For a musician, there’s something empowering about watching two skilled violinists trade relatable banter on YouTube. However once I noticed the YouTube duo TwoSet Violin carry out reside in San Francisco on Friday, the moments of magic had been few and much between.
The duo, composed of Brisbane-based Brett Yang and Eddy Chen, has attracted over 7.5 million followers throughout social media with their comedic movies, starting from musical charades to tracks dissing Ok-pop group Blackpink. Regardless of not too long ago receiving allegations of exploiting their workers, TwoSet nonetheless managed to fill a 1687-seat theater with a balanced mixture of teenagers, faculty college students and middle-aged adults.
This system mirrored TwoSet’s typical on-line content material: an amusing supply of classical music performances interspersed with humor, aimed to resonate with musicians’ experiences whereas educating non-musicians on the style. Yang and Chen started with a “violin charades” concerto, solely to be interrupted by an adjudicator of a fictional “Classical Music Academy” showing on the display, threatening to ship them a copyright strike of the live performance if they didn’t go a “Ling Ling Examination.” (Ling Ling is a TwoSet-imagined fictional prodigy who practices, paradoxically, 40 hours per day.)
For the remainder of the 1.5-hour efficiency, Yang and Chen accomplished a collection of musical challenges required by the examination, akin to hula-hooping whereas taking part in Massenet’s “Meditation” or performing a trio blindfolded (accompanied by Austrian pianist and violinist Sophie Druml).
To my disappointment, there have been quite a few cases within the efficiency the place I discovered myself unmoved by the duo’s intentional cracks.
The third job within the “repertoire” part, the place Chen, Yang and Druml competed for the melody in Beethoven’s “Spring Sonata,” was filled with ups and downs. I used to be not significantly amused by the three bodily combating for the solo components, knocking one off the piano bench or grabbing the opposite’s violin; these had been merely unconvincing.
As a substitute, sure moments within the musical association proved way more intriguing. Chen banging on the excessive register of the piano to disrupt Druml’s taking part in was by no means random movement — the notes match into the bass components to kind an attention-grabbing texture.
One other try at performing got here throughout the hula-hooping problem of the examination’s “repertoire” portion, when the 2 began lifting one leg and pretending to virtually fall over. I used to be extra impressed by their skill to ship an honest rendition of “Meditation” whereas hula-hooping nonstop for 5 minutes than by their comedy.
Because the duo cut up themselves between refreshing performances and lackluster performing, I used to be torn between cringing on the comedy and marveling on the music. I discovered myself asking why this was the case. Why didn’t I get pleasure from their content material offscreen?
I first found TwoSet Violin’s YouTube channel throughout the begin of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Caught in quarantine, I discovered TwoSet movies comforting. They gave me a sensible window into classical musicianship inside the lives of two buddies, in a time when human firm was a lot wanted.
However this down-to-earth realism can hardly be transferred onto the theater stage, the place the performer is so bodily and symbolically distant from the viewers. What’s required to captivate the viewers is both convincing drama (as an actor does) or virtuosic spectacle (as a soloist does).
TwoSet’s live performance exists on this liminal area of drama and music, with their ability ranges barely missing for each. It definitely didn’t assist that the Sydney Goldstein Theater didn’t have conventional live performance corridor acoustics, and the microphone didn’t successfully switch their talking or taking part in.
Regardless, there have been a number of moments of the Friday present the place I used to be impressed by TwoSet’s artistry. On the finish of the Ling Ling examination, the duo determined to “trick” the Classical Music Academy’s copyright strike system by fooling the music evaluation algorithm. They performed a medley of tunes that took inspiration from well-known classical items however turned them the wrong way up.
My favourite was Chen, Yang and Druml placing Beethoven’s famously darkish “Moonlight Sonata” into a significant key, prompting the popularity algorithm on display to show a confused “Daylight Sonata???”
One other was when the trio transposed Vivaldi’s “Summer time” right into a higher-pitched key, therefore turning it into “Summer time … with world warming.”
These preparations had been modern and amusing to any musician within the room who acknowledged the unique items from which they took inspiration. The algorithm’s show of the acknowledged tunes additionally conveniently helped educate non-musicians on classical repertoire.
I walked away from the theater feeling unhappy with the live performance, for which I paid greater than $100. However I don’t blame TwoSet. It takes greater than humor and musical expertise to ship a implausible comedy-classical music mash-up efficiency. I’ll nonetheless click on on TwoSet’s subsequent video with the identical anticipation I had earlier than and I’ll respect their onscreen realism simply the identical.
Editor’s Be aware: This text is a overview and contains subjective ideas, opinions and critiques.