I fell in love with classical music when I watched the unforgettable Igudesman and Joo in a small theater in North Carolina on a Thursday night in summer 2009. Alexander Pope once wrote that the theater aspires to wake the soul by gentle strokes of art – to raise the genius and to mend the heart. And this, the remarkable duo achieved unequivocally well that night.
Driving up to see the show, I slightly regretted having to miss my favorite yoga class of the week, but I had made a pledge to dedicate time and effort into appreciation of classical music this year after reading Bruce Adolphe’s book. So when my husband found that the duo plays in Greensboro theater, off we were. I regret my own ignorance now; I did not even take the time to learn the first thing about the magnificent talent awaiting us that evening.
I was completely unprepared for what I saw. The show was astounding, and this appreciation and perspective is presented to you from musically untrained ears and eyes. The jaw-dropping and mind-blowing caliber of talent and genius displayed in every minute of this show was enough to make you wonder about the level of achievements possible by man! Watching remarkable talent in general first makes me feel quite insignificant and small as a human being in its presence and then inspires me to set daringly higher goals for myself. It finds a way to remove barriers in my mind. It does away with boundaries, limitations and standards. It shines a new light on just what remarkable things even I may be capable of achieving in my lifetime. That while I may not have as much time as a 5-year old, it is never too late to understand and to love classical music. It encourages me to someday seek the opportunity to learn the violin or the piano. It makes me come alive, and it can do the same for you.
Igudesman and Joo are notably accomplished musicians both trained in the classics and in love with chamber music. Aleksey Igudesman is the violinist and Richard Hyung-ki Joo is the pianist. But out on the stage they performed far more than just the two beloved musical instruments of violin and piano for the audience. They put on a show that infuses comedy and dialogue into the superb performance of the classical and some not-so-classical pieces. Their vision for this unique show is to increase interest and awareness of classical music in the world, and perhaps to give birth to new musicians – a true gift for the world. It is rare enough for our true gifts and our passions to be in complete harmony, and we be brave enough to pursue it with a fierce force. But to have far more than one true gift, to recognize it, to be wildly passionate about both, to find genius ways to create a new art from two distinctly separate arts, and in the process, to leave the world better than you have found it, that is the caliber of talent and passion we were privy to watch on the stage that night. And I felt a tinge of envy towards these performers who live and breathe this life of creating music and comedy of stupendous measures every day.
It is no secret that while the lovers of classical music are a faithful bunch, they are far and few in numbers. It is terrifying yet undeniable to see that in an astonishing way, our world is becoming dumber and dumber. The attention span for learning and appreciating is getting shorter and shorter. All of this when living in an information age where learning and absorbing the arts and the classics has never been more accessible to people. There are uncounted millions either watching the sports or mindless shows on television or all the advertisements in between. Society prefers paltry entertainment to a timeless piece of music or a classic book. The classics are far too intellectual with painfully slow benefits for the brain and the heart to ever compete with the astoundingly popular mindless rubbish.
It is hard to imagine how something so contemplative as classical music can belong on the same stage as one of fleeting as entertainment consisting of dialogues and discussions, folk dances and fights, role plays and rhetoric, sublime music and satirical comedy. But in this stage, they find room to play together with a chemistry that sets your heart and soul afire and alive. You laugh and bathe in the best pieces of classical music ever written at the same time. Moving fast and furiously from Beethoven’s 5th symphony to his Fur Elise, from Mozart’s greatest violin symphonies to pieces by Bach, and a few familiar tunes from movies and 80s songs, we watched and listened in awe for what seemed like a very brief 90 minute show.
It was remarkable to have the pair here in the Carolina Theater. The show started with a quick duo on a piece from Mozart, interrupted immediately by the first of many dialogues started off by Joo. Here are some of my favorites from watching unforgettable and unbelievable performance moments put on by Igudesman and Joo:
- The mesmerizing and mocking of two of my all-time favorite songs, “I will survive” and Eric Carmen’s “All by Myself” along with abuse on the violin and piano in untold ways in the process
- The speed of alternating pieces going from Mozart to Love Story theme to symphonies in the “Mozart Bond“
- The funniest piece with ridiculously unreal piano display by Joo is in “Piano Lesson” with Igudesman as the remedial pupil and himself as the angry Korean piano teacher
- The solo performance of Joo of “Rachmaninoff had big hands“, playing the ludicrously intense pieces with some help from Igudesman
- The humble acts of practicing and cleaning which turns into a fun folk dance where Igudesman jumps and plays the violin at full speed in “The River Dance” performance
We left the theater with a copy of the Igudesman & Joo “A Little Nightmare Music”, the taping of their Vienna show, the snap that a kind stranger took of us, and a heart full of unforgettable memories.
Choose your entertainment. Don’t let it choose you!
Thrilled and Humbled to see that this blog post has been mentioned by Igudesman & Joo Official Website. (Currently 5th entry from top).