Hilary Hahn & Hauschka, Silfra

Steve Holtje

By Steve Holtje

on 05.23.12 in Reviews


Hilary Hahn

Cross-genre collaborations are inherently risky. For every peanut-butter-and-chocolate innovation, there are a dozen sardines-and-chutney mismatches. That classical violinist Hahn would improvise with a composer (Hauschka) who favors prepared piano and electronics was not an obvious fit. But the result is a considered studio product that still sounds spontaneous.

A considered cross-genre product that still sounds spontaneous

They stick close to classical norms on a few tracks — notably, “Krakow,” where Hahn plays bits of melody over Hauschka’s chord progression on an untreated piano. More often, they make music of alternately clashing or meshing textures, complementary gestures where, occasionally, listeners can’t be sure which instrument’s making which sound. While this is largely due to Hauschka’s mechanical and electronic alterations to his piano sound, Hahn also deploys a wider variety of timbres than she’s used before.

This may disturb classical purists, and some Hauschka fans might feel that the ambient sound sculptures that characterized his previous albums is less soothing in this context. The lengthiest track, “Godot” (12:34), creates an atmosphere of expectation so tense as to verge on sinister. But then, that unease lurked below the surface of much of Hauschka’s previous work, so the still-beautiful Silfra is a natural and welcome progression.