TwoSet Violin mix classical music with comedy



Brett Yang and Eddy Chen (violins)

Esplanade Recital Studio

Last Saturday

There are plenty of groups out there with a mission to make classical music fun.

Some dress up in improbable costumes and fill the stage with props. Others forget all about classical music and write their own scores - which rather defeats the object of the exercise.

TwoSet Violin gets it just right.

The duo look as if they have just come off the street and their props comprise a wig, a coat, a bag of fruit, two violins, two bows and a grand piano.

The pianist is different (and remains publicly unnamed). Dressed as if for a serious concert, she acts as the fall guy for the violinists' humour, but is also a gifted performer in her own right.

She opened the gig with a burst of Chopin, but you knew she was never going to reach the end and that this was all a ploy to lull concertgoers into expecting a formal concert.

Sure enough, in burst the violin duo, one with his trousers round his ankles, launching into adolescent stuff about diarrhoea and durians.

Once that bit of silliness was out of the way, they started on Massenet's Meditation from Thais.

It did not get far before morphing into short skits about tuning and nerves, which clearly resonated with the many music students in the audience.

And then things took off.

One violinist was determined to play the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. The other wanted to do the Beethoven.

They jousted and jostled each other through a whole range of famous concertos, ending with Sibelius and Shostakovich.

Musically, it was clever, but in-jokes were not the stuff of this show and nobody needed to know what was being played to appreciate the fun.

A segment that saw the pair putting a bit of the Bach Double Violin Concerto through a smartphone app ("Mozartagram"), which transposed it into various different styles, probably needed more work, but the concertgoers enjoyed the spoof styles and were audibly amazed by the players' antics, including running and jumping while still playing.

At various times, the two players appeared thinly disguised as eminent virtuosi - a Chinese pianist called Yang Yang, a mischievous bit of satire here which those in the audience who have been affected by the cancellation of Lang Lang's Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) visit next month relished; and a Dutch lady violinist who will be visiting the SSO next week.

And it was this which led to the show's piece de resistance.

As one love-struck violinist held the instrument and controlled the fingerboard, the Janine Jansen not-quite-lookalike, operated the bow.

For good measure, the pair indulged in occasional loving caresses.

With a fabulous (and uninterrupted) performance of Sarasate's Navarra, TwoSet Violin showed what genuinely outstanding players they each were.

With such strong musicality and flair for entertaining, this was an impressive and enjoyable show.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 09, 2017, with the headline 'Classical music meets comedy'. Print Edition | Subscribe