Madcap Music for the Concert Hall
If you want to poke fun at music, it helps to be a virtuoso, a title that both Thomas Gansch and Georg Breinschmid can easily claim. Trumpeter Gansch and double-bass player Breinschmid met in 1997. Each had impressive credentials performing classical music, and together they decided to quit that business and play what they wanted to play, which included just about everything. They are now well on their way to joining the ranks of such famous music spoofers as Spike Jones, Victor Borge, and Anna Russell. They'd be right at home at the Hoffnung Music Festival concerts as well.
Their trademark quirks include putting different music genres together and making them work. The disc's opener, "Unter Donner und Lee," for instance, is basically the "Thunder and Lightning Polka" by Johann Strauss, Jr. But along the way you will hear the bebop tune "Donna Lee" and compositions by Charlie Parker and Sonny Rollins, not to mention Dizzy Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia." Gansch, in particular, loves to throw in famous horn and trumpet calls from works by the two classical Richards, Wagner and Strauss.
In fact, one whole piece is devoted to Wagner. It's called "Low N Green," and it claims, tongue in cheek, to be the original prelude to the third act of Lohengrin, and a wild and mad piece it is. Gansch throws off the main theme at record speed, sending it into the stratosphere with audacious daring. He then settles in to do some cozy jazzing-up of the secondary theme. Then there's . . . wait, no, I should leave those things out so you'll be surprised.
Sometimes the two zany performers sing, folk style, somewhat a la The Sound of Music, and one of the funniest cuts on this frothy disc is "Klassik Gstanzin" in which the two madcap musicians poke fun at their previous classical music engagements.
I've spent 40 years in the orchestra pit
I wish I could laugh there until my sides split
With wine, song, and women (live ones, not cyber)
But instead all I see before me's Carlos Kleiber
It's not all that hilarious. Breinschmid has penned some slightly more serious tunes. But even in "Der Tod," he can't resist having some fun with the Grim Reaper.
Death comes for us all, he ignores none of us
In his eyes we are equal, be it Franz or Karl or Klaus
Death cannot be bribed; he’s not Austrian after all
The recorded sound is splendid, especially considering that it's a live performance. The musical lines between trumpet and double bass are always clean and clear (when that's the performers' intention), and the very enthusiastic audience laughs at the right places and applauds enthusiastically at the end of each piece without detracting from the performers. Perhaps my only gripe here is that everything is in German. Translations have been thoughtfully provided for the songs, but there's a lot of stage banter that the audience finds amusing but that I missed completely, knowing scarcely more than half a dozen words of German. The performance is from the Wiener Konzerthaus, so that audience got it all. It sounds like they had as much fun as the daredevil duo.
Be sure to listen to: The program notes say that "Irgendwas" means "Something," and that knowing this says it all. It's composed mostly of grotesque sound effects but has one of the most effect-closing tags I've ever heard. It's German, too, but you'll get it.
. . . Rad Bennett