Thursday, April 3, 2003

Pops, Karamazovs give New Yorkers good laugh

Concert review

By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

NEW YORK - After all the silliness, the goofy gags and the dizzy juggling by the Flying Karamazov Brothers in the Cincinnati Pops' Carnegie Hall show Tuesday, the best moment was at the end.

As Erich Kunzel lifted his baton and singers Betsy Wolfe and Steven Morgan began singing "God Bless America," the Carnegie Hall audience stood up, one by one, and began to sing, until the entire hall had joined in, many with hands on hearts. It was a deeply moving call back to reality, of what it feels like to be in New York while the country is at war.

Kunzel's patriotic touch capped his zany April Fool's Day program with the Karamazov Brothers. Like everyone right now, the New Yorkers needed a good laugh, and they howled through this program from beginning to end. The Karamazovs put on the same show they gave with the Pops in Cincinnati, complete with groaning puns and quick-witted sight gags.

They came out in slow motion to Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King," and proceeded to astound with an impressive counterpoint of juggling across Carnegie Hall's fabled stage. It was usually faster than the eye could follow, and you could also miss a good joke if you blinked. "Here's a bit of rhythm so natural it's condoned by the pope," they quipped as they juggled in 5/4 time.

They brought down the house several times, such as when they played Bach's D Minor Invention on the marimba with pins while juggling, or when they bashed themselves with clubs in their hockey helmets to transmit radio waves into a MIDI keyboard gizmo to play "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's Ninth. ("A feat so difficult as to be virtually senseless.")

The New Yorkers whistled when the performers came out in tutus for their "Pas de Six" (hysterical choreography by Doug Elkins). And what could be funnier than watching four grown men beat cardboard boxes to a pulp? (Their homage to Japanese Taiko drumming.)

The Pops musicians laughed along with the audience as they played; the tension release following their important first concert with Paavo Jarvi there on Monday was almost palpable.

New York loves the Cincinnati Pops, and the audience cheered every number in the orchestral first half. Kunzel, kicking up his heels, knew how to sell it to them.

The New York theme was a hit; tenor Morgan, an Indiana University grad, and soprano Wolfe, a junior at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, were a charming duo in "Once Upon a Time in New York City." Another highlight was a Tribute to New York City, featuring trombonist Cristian Ganicenco in the solo "Manhattan."

Kunzel's musical joke, Haydn's Farewell Symphony, had the audience in stitches as all 100 musicians walked off the stage, section by section, until Kunzel was left holding the baton alone.


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KNIPPENBERG: Knip's eye view
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Pops, Karamazovs give New Yorkers good laugh

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