Review: Comedy team of Igudesman and Joo brings wit, slapstick to symphony |

Review: Comedy team of Igudesman and Joo brings wit, slapstick to symphony

Mark Kanny

Audiences show their appreciation in different ways. Sometimes they listen in rapt silence, their souls transported by the sublime.

And then there was the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra‘s concert Friday night, when laughter reigned.

The symphony’s Thanksgiving weekend concerts in Heinz Hall have been family-friendly since Manfred Honeck arrived as music director. However, the comedy team of violinist Aleksey Igudesman and pianist Hyung-ki Joo took holiday entertainment to a new level of hilarity.

The concert began with Leonard Bernstein’s Overture to “Candide,” the perfect prelude to an evening of wit and absurdity.

Igudesman and Joo have immense range, from verbal hijinx to wildly funny ideas in the music — and not excluding physical slapstick.

The opening routines had fun with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who had a great sense of humor and would have enjoyed the audacious humor. First, there was an improbable mix of Mozart and James Bond. Then Mozart’s famous Turkish tune was subject to a series of amusing harmonic adjustments.

No one present is likely ever to hear the slow movement of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 the same way after hearing it as a violin solo turned into a song with lyrics about being alone that had the symphony players crying and finally getting out of their chairs to hug each other in support.

One can hear the influence of other comedic talents on the guest artists, including Tom Lehrer in both the music and lyrics of a “New Work.”

The second half of the concert opened with a commissioned work, “An Austrian in America.” Composed in tribute to Honeck, it offered clever juxtaposition of famous music from the two countries.

Whether the audience or the symphony musicians had a better time at the concert is an open question, but a dozen string players looked to be having a lot of fun dancing at the front of the stage.

The concert will be repeated at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in Heinz Hall, Downtown. Admission: $25.75 to $105.75. Details: 412-392-4900 or

Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media.

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