Portrait: Federspiel

Federspiel is a band on a mission to liberate Austrian folk music from its dusty image and give it a modern edge and a fresh start which appeals to all ages.

In 2004 seven young musicians from Vienna and the Lower Austrian area got together to revitalise and bring to a new audience local folk music incorporating their own unique musical interpretation. Tearing down borders people think exist in using folk music, they developed and began to write their own compositions which now form a large part of their repertoire. Here their in depth study of original folk music scores proved to be really useful in creating a contemporary new sound using this source material, but we’ll come back to that later. These guys knew exactly what they were doing when they discovered and created their own interpretations for this preserved traditional music, since their own roots are also in classical music studies.

Every single band member of Federspiel began making music at a very early age. Most of them started with the recorder and later turned to bigger brass instruments. All of them share a special dedication to their artistic development and are all students of the University of Music and
Performing Arts or the Conservatoire in Vienna. Nevertheless, the musical signature of Federspiel is deeply influenced by the personal origin and background of the members.

What sets Federspiel apart from the general resurgence of folk music culture, and particularly from other contemporary European folk music you can see in several ways. They don’t just source their music from what is now Austria but also from what was once the Austro Hungarian Empire, a rich and diverse source, which includes polkas, waltzes, marches and Hungarian Csárdás. Every so often, Slavic or Mexican brass rhythms surface in their arrangements and melodies, which underline the fundamental creativity and open mindedness of the septet.

Federspiel is clever enough never to lose focus or get lost in the huge melting pot sometimes common in what is often seen in artists working under the banner of “world music”. Although Balkan and Eastern European music plus the sounds of Gipsy music using Brass are very hip at the moment ranking as some of the continent’s coolest traditional music they only form a small part of the bands sound. Federspiel’s unique sound excels in preserving the heart of Austrian folk whilst creating a new “Austrian sound of music” without forcing it into a contemporary pop culture sound or concept. Even with their extended European focus, Federspiel always remains authentic focusing on taking the old traditions seriously and reviving the music with real respect and an appreciation of their roots.

This fresh young band of musicians manages to find a wonderful balance between traditional folk music and a more contemporary approach, completely avoiding bland commercialism or the mass market of for example the Schlager of German speaking countries.

Above all they embody humour and fun mixed with real professionalism, versatility, virtuosity and great music. Following their own path, the future of these seven musicians seems to be very bright and promising.

Line up:

Simon Zöchbauer – Trumpet/Flugelhorn
Philip Haas – Trumpet/Flugelhorn
Ayac Jimenez-Salvador – Trumpet/Flugelhorn
Frederic Alvarado-Dupuy – Clarinet
Thomas Winalek – Trombone/Bass Trumpet
Matthias Werner – Trombone
Robert Puhr – Tuba

Text: David Weidinger (translated from German)
Photo: © Julia Wesely