By MIKE CHAIKEN
On their Facebook page, under “About,” the piano duo of Anderson and Roe state their mission as “Freeing the world from the constraints of sleep-inducing concerts—one show at a time.”
And the classical musicians, with their atypical music videos, their atypical repertoire, and atypical social media presence, surely seem as if they are shaking up the music world, “freeing” the world from boredom.
But Greg Anderson-who is the Anderson half of Anderson and Roe to Emily Joy Roe’s Roe—said that mission statement has its roots in the duo’s college days at Juilliard School of Music.
Anderson and Roe will be featured performers for Hartford Symphony Orchestra’s “The Keys to Romance” concert at The Bushnell in Hartford from Feb. 16 to 18.
During his college days with Roe, Anderson said he became known for falling asleep during classical music concerts. He loved classical music, he said. But, no matter what compositions were being performed, he would fall asleep and inevitably he’d be jarred awake— accompanied by a loud yawn.
So, given his propensity to doze off, said Anderson, he and Roe began to ask themselves—what kind of compositions could they perform as a duo where it would be impossible for anyone, including Anderson, to fall asleep and what kind of compositions would electrify the listener.
That provided the mission statement with another meaning.
And the duo has fulfilled its mission, said Roe. “We’re so delighted and moved by the responses (to our music) at concerts or through social media.”
“We attract a lot of young people to our audience,” said Anderson. And the audience often calls back the duo for eight to nine encores a night. Additionally, he said, “We receive letters on a daily basis from fans.”
The piano duo’s musical selections often are true to the canon of classical piano duets. However, they also dip into pop music, performing material by artists such as Daft Punk or Coldplay.
One of their well-known covers is Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.”
And Anderson said when he and Roe perform the classic 1980s track, it’s “more classical than other classical pieces.”
Anderson said he and Roe tend to take a modernistic approach to pop music for the classical piano. Their arrangements distort, deconstruct, and tear apart a piece and then put it back together again.
And, he said, they also just as often transform a classical music composition to make it sound more pop. The more romantic compositions by Mozart or Rachmaninoff are prime material for this kind of transformation, said Anderson.
The theme of the HSO concerts is romance to take advantage of its dates that come hard on the heels of Valentine’s Day.
And since Anderson and Roe is a duo and a female-male combination, it’s easy for audiences to be lulled into that romantic feeling as they perform, said Roe. As they perform, there is often a sensual, passionate, and flirtatious feel to their interactions.
The composition performed by Anderson and Roe with HSO also lends itself to a romantic mood, said Anderson. The composition, “Fantasy on Bizet’s Carmen for Two Pianos and Orchestra” is based on the opera “Carmen,” which is romance personified and is bursting with emotions.
Typically, Anderson and Roe perform just as a piano duo with no other instruments to accompany them. But for the trip of Hartford, they will be backed by HSO.
“It’s an extraordinary feeling to be backed up by this epic force,” said Roe of performing with the backing of the fully symphony.
It’s also a bit of a reunion between the two musical combines.
Roe said she and Anderson performed with HSO a few season ago. “I love the energy and I love the scope on an artistic level. The energy is amped up.”
At HSO, Anderson said its conductor Carolyn Kuan “is extraordinary… she thinks out of the box, which we enjoy.” Performing with HSO, said Anderson, feels like a brain storming session and a meeting of minds.
When Anderson and Roe take the stage with HSO, Anderson said he likes audiences to take the time to listen to what’s being performed. “We like audiences who like to listen hard and challenge themselves to make a connection (from the music) to their own lives.”
Roe said classical music, because it is instrumental, offers a certain freedom for the imagination. Lyrics often will dictate how you should feel. Classical music, since there are no words, allows one to open the door to their own imagination and curiosity, and allow the emotions of the music to take control.
Hartford Symphony Orchestra’s latest installment in its Masterworks series, “The Keys to Romance” comes to The Bushnell’s Belding Theater, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford from Friday to Sunday, Feb. 16 to 18. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.
Tickets start at $38; $10 for students with ID.
For tickets and more information, call (860)987-5900 or visit www.hartfordsymphony.org or www.AndersonRoe.com