Classical music is rarely described as fun.
In the case of cellist Viktor Uzur and classical guitarist Brad Richter, known as the Richter Uzur Duo, classical music and fun go hand-in-hand.
“What we play tends to be very virtuosic, and there’s a lot of fireworks in terms of speed. We have a lot of fun with our music, and the audience has a lot of fun, too,” Richter said.
The duo will perform at the Clayton Center for the Arts on Tuesday, Oct. 26, in the Harold and Jean Lambert Recital Hall.
The musicians perform classical pieces as well as folk and rock. In fact, he said they are known for their “mash-ups,” where different genres are combined. Richter said one example is their popular combination of the Stevie Wonder song “Superstition” with a classical Spanish piece, “Leyenda” and Kool & the Gang’s “Jungle Boogie.”
Richter said even though he and Uzur have created a set list, “there’s something new in every single performance, and that’s inspiring and fun.”
Richter said they are often energized by the audience. “We’ve both been performing long enough so that the audience inspires us to dig a little deeper and take chances. Viktor is a fantastic improviser.”
Both performers have been professionally touring for about 20 years and developed a partnership in 2005 because of their commonality, not just musically but also interpersonally.
“The most important thing is we don’t take ourselves too seriously, so we’ll often do something silly,” Richter said.
The duo met when Richter was commissioned by Weber State University in Ogden, Utah to create a chamber piece, “Navigating Lake Bonneville.” His music prominently featured cello and guitar. Uzur is a cello professor at the university, and the two developed a friendship as well as a musical partnership.
The cellist and guitarist initially toured with a large group of musicians, which included a choir. “Eventually Victor and I had more fun playing together, and we tried to incorporate those duos into the concerts.”
Not only did the two enjoy playing together but he said audiences responded well to their performances.
Uzur grew up in Serbia and was a child prodigy. At the age of 15, he went to The Moscow Conservatory where he received a master’s degree in cello. He earned his doctoral degree from Michigan State University.
Richter was originally self-taught and began to compose at the age of 12. Having no formal training, he was awarded the Presidential Scholarship to the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago at the age of 19. He completed his master’s degree in classical guitar at The Royal College in London.
During their classical training, they explored other genres of music. In fact, both musicians played in rock bands in their teens and early 20s. They also explored folk music but eventually pursued careers in classical music.
Richter said, “In Viktor, I’ve found a partner. It intensifies the passion for music when you have someone to share it with.”
He said as a musician, touring and performing is, “a dream job.”
The duo live about 1,000 miles apart and often compose and practice by phone.
Richter and his wife are raising two boys, with another boy on the way, in Arizona. He is the artistic director of “Lead Guitar;” a non-profit organization he co-founded which provides guitar programs for over 850 at-risk youth in more than 40 public schools.
Uzur is married and is a professor at Weber State University in Utah. Along with performing as a duo, both musicians travel the world as soloists.
Richter said the duo travels throughout the U.S. and Europe about once a month. For more information about the musicians or to hear samples of their music, go to www.richteruzurduo.com
Tickets to their Tuesday, Oct. 26, concert can be purchased at the Clayton Center for the Arts Box Office, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or by calling 865-981-8590.
Other upcoming events at the Clayton Center include pianist Jon Nakamatsu on Thursday, Oct. 28.
One of the most sought-after pianists of his generation, Jon Nakamatsu is a frequent concerto soloist, chamber musician, recording artist and solo recitalist throughout the United States, Europe and Japan.
On Thursday, Oct. 28, he will bring that expertise to Maryville in a performance at the Clayton Center for the Arts.
According to press reports, Nakamatsu enjoys a continuously expanding career based on a deeply probing and illuminating musicality as well as a quietly charismatic performing style.
Nakamatsu is known throughout the U.S. and abroad as a pianist who, in the words of The New York Times, “has stunning technical control and can do anything at the piano he wants.” A California German language high school teacher with no formal conservatory training, Nakamatsu gave an electrifying performance of Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto, plus aristocratic readings of the works of Chopin and other composers which won him the Gold Medal at the 1997 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.
Highlights of Jon Nakamatsu’s current season include return engagements with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Annapolis, Bozeman and Greenwich symphony orchestras, Lexington and Reno philharmonics and Santa Fe Pro Musica, as well as performances with the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic and the orchestras of Cape Cod, Fremont, La Crosse, Lincoln and Norwalk.
Initially brought to global attention when named Gold Medalist of the Tenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, Nakamatsu subsequently appeared as soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl and the Boston Pops at Tanglewood, as well as with many of the orchestras and symphonies throughout the country and the world.
Nakamatsu has collaborated with many of today’s leading conductors. His 1998-99 season was highlighted by a White House performance of Rhapsody in Blue, hosted by President and Mrs. Clinton.
Named Debut Artist of the Year (1998) by NPR’s “Performance Today,” Jon Nakamatsu has been profiled by “CBS Sunday Morning” and Reader’s Digest magazine, and is featured in “Playing with Fire,” a documentary on the Tenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, aired nationwide on PBS.
At the Clayton Center, he will be performing works from Clementi, Schumann, Beethoven, Liszt and Chopin.