What first stands out about Horsky Park is how stellar both Tiziana Bertoncini’s and Thomas Lehn’s playing is. Their performances on violin and analog synthesizer, respectively, are so notable that each could stand alone as a solo affair. Yet on Horsky Park, the listener is confronted by a duo, a setting wherein virtuosity is neither necessary nor necessarily admissible. Despite the pitfalls that individuality presents in group improvisation, Horsky Park in whole is as laudable as Bertoncini’s and Lehn’s ‘solo’ contributions, if not more.
Recorded at Festival Pulsi, Triennale Bovisa last July (“galaverna”) and the festival Art Ort in 2006 (“moss agate”), Horsky Park is the documentation of two sonically and technically distinct pieces that are nonetheless thematically akin. In both “galaverna” and “moss agate,” Bertoncini’s violin asserts an aural leading role, often evolving in directions that allude to composed/notated idioms. With Bertoncini’s direction, Lehn’s synthesizer frequently interjects in a reactionary role, engaging in call-response motifs and direct re-appropriation of Bertoncini’s sounds. But contrary to the subservient possibilities of this dominance, there is a balance between the two instruments that suggests a heftier engagement on Lehn’s part than intimated by an aural glance. Indeed, Lehn’s manipulations in “moss agate” provide much of the separation between the two sets.
The chronological first track “moss agate” is characterized by Lehn’s reinterpretation of Bertoncini’s violin, hijacking the audio signal from the violin, “rout[ing it] into the synthesizer’s external input to achieve a cross-effecting realtime sound processing.” Lehn’s technique is used to great effect, generating an eerie cyclic structure that perfectly complements Bertoncini’s percussive approach and the festival ambiance captured in the recording.
Contrasted by the Lachenmann-esque plucking of “moss agate,” Bertoncini’s playing on “galaverna” employs longer durations and melodic contours. Still stylistically indebted to notated music, Bertoncini’s playing instead resembles Berio’s Sequenza VIII, a refreshing departure from the sorts of string playing often found in improvised music. Supporting and subverting these violin manifolds is Lehn, who, while often dormant, deftly prods with his synthesizer. Sometimes inserting near humorous tonality, sometimes bursting with violent shouts, Lehn’s instrument is rich in character on “galaverna.”
But it’s the equal-tempered fullness of their instruments that equilibrates Horsky Park, allowing two big personalities to co-habitate. And, as marvelous as each performance is, what might be most striking about this album is the duo’s commensurate coexistence in sets four years apart, both temporally and aurally.