At Heinz Hall on Friday the program included Aleksey Igudesman(violin) and Hyung-ki Joo(piano) along with Manfred Honeck conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. I was anxious to attend, and I really didn't know what was in the program, yet I knew it would be genuinely entertaining.
The first selection was the always entertaining Bernstein Candide Overture, stunningly familiar, and much better in concert then I've ever heard pre-recorded.
Then the pair of entertainers walked on stage, ready to go. I could see it was going to be tongue-in-cheek humor to adorn the broadly classical program for the evening. Mr Joo seemed to take the lead with a zany form of comedy, followed by Mr Igudesman in more of a straight-man role, although both were funny.
I noticed that Conductor Honeck was very much into the comedy throughout the evening, often turning with broad smile to await their completion to continue with the music, which mixed very well with their routines.
I'm calling this post: "Ladies and Gentlemen: Yankee Doodle Mozart." Often Mr Igudesman would introduce the next piece with "Ladies and Gentlemen: Mozart." The first time Mr Joo asked the audience if they'd rather hear James Bond music, and Mr Igudesman asked for Mozart - both received applause. Eventually he'd play Mozart on the violin and it would transition into the James Bond theme with the orchestra.
Another inventive amalgamation included music from Rachmaninov and Eric Carmen (All By Myself) which included singing and lots of humor.
Mr Igudesman did a fantastic job singing a wonderfully orchestrated version of Uruguay.
After intermission came one of my favorite parts, a world premier PSO commission called "An Austrian in America" introduced by Honeck: "Can you guess who it is about?" There were 5 parts including 1). Overture, with Strauss interspersed with Copland, 2). Schubert Loves America (America the Beautiful with Schubert), 3). Yanky Doodle Mozart, 4). Oh My Darling Johann Strauss and 5). Stars and Radetzky Forever.
Another of my favorites was the Ennio Morricone "Fistful of Dollars" done by the pair in their own unique way. That's something not often hear live in a concert hall.
Another very funny part was with Rachmaninov's Prelude which according to Mr Joo, requires big hands, which he did not have (but only hands). So their solution? Mr. Igudesman handed Mr Joo wood planks with fingers positioned in just the right places so that when Mr Joo placed them on the keyboard, it would play the notes for him.
The orchestra also got into the music, several times rising to the comedic occasion with some players joining the pair on stage for dancing.
I congratulate Manfred Honeck, as Music Director, and the rest of the Pittsburgh Orchestra for bringing a program filled with both classical music and broadly entertaining humor.