A unique combination of woodwind, brass and folk strings
Franui came into being exactly 20 years ago. Its birthplace was Innervillgraten, a village of about 1,000 people in East Tyrol, Austria, where most of us grew up. We adopted the name for our ‘Musicbanda’ from the name of a nearby mountain pasture, situated some 2,000 meters above sea level. Since 1993 we have been playing together in practically the same line-up, a special blend of woodwind and brass, folk music string instruments and bowed instruments which produce an immediately recognisable sound: ‘Even if you have heard Franui’s music only once in your life it will remain in your memory, in your soul, forever,’ the Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote.
It all began when we decided to use the equipment of a traditional Austrian dance band to play funeral marches - because it’s actually only a short way from the graveyard to the dance floor (or vice-versa). At some point a composition by Franz Schubert found its way on to our music stands, the Deutsche Messe, also referred to as the ‘Compass Mass’ in brass band circles (seeing that it starts with the words, ‘Where shall I turn...’). Consequently, we turned our attention to Schubert’s lieder oeuvre: in some cases we merely added a single note or timbre, while in others we simply stopped turning the pages and just kept on playing. We then proceeded to apply the same modus operandi to Johannes Brahms’s Deutsche Volkslieder, and, last but not least, to the lieder of Gustav Mahler, who, incidentally, spent the last three summers of his life at our neighboring village, Toblach. When we take the great lieder of the 19th century and make them our own a very special world of sound emerges, a blend of contemporary chamber music, folk music reminiscences, and elements of jazz, pop and world music. Our re-compositions of Schubert’s, Brahms’s and Mahler’s lieder have just been released in a 3-CD boxed set by our label col legno.
Over the past two decades our way has taken us from the small village of Innervillgraten to some of the major music festivals in Europe, including the Salzburg Festival, where we performed nine shows in the 2012 season alone. Following our endeavors towards promoting the lieder of the 19th century, our most recent project deals with the 20th and 21st century equivalent, the pop song (in its widest sense): ‘Fool of Love’, our latest programme currently on show at the Burgtheater Vienna, is a journey through the mysterious realm of William Shakespeare’s sonnets, which we have set to music in collaboration with the German singer, musician and composer Karsten Riedel; you may call it ‘village pop’, if you like. (The album ‘Fool of Love’ is also available from col legno.)
Finally, one question remains, a question frequently put to Markus Kraler and myself (ever since the band was founded all Franui pieces have been written or re-composed by us both): how does one write compositions as a team? The answer is simple: one draws the note heads, the other does the stems (or vice-versa)...
Watch 'Let me confess' from Franui's 'Fool of Love' featuring Karsten Riedel, currently showing at Burgtheater Vienna:
Andreas Schett is trumpeter and composer of the East-Tyrolean ‘Musicbanda Franui’. He is also a communication designer and editor of the arts and culture magazine ‘Quart’.