May 28, 2024

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Christian Muthspiel: I interfere insanely … Video, Photos

One who can do everything, but no longer has to do everything. Christian Muthspiel has made drastic decisions in his musical career. Now he’s celebrating his 60th birthday with two new double albums.

There are people who do so many things that you wonder if they don’t have 25 or 26 hours a day. The Austrian Christian Muthspiel, for example: He is a classical composer and conductor, he is a jazz musician and also composes jazz works, he is a visual artist, he likes to go mountaineering and he is a trombonist and pianist at the highest level, or better, because Christian Muthspiel has a drastic decision made.

I never believed in the concept that what you were once good at you have to do for a lifetime.

On November 20, 2019 he gave his last concert as a trombonist and pianist. It was a duo concert with bassist Steve Swallow at the Cambridge Jazz Festival in England. He hasn’t touched the trombone since then: “I bowed to it and cleaned it and now I’m also waiting for someone with the trombone. This person will then continue to play the instrument because playing a little trombone for himself isn’t possible. Everything “Whatever you’ve done at a certain level, you either do it at that level or you don’t. It’s like in sport: if you don’t train anymore, you hurt yourself when you play football.”

A decision that had far-reaching consequences for the jazz scene as well: As an improvising musician, Christian Muthspiel not only performed with the legendary bassist Steve Swallow. He was a member of the Vienna Art Orchestra for many years, played in his own bands with the French trumpeter Matthieu Michel and the Austrian bassist Georg Breinschmid, but also with his younger brother Wolfgang Muthspiel, a jazz musician who was just as internationally renowned.


Christian Muthspiel was born on September 20, 1962 in Judenburg in Styria and music has surrounded him since childhood. His father, Kurt Muthspiel, was a committed choir director and an important figure in amateur music in Styria. Christian learned piano and trombone, classical and jazz, and at the age of 17 he was booked as a trombone assistant at the Graz Opera. At the same time, jazz came more and more into his life. He was impressed by concerts by the Carla Bley Big Band, by Albert Mangelsdorff solo, but also by the Austrian jazz heroes Harry Pepl and Werner Pirchner, as well as the Sun Ra Orchestra. How freely and coolly these people acted on stage, everyone was exactly themselves. “That’s where I want to go,” thought Christian Muthspiel.


Christian Muthspiel as conductor with the Ludwigsburg

Christian Muthspiel as a classical conductor at the Ludwigsburg Castle Festival. | Image source: Reiner Pfisterer / Ludwigsburg Castle Festival

Over the years, Christian Muthspiel positioned himself more and more in the intermediate world of classical music and jazz, without drifting into the crossover. He conducted symphonies by Gustav Mahler, arranged compositions by John Dowland for his jazz quartet, he framed recordings of Ernst Jandl poems with his trombone and piano playing and interacted with the recorded voice of the poet. “For and with seriousness” is the name of the project from 2008, which Muthspiel also performed live as a solo program with loop devices and a large set of instruments – an experience.

Christian Muthspiel | Bildquelle: Eckhart Derschmidt


The Austrian now looks back on all this music with a commemorative double album: It’s called “Diary” and it contains recordings from 1988 to 2022 from the very different artistic phases of Muthspiel. That’s almost two and a half hours of music, wonderfully varied, but always put together with a sense of dramaturgy. The most recent recordings come from Muthspiel’s new ensemble, which is now his main focus: the ORJAZZTRA VIENNA.


It has long been the conductor and composer’s dream to found a large jazz ensemble, in a way linked to the legendary “Vienna Art Orchestra”, which existed from 1977 to 2010 and was directed by the Swiss Mathias Rüegg.

Muthspiel wanted to bring the exciting young Austrian scene together in one ensemble and create a very unique sound cosmos as a composer and conductor: “The sound is very important insofar as I really tried to form an orchestral culture. We’re not a big band, we’re one Orchestra”.

With this orchestra, Muthspiel lives out his full musicality, he “gets insanely involved”, as he says. Everything is composed very precisely and with a sense of ambiguity and subtlety, but also so well rehearsed that the music radiates the nonchalance and freedom of jazz.

Christian Muthspiel, Posaune, und Steve Swallow, akustische Bassgitarre. | Bildquelle: Rolf Schöllkopf


Muthspiel has already set up sensational projects with his ORJAZZTRA, in the summer of 2022 two extraordinary ones in a row:

For the “La Strada” festival of the Graz Opera, Muthspiel composed a theater concert entitled “La Melodia della Strada”, which premiered at the end of July 2022. A few days later, his opera “Umadum” had its premiere in Munich at the “Out of the Box” festival. Muthspiel had composed an opera for 27 participants, spread over the 27 gondolas of the Ferris wheel in Munich’s Werksviertel at Ostbahnhof, pretty much exactly where the new concert hall is to be built. All sounds and camera images were transmitted from the gondolas using complex technology and presented as a large video conference. In addition, there was the opportunity to spend a round of the Ferris wheel in a gondola directly with an instrument or a voice. Unfortunately, the premiere had to be interrupted halfway through for safety reasons, a thunderstorm had come up and the gondolas of the Ferris wheel were shaking too much.

Christian Muthspiel does not shy away from such extraordinary things, but with him such a visually stunning project does not become a mere spectacle. The composer and conductor is always concerned with the music, and even without the Ferris wheel, the music of the opera “Umadum” would have had an enthralling effect.


In his ORJAZZTA, people play who want to make music with such openness and joy in experimenting, but also with such seriousness, such as the bass clarinetist Lisa Hofmaninger, the trumpeter Lorenz Raab or the two bassists Beate Wiesinger and Judith Ferstl.

Although the ensemble has been around for almost four years, it is only now, on the occasion of Christian Muthspiel’s 60th birthday, that the band’s first album has been released. Also a double album, it’s called “Homecoming” and the title fits very well with Muthspiel’s feelings regarding his ORJAZZTRA: “‘Homecoming’ in the sense that something is at least partially fulfilled that has been a longing for years: that the two worlds in which I’ve moved, in classical music and in jazz as best I can and hopefully it’s still not a crossover where I’m extremely sensitive.”

Christian Muthspiel als Dirigent bei den Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspielen | Bildquelle: Reiner Pfisterer / Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele

Christian Muthspiel now lives out his different influences, his idea of ​​harmony and friction, his very own combination of freedom and form with his ORJAZZTRA VIENNA, but he doesn’t miss practicing the trombone, because it can be a little less stressful in the future:

I also have a bit of a craving for idling, fulfilled idling, or inspired idling.

Christian Muthspiels Orjazztra Vienna | Bildquelle: Lukas Beck

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