A year ago, Aleksey Igudesman and Hyung-ki Joo brought their brand of musical duo comedy to Seattle’s Town Hall under difficult circumstances, and killed despite everything.
They’re glad to be coming back, this time playing Benaroya Hall on Thursday with a special collaborator: the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.
“We had a fantastic time last year at Town Hall,” says pianist Joo. “We were shocked at how great the audience was.”
“We arrived in Seattle after one of our hardest travels,” says violinist Igudesman. “We got in just before the show after many time changes and thought, how are we going to get through this? We were so tired. But from the moment we came on stage, the audience carried us through.”
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Igudesman and Joo brought their international hit program “A Little Nightmare Music,” complete with musical jokes, slapstick and a diverse repertoire, here last time. Now they’re ramping things up with “BIG Nightmare Music,” which they have taken to symphony orchestras in Belgrade, Hong Kong, Cannes and elsewhere.
Joo, born in England to South Korean parents, and the Leningrad-born Igudesman, both 40, performed “BIG” with the New York Philharmonic on New Year’s Eve, drawing members of the orchestra into their calculated silliness.
Seattle should expect the same.
“The musicians don’t just accompany us, they are really involved,” says Igudesman. “They’ll be dancing, singing and crying with us. Many orchestra musicians have said it’s very therapeutic for them.”
“Most musicians relish the chance to have fun, and it just takes a bit of cajoling,” says Joo. “The thing is, everybody has an inner child. We give the players a chance to be kids and to have fun with music.
“The audience sees the musicians are human, and that makes a closer connection between audience and orchestra.”
Igudesman and Joo met at age 12 at the Yehudi Menuhin School for young musicians in Surrey, England. They joined forces in 2004 to revive what they consider the lost art of humor in music.
“The concept of comedy with music has been around for hundreds of years,” says Joo. “At some point in the late 19th and 20th centuries, music started taking itself way too seriously. “
Igudesman and Joo have a huge following on YouTube, where one can find highlights from “BIG Nightmare Music.” Among them is “,” which finds string players engaged in Celtic footwork.
“Where’s the Remote Control” has the orchestra jumping randomly between measures of Beethoven, Brahms and Mendelssohn, as if someone kept pressing a skip button.
Symphony orchestras are happy to book Igudesman and Joo at a time when building new audiences is a challenge.
“What’s wonderful is that we have a lot of people who don’t usually attend symphonic concerts,” says Igudesman. “We’re very happy to give a boost to classical music.”
Tom Keogh: email@example.com