A friend of mine used to say that the best bands were formed at the local pub. I don’t know about what bands he was in as I never heard him play but he might have a point – Mnozil Brass was basically formed in the café run by Mr. and Mrs. Mnozil in Vienna some twenty years ago. The members, all students at the Vienna School of Music when they met up, have all had careers in ‘serious’ ensembles (including the Vienna State Opera) before deciding that they would rather do what this ensemble do – which is to play music of all genres spectacularly well with some slapstick, drama, parody and everything else in between.
Word had clearly got out about this Austrian septet – they played to a well-attended Town Hall although for some strange reason, only the stalls were sold. And they are on a punishing schedule between Australia and New Zealand (they play Melbourne today and Sydney tomorrow and the Brisbane Festival the day after !)
The theme of the evening was ‘Mnozil unravels Blofeld’. So, out came the white cat and evil laughter as well as a nicely timed medley of James Bond theme music including ‘From Russia With Love’, ‘Dr. No’, ‘Goldfinger’ (with the excellent Thomas Gansch on his specially made Schagerl ‘Ganschhorn’ playing with a very obvious gold finger) and others. But with Mnozil Brass, it’s not just music – true to their hero / villain inspiration, members were ‘killed’ by strangulation or with a giant syringe filled with something nasty or hypnotized all as an interlude to something magical, in the case of the strangulation and the hypnosis, some Schubert (“An Die Musik”) on the melodica (blow-organ) with the ‘hypnotized’ trombonist Gerhard Füssl acting as music stand.
To be honest, I lost count of the pieces which were skillfully interwoven in amongst the performances due to laughter – you could not help get into the comedy even though it might be a touch bizarre. Sousa’s “Liberty Bell” was given the marching band treatment with Robert Rother as the army band ‘leader’ (trying to lead a band with a mind of its own). The ensemble waltzed until they were practically dizzy to some Khachachurian and also doffed their caps to the recent London Olympics followed with some creditable demonstrations of athletics (set to Vangelis’ “Chariots of Fire”, naturally), a touch of boxing with the ‘Rocky’ theme of course but it was the synchro swimming that was the best of all – audience acclamation would have awarded a gold to Leonhard Paul (who seems to delight in playing a wide range of instruments) and trumpeter Roman Rindberger and a definite silver medal to trombonist Füssl for his rhythmic gymnastic ribbons performance.
The second half was a little more serious than the first, one particular highlight being Gerhard Füssl’s “singing saw” – a real one, while the band played off-stage.
A final encore of ‘Nobody Does It Better’ was very apropos – I think everyone would have agreed with that.