Elton John Grabs Croatian Cellists With Hot Guns N’ Roses Video

In January, Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser were two cello players ready to embark on a life in the world’s classical music halls.

Then they decided to have some fun and record a rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” in front of a video camera.

Thousands quickly discovered it on YouTube. A month later, a talent scout from Sony Classical approached the duo with a recording contract. Then Elton John asked them to be the opening act on his current world tour.

“It’s like a miracle, what happened,” said Hauser, 25, in a telephone interview while en route to a Sarajevo gig. “Elton John expressed admiration for our music and we were honored because he’s a living legend. One day we were unknown and now we’re living the American dream.”

The duo, known as 2Cellos, will bring their energetic playing style and pop-infused chamber music to New York’s Le Poisson Rouge. They will also celebrate the U.S. release of their self-titled CD. The 12 cuts are covers of radio-friendly songs that may make many classical purists shudder. They include Guns N’ Roses’s “Welcome to the Jungle,” “Where the Streets Have No Name” by U2, Nirvana’s “Teen Spirit” and “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon.

Hauser said he and his partner, who is 23, grew up worshiping pop and rock gods such as Jackson, Sting and Bono like other kids in Croatia. Embracing classical music doesn’t mean forsaking other genres.

Photographer: Marcus Selhoff/Sony Classical via Bloomberg

From left, Luka Sulic, Elton John and Stjepan Hauser. The rock legend asked the pair to be the opening act of his current world tour after seeing a YouTube.com clip of the cellists playing Michael Jackson's ``Smoth Operator.'' Close

From left, Luka Sulic, Elton John and Stjepan Hauser. The rock legend asked the pair to... Read More

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Photographer: Marcus Selhoff/Sony Classical via Bloomberg

From left, Luka Sulic, Elton John and Stjepan Hauser. The rock legend asked the pair to be the opening act of his current world tour after seeing a YouTube.com clip of the cellists playing Michael Jackson's ``Smoth Operator.''

“Classical music is not so popular unfortunately, and what we’re doing is bringing classical music to a younger audience,” Hauser said.

Headbangers

The pair have also made a video of “Welcome to the Jungle,” which has lured more than 1.6 million viewers on YouTube. The melodic sound of the cello may be prevalent, but the duo plays the song with a headbanger’s fervor.

“We are both very intense cellists, and we play with power,” said Hauser, the winner of 21 international and national prizes. “We are like animals on the cello. We break the strings and the bows when we play.”

Hauser grew up in the city of Pula, and Sulic was raised in Slovenia. Sulic went to London’s Royal Academy of Music, while Hauser enrolled in Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music, where he was the last student of Russian cello legend Mstislav Rostropovich before he died in 2007.

The two met in a master class in Croatia. While it was natural to perform the classics, they decided to play duets of their favorite rock and pop songs as well.

Photographer: Dean Bertoncelj/Sony Music/via Bloomberg

Croatian-born cellists Luka Sulic, left, and Stjepan Hauser with their instruments. The duo, who rose to fame after releasing a cover of Michael Jackson's ``Smooth Operator,'' have been touring with Elton John and will appear at New York's Le Poisson Rouge Thursday night. Close

Croatian-born cellists Luka Sulic, left, and Stjepan Hauser with their instruments. The... Read More

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Photographer: Dean Bertoncelj/Sony Music/via Bloomberg

Croatian-born cellists Luka Sulic, left, and Stjepan Hauser with their instruments. The duo, who rose to fame after releasing a cover of Michael Jackson's ``Smooth Operator,'' have been touring with Elton John and will appear at New York's Le Poisson Rouge Thursday night.

‘The Best Part’

Hauser once performed for Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace. Now he and Sulic play with Elton John in front of thousands. They have toured this month with him in Europe and will rejoin him in the fall for shows in the U.S., Brazil, Russia and Australia.

“We perform in front of all sorts of people, and there are a lot of screaming girls, and that’s the best part,” Hauser said.

(2Cellos performs tomorrow at Le Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker St. in Manhattan at 6:30 p.m. Tickets and information: http://www.lepoissonrouge.com/events/view/2478 or +1-212-505- 3474. Tour schedule for 2Cellos: http://www.2cellos.com/us/events)

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Cole in New York at pcole3@Bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff in New York at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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