Mad Music: Igudesman & Joo come to Steamboat
By Laura Bassel
Traveling the world with your best friend is a dream, but
doing it for a career that you both love? Next to impossible. Aleksey Igudesman
and Hyung-ki Joo, however, are an exception. The two play and compose their way
through Europe and embark on the U.S. part of their tour in July, which will
bring the musical match to Steamboat Springs on Wednesday, July 22.
Since age 12 when they met at the prestigious Yehudi Menuhin School in England the two have been colleagues in the musical realm, but it wasn’t until a shared meal of fish and chips that the two became friends. “We didn't like each other at first,” Igudesman admits, but when Joo took Igudesman his favorite dish one evening at school as a sort of peace offering, their differences fell away. Together the duo decided to break open the performance of classical music and strive for a broader audience.
“We wanted to liven up the music hall and celebrate life through music,” Igudesman says. With Igudesman on the violin and Joo on the piano, it’s expected that their sound is classic, but it is the unexpected from which the pair thrives. Both are fascinated with theater and comedy, and by mixing several worlds of irony, humor, raw talent and classical sound, they formed their own niche in the music world and continue to take classical music where it has never gone before.
Their technique can be described as “Bach meets South Park. It is definitely irreverent, but we love the old masters and love different styles,” Igudesman says. The New York Times described them as “a blend of classical music and comedy, laced with pop culture references and a wholly novel take on the word slapstick, fueled by genuine, dazzling virtuosity. It’s that final ingredient that adds a dose of magic to their routine — and proves infectious to other musicians.”
During performances, the friends often plan guest appearances without the other knowing or play a trick on each other as they perform. “Everything takes a lot of effort – you have to keep up, work on the comedy as much as you work on the music. But you can never try to be funny because the moment you try, you fail. We simply think of curious situations and allow them to be funny.”
They will be performing “A Little Nightmare Music” in Steamboat, which is meant to poke fun at the “nightmares” of what could happen during a performance, like a phone ringing in the audience or forgetting part of a piece. Igudesman explains their inspiration for the particular act: “Mistakes are some of the most wonderful things in performances because you learn, if only you think of them as opportunities. That’s often when magic happens. Life is very much the same in that way, and it’s the philosophy we try to live by.” They two have worked with great orchestras like the New York Philharmonic and Chicago Symphony Orchestra, where flawless performances are the goal. “The pleasure of music and the joy of performing is the most important,” Alesky states confidently. “It’s sometimes more exciting when something goes wrong and you make the efforts to recover.”
Besides touring and creating innovative performances to make the classical music scene more universal, they also partner with UNICEF for some of their proceeds, and create art in other ways. Igudesman himself writes a lot of poetry, and has published Pig’s Can Fly and The Catscratch Book filled with poems and beginner violin duets. But it doesn't stop there; in autumn the pair will be publishing their first book for musicians, and the long-term goal is to have a reality TV show to bring their unique musical “madness” to a different medium.
Igudesman & Joo take the stage at 6 p.m., Wednesday, July 22, at Strings Pavilion; tickets available online at www.stringsmusicfestival.com.
Visit their YouTube channel for videos of past shows and a better understanding of the duo’s lively personality: https://www.youtube.com/user/igudesmanandjoo