Igudesman & Joo – A Little Nightmare Music (2008)

Classical Music Comedy – Live from Muskverein, Vienna, Oct. 2006
Studio: Only Hands Small Production 1A12008 (Distr. by Allegro)
Video: 4:3 color
Audio: PCM Stereo

Extras: Trailer, Looking for Mozart, Aleksey in India, Trying to Vibrato, Gorilla

Length: 59 minutes
Rating: ****½

Russian Aleksey Igudesman and Korean Richard Hyung-Ki Joo have become the leading classical music comedy act today in a sort of modern version of the Victor Borges and Anna Russells of the past. YouTube is full of their sketches – many lifted from this very video. They also toured in 2008 in conjunction with Gidon Kremer and  his Kremerata Baltica, and Kremer is briefly involved in one of the extras on this DVD.

There are 18 different sketches here, done before a rather small audience in Vienna. The Nightmare Music theme is carried out with a couple of the next-to-final selections which are based on themes from horror movies.  Their show also opens with themes from various James Bond movies inserted into a Mozart selection for violin and piano. Normally Igudesman is the violinist and Joo the piano accompanist – who sometimes assumes a very take-charge attitude to his partner – as in the sketch The Piano Lesson.

Some of the sketches are uproarious to me while others just draw a smile.  The pair are obviously excellent musicians and they have no qualms about acting totally silly on stage. My favorite sketches are probably Credit Card – in which Joo is not allowed to play or even open his Steinway until he swipes his credit card and enters his password, and Rachmaninov Had Big Hands – which involves a lot of boards which are pressed down on the keys to sound various chords. (Both are on YouTube.)

The only serious fault of the DVD is that the performers are not correctly miked; they should have had wireless mikes on them. As it is, they are mostly off-mike during the entire production, and it is difficult to understand them some of the time. Also, the extras are a waste of time, involving one of them making fun of his surroundings in India and another of one of them cavorting in a gorilla suit, for example.

 – John Sunier