, however, I have to say that I'm not that impressed.

The music is pleasant enough, with interesting acoustics, but really, what do you expect when a prepared piano is involved? I laud the musicians for doing improvisations, but I would rather listen to something carefully written out if this is all they can do with improvisations. Hauschka is quite ok, but Hahn... She's a great violinist. In the past, I had the pleasure to hear some truly great improvisations, and I have to say this is not. I feel that the music lacks a real sense of composition that gives a piece structure, that gets me return to a piece over and over again. To me the music itself is not very memorable in the first place, which is fine if it's interesting enough for repeated listening. The thing is, I don't find it interesting enough.

As for the novelty element... Barring the fact that it's done by classical musicians, there's not much new here. You can find similar sounds in many post-rock or ambient albums. If there's something that could have set Hahn and Hauschka apart from those musicians, it's that they could have given the music the level of structure that usually only musicians with classical training can achieve. But oh well... Dare I say, those musicians with much less formal training have done better.

Maybe my expectation was too high. I was hoping to hear the "Tabula Rasa" (a minimalist work written by Arvo Part in the 1980s for Gidon Kremer) of our age - not in terms of style, but in terms of inspirations and impact. Now I guess I'll just have to stick to that for some time longer.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Five INSPIRED Stars! A great musical duo. On "Silfra", Grammy-winning classical violin virtuoso Hilary Hahn and the inventive avant-garde pianist/composer Hauschka (aka Volker Bertelmann) produce exhilarating, modernist, non-conventional, totally-improvised duo performances. After two years of periodic preparatory sessions, they went to Greenhouse studio in Reykjavik, Iceland for 10 days to produce these amazing musical tone poems. "Silfra" re-introduces us to the adventuresome side of Hilary Hahn (who has performed with a beat-boxer and was last recorded with Valentina Lisitsa playing Charles Ives: Four Sonatas). And it displays Hauschka's prodigious musical acumen and his complex 'prepared piano' with its wide universe of sounds, using objects like ping-pong balls, foil, duck tape, floss, and mallets on the strings to produce sounds like cymbals, drums, clicks, continuous tones, and bell-like sounds whose pitch can be altered to startling effect. Hahn uses her wide palette of violin sounds and effects, arco and pizzicato, very inventively in this partnership. At times, one is not able to distinguish the piano from the violin. These improvisational pieces are neither classical, pop, nor jazz but something uniquely approachable and beautiful, without conventional compositional structure.Read more ›
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