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2Cellos Wows KSO Crowd

Mary Ellyn Hutton
Posted: Nov 4, 2013 - 10:06:30 AM in reviews_2013

2Cellos performing for a sellout crowd at Florence Baptist Church at Mt. Zion Nov. 2, 2013, their U.S. orchestral debut

Leave it to J.R. Cassidy and the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra to do it first.

And sure enough, they did it again Saturday night (Nov. 2) at Florence Baptist Church at Mt. Zion in Florence.

Making their U.S. orchestral debut with Cassidy and the KSO were 2Cellos, a boundary-busting cello duo that performs everything from Vivaldi to Jimmy Hendrix on electric cello.

The concert was a sellout -- and then some. Seats behind the orchestra were added at the last minute to handle the overflow. A total of 1,421 tickets were sold, delaying the concert for about 20 minutes to get everyone seated.

So what was all the excitement about? Blame it on YouTube where in 2011, at the suggestion of a friend, Croatian cellists Luka Šulić and Stjepan Hauser -- both classical artists -- posted a video of themselves performing Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.” It went viral, receiving over three million hits in the first two weeks alone and netted an invitation to join Elton John on tour.

Mind you, these guys are the real thing. Rigorously trained -- Šulić at London’s Royal Academy of Music, Hauser at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, both in 2011 – both have won international competitions. They have chosen, however, to widen the appeal of classical music by “mixing it up” with other musical genres.

The concert was divided into two halves, the “classical” half with 2Cellos and the KSO, the second a bona fide rock show for 2Cellos alone, with covers of Coldplay, Muse, U2, Rhianna, RacerX, Nirvana, AC/DC and others.

What is the difference between a classical and a rock concert, Cassidy asked the crowd? Rock concerts are louder, of course, he said, adding “Let the sonic atmosphere envelop you.” And they did -- joyfully.

Cassidy and the KSO opened with “Purple Haze” (without 2Cellos), arranged for string orchestra by Terry LaBolt. This not only set the tone for the evening, but recalled the recording by the pioneering Kronos Quartet back in the 1980s.

Clad in jeans, Šulić and Hauser entered to join the KSO in Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Cellos in G Minor (RV 531). Their reading was classically defined, eminently musical and marked by a deeply affecting Largo. Hauser followed with a soulful “Oblivion” by Astor Piazzolla, succeeded by Šulić in the theme from “Schindler’s List,” which he suffused with heart.

They closed the first half (there was no intermission) with one of their signature pieces, “Benedictus” from Karl Jenkins’ “The Armed Man” (final track on their album “In2ition”). It was a reading of ethereal beauty and profound meaning (Jenkins dedicated the work to victims of the Kosovo war).


The KSO filed off the stage as Jenkins’ work came to a close. Then the lights began to flash, the crowd roared with applause and the duo lit into “Viva la Vida” (Coldplay). “Thank y’all for coming,” said Šulić, to their listeners’ immense delight.

They followed with a spectacular array of covers, including “The Resistance” (Muse), “With or Without You” (U2), “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” (Coldplay), “Technical Difficulties” (RacerX), “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (Nirvana) and, yes, “Purple Haze,” where Hauser reveled in sliding up the fingerboard of his cello.

Two Michael Jackson covers brought the house down, “Smooth Criminal,” where the audience really began screaming and clapping, and “Human Nature,” the latter full of catchy rhythms, with lots of pizzicato and slapping of the duo’s funky looking cellos.

U2’s “With or Without You” was dedicated to “the ladies” and it was a beauty, growing quite passionate, with Šulić and Hauser exchanging solos. Drummer Dusan Kranjc joined the cellists in another hand-clapper, “We Found Love” (Rhianna), then laid into his drums to open “Voodoo People” (The Prodigy) where Šulić stood and shook his brown hair for even greater effect.

With everyone on their feet -- young and old, grey hairs and kids alike -- the duo shouted “Do You Want More?” Answered by a resounding “yes,” they obliged with AC/DC’s “Back in Black.”

With a great big “Thank you, Kentucky!” they left the stage, to return for the perfect encore: “Welcome to the Jungle” (Guns and Roses), which they performed wearing Cincinnati Bengals’ jerseys.