Combining flawless brass performance with physical comedy and absurdist theatre, there's nothing quite like Austrian ensemble Mnozil Brass. Their show Blofeld expertly combines sophistication, irreverence and a slightly dark and twisted worldview. Small wonder they've been called the 'Monty Python' of brass.
Two hours flew by as the septet delighted the audience at Hamer Hall with a range of musical styles from polka to classical to movie themes, including a selection of James Bond numbers (Live and Let Die never sounded so good!)
It seems odd to say of a concert, but the music and performance theatre are intertwined so completely that you sometimes forget that these are master musicians doing a live show. It's not until someone pulls a tiny wind-powered keyboard and a handful of pocket change out of a tuba at the end of a piece that you are suddenly reminded that this is all for real. I'm tempted to say that it is in flourishes like these that the audience snaps back to reality. But then when two of the group start playing a waltz on the tiny keyboard in a strange, synchronised Master-Slave routine that summons up images of Waiting for Godot, the temptation to invoke reality quickly fades.
There are several moments like this. At one point, half of the group is playing football with scrunched up pieces of sheet music while one of the trumpeters uses his smartphone to record someone from the audience try to toss things into the spout of Wilfried Brandstötter's tuba. Meanwhile, the other half of the band are setting fire to their sheet music and trying to put it out by draining their spit valves on the flames. Still playing all the while, keeping perfect time.
There are transcendant moments, such as when crowd favourite Gerhard Füssl sits alone, bathed in a spotlight, eliciting haunting tones on a wood saw. Five minutes later he's interrupting solemn choral singing by running onstage with a punctured inflatable doll.
Mnozil Brass love music and relish the playful absurdities of life. They have done us the great service of distilling this potent blend into a memorable, bold and consummately executed two hours of pure enjoyment. If they stretched out the farewell bows a little, it was well-deserved and we didn't mind a bit.
Mnozil Brass presents
With Andrew Kay & Associates
Dates: September 25, 2012
Venue: Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne