If you told someone you were going to a Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (WSO) concert this weekend, they would never have envisaged Sunday's Big Nightmare Music. Headliners Aleksey Igudesman and Hyung-ki Joo are two wild and crazy guys.
Schoolmates in England since the age of 12, they've combined their musical talents (Igudesman on violin, Joo on piano) to create a fast-paced, imaginative and highly entertaining show that melds classical music with pop culture. Sunday's concert was their third of the weekend, but you'd never know it from the high-energy delivery. The duo went non-stop from beginning to end and took a willing audience along for the ride.
No composer's music was sacred, as Igudesman and Joo (I & J) tinkered and tampered with everyone from Mozart to Rachmaninov, Bach to Mussorgsky. Mozart's Symphony No. 40 was diluted with themes from the 1962 James Bond film Dr. No; Rondo alla Turca was transformed into a Klezmer-like dance with Igudesman wiggling and rocking as he played. Encouraged by Joo to "open his Chakra" and "let the energy flow from within," he even played while adopting the yoga tree pose.
Joo displayed strong vocals, breaking into All by Myself partway through Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No.2. He milked this to the hilt, breaking down into sobs, as did members of the orchestra.
Violinist Simon MacDonald collapsed on the floor, overcome by emotion, while cellist Arlene Dahl and stand-mate Margaret Askeland took out gigantic handkerchiefs and blew their noses.
As funny as I & J were, the participation of the orchestra was especially hysterical. They were totally involved, jumping up and down in their seats, singing, making hand motions and sound effects, even dancing jigs while playing. They were the epitome of good sports and seemed to be having a blast.
Conductor Richard Lee even got in on the act, as a slow-motion referee during the Baroque composers' wrestling match. Igudesman was Vivaldi, the Red Priest, sporting a long, curly red wig. Joo was a white-wigged Bach.
We cringed with laughter at Igudesman's Uruguay. Acting and singing as a Latin sex object, but looking like anything but in a tacky ruffled satin shirt, he sang in a faux-sultry voice and slimed around the stage.
I & J ended the afternoon with Gloria Gaynor's disco hit I Will Survive with a Jewish twist, Igudesman employing a kind of vibrating instrument on his violin instead of a bow. We heard strains of Killing Me Softly, Rocky, Handel's Passacaglia and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg all wrapped into one.
It just goes to show you never know what you are in for at a WSO concert.
Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra
-- Pops Series
-- Big Nightmare Music
-- Centennial Concert Hall
-- Sunday, Nov. 4
'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö out of five