There’s a lot of fakery and silliness going on in this video of 2Cellos playing AC/DC’s Thunderstruck. There are places where the video appears to be on fast forward to suggest that they’re playing faster than they really are. All of those strings hanging off the poor, worn-out bows are more annoying than impressive. And when Stjiepan Hauser starts spinning on his back with his cello held between his knees, you know string recitals are never going to be as exciting as rock concerts.
There’s also a lot of cliché. The idea of people in baroque clothes being shocked by some fast stringing or hard playing is about as old as the baroque. It’s as though Nigel Kennedy never happened.
Or Liszt for that matter.
And yet there are a few things in 2Cellos’ work that are very real.
The first is the quality of the playing. Luka Sulic is a graduate of London’s prestigious Royal Academy of Music. Hauser has won 21 national and international prizes for his cello work and has twice played for Prince Charles. The pair may look like male models but they know how to play.
The second is the amount of fun they’re having.
It doesn’t take a giant stretch of the imagination to imagine the two Croatian music students getting together and enjoying themselves by trying to play some classic rock tunes on their classical instruments.
We don’t have to stretch too hard to imagine that in part because we’ve all felt it.
You Don’t Have To Be a Conformist to Play Classical Music
Playing classical music, whether it’s on a piano, a violin, a cello or any other instrument, requires control and a certain amount of conformity. Fugues and symphonies have strict structures that have to be followed. The practice needed to pick up technique means doing the same thing in exactly the same way countless times.
Inevitably, there comes a moment when you wonder what would happen if you played the instrument in a completely different way, mined a different emotion, let it all hang out through your playing.
And we know what might happen.
Let a day’s frustration and anger do its worst, and we might get an opening as emotionally-charged and revolutionary as the first bars of Beethoven’s Fifth.
Play around as freely as we want and we could end up with as many extraneous notes as Mozart.
Have fun playing rock tunes wildly with a fellow student and you might get a call from Sony records offering you a contract — and a second call from Elton John asking you to tour with him.
Both of those happened to Luka Sulic and Stjiepan Hauser.
Classical music is often thought of as a serious business, a genre of black ties and middle-aged conductors. But sometimes the best music and the biggest fun happen when musicians stop being serious, when they take time to play and explore and do things that don’t conform.
It may be silly, but if the fun isn’t fake, the results might not be clichéd at all.