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Slapstick symphony is classic comedy; Anarchic classical duo Igudesman & Joo bring their unique blend of music and mirth to Symphony Hall next week. ALISON JONES learns audiences should expect the unexpected.

WHEN Aleksey Igudesman and Hyung-ki Joo first met as children at the Yehudi Menuhin School in Cobham, it was not exactly like at first sight.

In fact there were several near scraps between the two boys before they bonded over a takeaway treat.

"Hyung-ki bought some chips into the room," says Aleksey. "Traditionally boarding school food is not the best in the world and we were craving anything tasty. That was a really big gesture."

" Violinist Aleksey, who was born in Leningrad, and pianist Hyung-ki, who hails from Norwich ("I grew up on Rainbow and Mr Men. I am British through and through,"Classical musicians though I look Korean") started talking and began to connect through their beliefs about music and art.

often blinkered they down other music. don't. think a validity every music; in hip-funk, "At the age of 12 and 13 we were huge philosophers," continues Aleksey. "Knowing nothing but believing that we knew everything about life, music and in which direction the world of music should be going. Basically our opinions have stayed the same."

That direction, they thought, should be a return to the more informal, spontaneous and crowdpleasing experience that classical music used to be back when composers like Mozart were first writing their concertos and symphonies.

"We would go to concerts and be quite amazed at this very elitist, ceremonial proceeding," explains Hyung-ki. "The audience was falling asleep, the hair was grey and there was just this over seriousness, over stiffness which was not doing the music any service at all.

"At the premiere of Mozart's Violin Concerto the soloist was doing magic tricks with the bow and violin in between movements," he reveals. "There was much more spirit of fun, of creativity.

'' "We are not saying that fun is the solution but it is certainly a way to break down unnecessary borders.

are very and look on all kinds of We We there is in kind of in jazz, "We had wonderful teachers (at Yehudi Menuhin) who encouraged us in our madness, in our frivolousness in trying to do different things."

" Fun is certainly at a premium in the shows that Aleksey and op, R&B HYUNG-KI have put together, an often riotous collision of music and mirth that is designed to appeal to audiences of all ages, from classical HYUNG-KI aficionados to people who never set foot in a concert hall before.

"We don't really like the word classical," says Hyung-ki. "We are classically trained and we are serious musicians but we find the word classical very restricting.

"Classical musicians are often very blinkered and they look down on all other kinds of music. We don't. We think there is a validity in every kind of music; in jazz, in hip-hop, funk, R&B, and we include that in our shows as well. We don't turn up our noses.

"There have been people who have come to our shows having no idea what to expect, thinking it is just going to be a chamber music recital and in most cases being very pleasantly surprised."

Which is why Aleksey might set aside his violin to start singing disco hit I Will Survive as if it were an old Russian folk song.

It is why Hyung-ki, trying to be helpful and turning pages, might end up throwing them about the stage.

It is why the pair might bring the orchestra supporting them to its feet and have them dancing like a chorus line.

They are bringing their show BIG Nightmare Music to Symphony Hall on Wednesday. The title is a play on Eine kleine Nachtmusik but also a clue as to what audiences might expect with every calamity that might befall an orchestra/musician milked for laughs.

"We try to embrace nightmares," says Hyung-ki. "Every time you go on stage, it doesn't matter if you are a musician or a speaker, something is going to go wrong. A fly landing on your nose, a bulb going out or someone having a coughing fit.

"You can either lose it and be distracted or take it as something positive and play off it."

"Sometimes when things have gone wrong in performances they have been funnier than what we have written," says Aleksey.

"One time Hyung-ki was lying underneath the piano because he was very tired and fell asleep. When he came up he actually banged his head on the piano very hard. The audience laughed so much we incorporated it into show."

"Which is probably why I will be brain damaged in a few years," mutters Hyung-ki.

As British boarders the pair were raised on the humour of Monty Python, Not The Nine O'Clock News, Fry and Laurie.

They have tried to combine the surreal with the smart, drawing on their considerable technical skill and knowledge to create inspired yet apparently accidental farce.

"Humour has a lot of parallels to music," says Aleksey. "For both timing is everything. It can be one second for something to be a perfectly beautiful and emotional or to be not quite as convincing.

"Sometimes a joke can be hilarious just because of that one breath that you take longer."

They have gained many famous fans, some who have joined them on stage like John Malkovich and Billy Joel.

"Our show is always full of surprises," says Hyung-ki. "Even if we don't have a special guest up our sleeve we also love to surprise each other.

"One of things we tell orchestras when we start rehearsing with them is 'if any of you guys have some crazy idea that you have always wanted to try out or you see an opportunity to do something silly, don't ask us, just do it.' .' As long as it doesn't disturb us or the general flow of the show everybody has carte blanche. We just have to do our best not to corpse and crack up."

For their UK shows, Igudesman & Joo will be supported by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

"They invited us," says Hyung-ki.

"We have performed with the New York Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, so they probably took heart from that.

"Traditionally the orchestra is there to serve more as an accompanying role to the soloist. In our show that is absolutely not the case, they are essential theatrical characters.

"I think orchestras love to have us because the audiences connect with their local orchestra. They see them as human beings and wiling to let their inner child out."

| Igudesman & Joo: BIG Nightmare Music will be at Symphony Hall on Wednesday, September 17. For tickets call 0121 345 0600 or look up

to is to '"Classical musicians are often very blinkered and they look down on all other kinds of music. We don't. We think there is a validity in every kind of music; in jazz, in hip-hop, funk, R&"Hyung-ki


Igudesman & Joo bring |their BIG Nightmare Music show to Symphony Hall, supported by the London Philharmonic Orchestra
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Sep 12, 2014
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