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2Cellos brings class to rock

2Cellos never dreamed that their self-produced video, a classical interpretation of Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal," would launch their career.

2Cellos' "Smooth Criminal"

By Bruce Sylvester

Classical music and rock are no strangers. Think back to Yes and Grace Slick, not to mention the underpinnings of Aerosmith. (There were also Norman and Nancy Blake’s wonderful guitar/cello chamber bluegrass forays.) What better instrument than the cello for conveying tension?

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In a near-Cinderella tale for the Internet age, 24-year-old Croatian cellists Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser – who grew up hearing U2 and Nirvana along with classical pieces – created an arresting video of their dueting on Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.” After it went viral on Youtube, Elton John invited them to tour with them, they made their American TV debut performing the song on “The Ellen Degeneres Show” and Sony Masterworks (which is no longer strictly classical) signed them to a contract.

Their CD “2Cellos,” to be released Tuesday, July 19, brings taut refinement to “Smooth Criminal” and Jacko’s “Human Nature,” Sting’s “Fragile” and more. Says Hauser, “We wanted to include ‘Human Nature’ because it’s one of Michael Jackson’s most beautiful songs. Also, it allowed us to use pizzicato [plucking the strings], which is my favorite technique.”

On Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” their cellos simultaneously create sweet and buzz saw effects. Thumping on the instrument’s back yields percussive sounds on Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome To The Jungle.” Would you have guessed that Guns N’ Roses’ catalog had classy potential?

Cellos have sounds to soothe the savage beast. But they can turn savage too.