The basement of a converted church couldn’t be a better setting for an avant-guard piano recital. A drafty, half-empty room, lit by electric candle-style chandeliers and filled with an eclectic mix of students, trendy-types and artistic folk sat through three hours of experimental guitar and cello, waiting in anticipation for the arrival of musician/composer Hauschka.
Hauschka is the alias of Dusseldorf-based Volker Bertelmann. He bounded on the stage, resplendent in blazer, tight-jeans and the obligatory arty-type flowing scarf, and spent a good five minutes chatting to the crowd, introducing new album Foreign Landscapes. Then the lights dimmed further, a breathy silence settled, and he turned to his ramshackle piano.
Aided by masking tape, wooden spoons, kitchen foil and other household objects, Hauschka is able to turn the humble piano into a complete orchestra, creating the sense of cellos, violins and even trumpets. The majority of his work has a dark, hollow sound, enhanced by his liberal use of the sustain pedal juxtaposed with staccato notes. Whilst his compositions have little discernable structure, it is clear that he is a fantastic engineer and inventor.
Comparisons to other artists are difficult to make – here is a man whose newest album seeks to convey a sense of travel and the concept of various locations close to his heart. The poignant ‘Alexanderplatz’, which features Hauschka’s prepared piano and a splash of violins attempts to convey the haunting atmosphere that remains within the square in former East Berlin. The happier Madiera is a tribute to the island that Hauschka was left stranded on after a concert.
Much of the music is lost on me – like most modern art, the pieces are only significant to those capable of understanding and appreciating the concepts the artist wishes to convey. However, it is clear the Hauschka is an exceptionally talented innovator, whose latest work awaits high critical acclaim.