Ostensibly, Worbey and Farrell’s show is a piano recital. But it so much more than that. With the addition of the corniest jokes and literal bells and whistles, their performance strips away all the demure stuffiness associated with a concert and adds something rarely seen at these events. Fun.
Far from being a simple piano recital, Worbey & Farrell have added structure and narrative to create a show that has you laughing at one moment and crying with emotion at the next.
The boys bound onto the stage and start playing that familiar beginner’s piano piece Chopsticks. Not much of a challenge for these two, you’d assume, and it raises a chuckle. Soon the simplistic notes build into a complex overture. They have a gimmick; they both play the same piano at the same time. This leads to some highly impressive keyboard gymnastics as they frequently cross over and vie for the same stretch of notes. So not only are we watching to highly virtuosic pianists, this takes the whole thing to another level with special arrangements for four hands and one piano.
Gershwin is the subject of their next piece; a medley combining I Got Rhythm, Fascinating Rhythm and Lady Be Good. It’s an example of how talented they can be arranging music for this four-hand format and offers us a segue into the Twelfth Street Rag, which they tell us would have been the music Gershwin was listening to while he was growing up. If you didn’t already realise Worbey and Farrell were a comic duo, you sure do now. Horns, whistles, cymbals, train sirens – a cacophony of instruments appear from the body of their Bösendorfer to create a hilarious moment which catches the audience by surprise. This is immediately juxtaposed by the hauntingly melodic A.I. Theme by John Williams – it’s the musical equivalent of a coup de théâtre. Simply beautiful.
The boys exhibit their prowess as composers next, by following a recital of Rachmaninov’s 18th Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with their own Deviations on a Theme of Paganini. This, the longest of the pieces they play during this afternoon’s performance, really showcases their composing muscles dipping into several musical styles including ragtime, film music and jazz. It’s also for this piece that a live video feed of the piano keyboard is turned on, so we can really appreciate the skill involved here.
Highland Cathedral is up next, the boys helpfully explaining that after “that ghastly business” with the Scottish Independence Referendum last year, it would be a more appropriate choice than Land of Hope and Glory (although technically Highland Cathedral was composed by a couple of German guys...). The international theme continues as we jump over to Argentina for Ástor Piazzolla’s Libertango, a composer who, we are reliably informed, only ever wrote tangos; but tangos you couldn’t dance to. Our musical education proceeds as we learn Piazzola was influenced by Bach, and he wasn’t the only one – and they then demonstrate how Mike Oldfield found inspiration for Tubular Bells by turning Bach’s Fugue over. The subject of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor having been raised, Worbey and Farrell go on to play it. This is a challenging piece for any pianist and as the boys admit, they won’t be able to wing their way through this with a horn and a whistle. Their arrangement is sublime, spiraling through the octaves of the toccata and triadic harmonies of the fugue. It’s tiring just watching them.
The final piece is flat out comic. The pair imagine what a sing-along around the piano will be like in the future; featuring a medley of Lady Gaga, the Scissor Sisters and Eminem amongst others. We can now add terrible dancing and singing to the features that endear these guys so much! The final piece? No, of course not. We demand one more and they willingly oblige. Another medley of popular tunes that have them leap-frogging each other up and down the keyboard.
Far from being a simple piano recital, Worbey & Farrell have added structure and narrative to create a show that has you laughing at one moment and crying with emotion at the next. An absolute joy from start to finish. Bravo!