Pianists Joachim Kühn and Michael Wollny make for a stirring combination on their latest venture, Live At Schloss Elmau. Recorded live on September 10, 2008 at Schloss Elmau in Germany, and produced by Siegfried Loch, the album profiles the contrasts and complimenting characteristics of Kühn and Wollny’s playing on the Steinway Grand Piano as Kühn brings to the recording traditional stride motifs and the youthful Wollny adheres to a contemporary approach in his harmonies and movements to initiate interaction and reciprocate Kühn’s callings. Kühn and Wollny’s exchanges seem to communicate on a telepathic level that engages and fascinates their audience. They adjust to each other’s settings immediately, and play as if they are limbs belonging to the same body.
Kühn and Wollny show immense sensitivity to each other’s improvisations with an ability to key into each other’s thought patterns with a keen perception about when to come in and what to play. Wollny plays the left channel and Kühn plays the right channel enabling their voices to intertwine without stepping on each other’s toes or having one overwhelm the other. Many pieces draw out the duo’s intensity and inclination for sparseness like in "The Colours Of The Wind" where their exertions have an introspective voice. Though their volume is slender, their collaboration emotes huge feelings as if they reach into thoughts that have been coveted for far too long and rise up into colossal cloud bursts. This piece is the equivalent to the Latin dance, the Paso Doble, which is based on similar principles of exerting intensity while using sparse but dramatic movements.
"Hexentanz" or "Witch Dance" offers dynamic expressions which shift suddenly between manic punctuations and repressed inlets. The duo coordinates their brusque and tempestuous crashes against alternating segments of inlets with gingerly splayed glides and softly drifting keys, while "Elmau" is less capricious and resigns to a peaceful fluidity shaded in a bluesy aura. The piano keys dance around like dainty forest sprites traipsing through the woods in the pair’s rendition of Bach’s "Chaconne," stepping lightly as they frolic and release brightly beamed sensations. The delicate shifts in "Seawalk" and "Encore" bring out the duo’s intensity and penchant to communicate in a sparse voice. Critics of Joachim Kühn and Michael Wollny’s performance say that the two do not need to shout at each other to be heard, but rather their telepathic exchanges channel their high emotions for them.
Joachim Kühn and Michael Wollny seem to be on the same side at all times even as their music reaches a high intensity that exerts tempestuous raptures. The two applied Kühn’s own harmonic concept of the "diminished-augmented system" to keep their channels aligned. Kühn and Wollny are so in tuned to each other that the listener cannot tell who is the mentor and who is the protégé. Joachim Kühn was born in Leipzig in 1944, and Michael Wollny was born in 1978 in Schweinfurt, Germany. Kühn has been a major figure in European jazz since the 1960’s, and Wollny has been dubbed the quintessential new millennium whiz kid. Their performance on September 10, 2008 at the ACT "Jazz and Friendship" festival in Schloss Elmau must have been a pinnacle moment in both of their lives, if this recording is any indication of the energy that transpires between these two dynamic performers.