Mnozil Brass to bring precise playing and puckish humor to Mondavi

By From page A7 | October 18, 2013

That’s the ticket

Who: Mnozil Brass

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22

Where: Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, UC Davis

Tickets: Starting at $25; www.mondaviarts.org, 530-754-2787

The seven guys who form Mnozil Brass — a free-spirited Viennese  ensemble that will perform at the Mondavi Center on Tuesday, Oct. 22, at 8 p.m. — originally got together 20 years ago as something of a lark.

The seven guys — three trumpets, three trombones and a tuba — were students at the University of Music in Vienna, preparing for sober careers as classical musicians. From time to time, they would get together at a club near campus and let down their hair a bit, playing lighthearted material intermixed with a bit of physical humor and sketch comedy in a cabaret-like show. And yes, there was a bit of beer involved.

But what began as an informal project “just for fun” gradually became a sought-after band. Mnozil Brass is now a full-time outfit that tours the world, giving concerts that feature remarkably precise playing, in addition to some loopy antics that have led many to compare Mnozil Brass to those champions of English absurdist comedy, Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Musical parody is a major component in a Mnozil Brass concert. They’re famous for their cover version of the iconic Queen hit “Bohemian Rhapsody,” featuring the requisite a cappella singing as well as brass ensemble passages; the YouTube video of Mnozil’s version has racked up nearly 2 million views.

They also play a related ditty titled “Hungarian Schnapsodie,” as well as an irreverent transcription of the “William Tell” Overture, a surprisingly tender rendition of the Henry Mancini standard “Moon River,” brass arrangements of traditional Austrian and German songs, and more. They also have a number in which they set aside their brass instruments and play wooden recorders as nose flutes.

And the group plays big venues these days, sometimes performing modern operettas of their own invention, including one that was commissioned by the Bavarian city of Bayreuth, where the great operatic composer Richard Wagner lived for a number of years, and an internationally prominent Wagner festival is held annually.

Tickets for the Oct. 22 performance at the Mondavi Center start at $25, and are available at www.mondaviarts.org or 530-754-2787.

Jeff Hudson

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