Music and stories of a border crosser

Norbert Brandtner (styrian harmonica), Johanna Holzner (harp), Manuel Haitzmann (tuba)/Foto: Johanna Wenninger-Muhr

Without his “Zugin”, the Styrian harmonica, Norbert Brandtner does not go anywhere. In the last six years, the Pinzgauer from Unken, with around 700 sheep and a dog, mostly a Bordercollie, moved through the Swiss Alps from May to September as a shepherd during his time off from university.

The now qualified forester, as he told the audience last wednesday in the fully occupied Cinetheatro in Neukirchen am Großvenediger, did it when he was fed up with the well-organized society, “which restricts, regulates and controls the individual more and more”. He presented it to the mostly local guests in Pinzgau dialect.

The self-composed pieces for harp, Zugin and tuba were the focus of the second part of his lecture. He was accompanied by Johanna Holzner (harp) and Manuel Haitzmann (tuba). At first he told of “Swiss nightmares”, how he named his show. Illustrated by many photos and short videos taken with his mobile phone, he took the audience into the barren mountain world of the Swiss Alps, where he had pursued his lonely and rather dangerous job as a shepherd on an area of about 25 square kilometres.

A time in which Norbert Brandtner had a lot of borderline experiences, but also a mental journey that led him to ask many a question of life anew. Sometimes very emotionally, he told us what it means to be on one’s own in dicey situations. “It was a constant wandering through rugged side valleys, up to 13 hours a day, whether in rain, snow or sunshine. And always under the condition: “Don’t break a leg.” His “home” at that time was a container measuring almost six square metres, which was flown into the mountains by helicopter. He ate mainly goulash soup and spaghetti.

Norbert Brandtner is by no means a loner, but a sociable type who also has a strong social streak. With the association “Licht und Schatten” he supports aid projects in Ecuador.

The music is only a hobby for the trained carpenter, who is about to complete a second degree in torrent and avalanche control after studying forestry science. But to call him a hobby musician would be an exorbitant understatement. Because Norbert Brandtner is a first-class instrumentalist (and composer) who, in his harmonious and technically experienced interplay with Johanna Holzner and Manuel Haitzmann, effortlessly managed to tell stories of “Gipfelglück”, to conjure up moods with the “Bergwaldfarbenmelodie” or to awaken longings with the piece “Bora Bora”. The audience was accordingly touched and enthusiastic.

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