Silfra ist das beeindruckende Ergebnis einer mehr als zwei Jahre behutsam und organisch gewachsenen Zusammenarbeit. Die amerikanische Violinistin Hilary Hahn und der deutsche Pianist Hauschka haben eine Platte aufgenommen, deren Kern der Forschungsprozess, das Ausprobieren ist. Als wichtigste Triebfeder für die Zusammenarbeit nennen beide die große Neugier und die Faszination für die Arbeit des anderen. Die Musik auf Silfra ist frei improvisiert, sie entstand bei der Aufnahme
selbst im renommierten Greenhouse Studio in Reykjavik auf Island. Produzent der Platte ist Valgeir Sigurdsson, isländischer Produzent und Labelmacher. Der Titel Silfra bezieht sich auf ein isländisches Naturphänomen - die Silfra-Spalte - ein Meeresgraben, der unter Island auf der Nahtstelle, an der die Kontinentalplatten von Nordamerika und Eurasien aufeinandertreffen, liegt.
Silfra, a project of American violinist Hilary Hahn and German pianist Hauschka, is the result of a collaboration that developed gradually and organically over more than two years. Hahn and Hauschka met through the American folk musician Tom Brosseau, whose 2007 album Grand Forks features Hahn as a guest performer. (Brosseau has recorded for the same label as Hauschka, and the two gave a joint U. S. tour in 2008.) When Hahn performed a concert in Dusseldorf in October 2008, Brosseau made sure Hauschka would be in the audience. Their brief meeting after the concert was positive and friendly, although there was no discussion of working together. That changed a few weeks later when the pianist performed with Brosseau and the Magik*Magik Orchestra at the Hotel Utah in San Francisco. When Hahn joined them onstage for an improvised finale, an idea was born.
Both Hahn and Hauschka wanted to collaborate on something completely new, a venture into uncharted musical terrain that would nonetheless preserve their individual artistry. The as-yet-undefined project, centered on exploration and experimentation, was motivated by mutual respect and curiosity about each other’s work. They began rehearsing together (although these were anything but formal rehearsals) in early 2009, discovering, through improvisation, more about their respective musical approaches while beginning to identify and define a shared musical language. When they were once again in different parts of the world, their collaboration continued through the exchange of digital music files, to which the recipient would add new improvisations and ideas. Only one public indication of their work together appeared during this time, when Hahn played a violin solo on the track ‘Girls’ on Hauschka’s 2011 album Salon des Amateurs.
For Hauschka, who creates new sounds and modifies the dynamics of the piano by inserting small pieces of metal, clips, or different kinds of foils into its strings, improvisation is a crucial element of performance. For Hahn, improvising has become an important way to arrive at new interpretations of composed works.
Hauschka and Hahn first began talking about going into the recording studio early in 2011. Here, too, the process itself was the goal. They told no one of their plans, neither their colleagues nor their record companies, in the hope of keeping external pressures from influencing the outcome of their collaboration. Hahn and Hauschka met at the prestigious Greenhouse Studios in Reykjavik, Iceland, in late spring, arriving with no scores, ignoring pieces they had already developed, aiming to create new works entirely through improvisation.
The only exception to this was a single piano line Hauschka had previously sent to Hahn as a trigger for improvisation. Its sepia-tinted nostalgia intrigued her. They revisited the track, with Hahn reworking the violin parts on the spot, resulting in ‘Krakow.’ (This is also the only track on the album featuring unprepared piano.)
Hahn and Hauschka’s unconventional working method – after all, musicians usually go into the studio to record music they have already prepared – ensured that the spontaneity and prevailing mood of their sessions was captured in the recordings. In this they had the valuable and sympathetic assistance of producer Valgeir Sigurðsson, who has worked with artists ranging from Björk to Bonnie Prince Billie. The music’s positive energy is almost tangible, its combination of seriousness and a distinct lightness of touch reflecting the artistic confidence that had developed between the two musicians.
Titles of individual pieces reinforce their auditory associations. ‘Godot,’ the longest piece, exudes an austere agitation: a metallic knocking sound generated by Hauschka on the prepared piano is looped and made to rise and fall. A wash of vibrating piano strings creates a sense of mysterious urgency while Hahn’s violin floats above, conveying the imponderability of Being.
The cool elegance of ‘North Atlantic’ evokes the breathtaking clarity of underwater worlds – the piano’s metallic hues conjuring up images of sunbeams dancing just below the surface of the water, the seductive lightness of the violin gradually transforming into a powerful force that draws the listener down into the lonely depths.
Rapid changes of rhythm and pizzicato violin lend ‘Draw a Map’ an air of organized chaos based intermittently on patterns. A dialogue of melodies and rhythmic set pieces adds a note of optimism to the overall melancholy mood of ‘Ashes.’
‘On Halo of Honey,’ Hahn’s violin at times sings like a refined musical saw, while Hauschka’s piano produces sounds reminiscent of rusty doors. In its simplicity and calmness, however, the piece unfolds like an underwater saga.
The title of the album – Silfra – is also a reflection of how the two artists see their work together. Silfra is a geographic feature near Reykjavik, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. Hahn and Hauschka’s collaboration does not simply combine their separate musical experience but merges their different approaches into a single dynamic voice. And the world has gained some wonderful music as a result. (Sylvia Prahl)
,,Hahn spielt sehr offen und assoziativ, deutet Melodien oft nur an, bevor sie von Hauschkas sirrendem, klapperndem und geklopftem Klavier umspült und übertönt werden wie ferner Sirenengesang vom aufbrandenden Meer." (Rolling Stone, Mai 2012)
,,Auch Silfra entstand auf Basis gemeinsamer Improvisationen, wurde 2011 in Island aufgezeichnet und setzt eine Art Beziehungsgeschichte mit all den Nebengeräuschen in Szene, die zwei Instrumentalisten in mehreren Sessions erfuhren." (musikexpress, Juni 2012)
,,Zwischen Hahn und Hauschka scheint die Chemie zu stimmen, nach einer kurzen Begegnung in Düsseldorf vor einigen Jahren und einem ersten gemeinsamen Auftritt in San Francisco entwickelte sich schnell eine kreative künstlerische Beziehung, ,,Silfra" ist das vorläufige Ergebnis. (...) Hauschka ist ein wahrer Virtuose, wenn es darum geht, den Klavierklang kreativ und gewagt zu verfremden." (FONO FORUM, September 2012)