Gearing up for the big occasion

Issue 5957

BB looks forward to major band events at Birmingham and Cheltenham

High-profile responses open up collaboration debate

Getting the university band back together!

European Brass Band Championships - set test-piece

Friday 28 April, 2017

Kenny Crookston reporting

Championship Section

Test-piece: Where Angels Fly ( Kevin Houben)

Adjudicators: Torgny Hanson (Sweden), Jan Van der Roost (Belgium) and Roger Webster (England)

Draw

1. Brass Band Buizingen (Luc Vertommen) Belgium

2. Bayerischen Brass Band Akademie (3BA) (Thomas Ludescher) Germany

3. Paris Brass Band (Florent Didier) France

4. Brighouse and Rastrick Professor (David King) England

5. Brass Band Oberosterreich (Erik Janssen) Austria

6. Cory (Philip Harper) Wales

7. Valaisia Brass Band (Arsene Duc) Switzerland

8. Concord Brass Band (Jesper Juul Windahl) Denmark

9. Tredegar Town (Ian Porthouse) Wales

10. Eikanger-Bjorsvik Musikklag (Ingar H. Bergby) Norway

11. Brass Band Willebroek (Frans Violet) Belgium

12. Brass Band Schoonhoven (Ivan Meylemans) Netherlands

 

In the BB Frame

1. Eikanger-Bjorsvik Musikklag (Ingar H. Bergby) Norway

2. Brass Band Willebroek (Frans Violet) Belgium

3. Cory (Philip Harper) Wales

4. Valaisia Brass Band (Arsene Duc) Switzerland

5. Paris Brass Band (Florent Didier) France

6. Brighouse and Rastrick Professor (David King) England

*NOT THE OFFICIAL RESULT

LIVE COVERAGE AVAILABLE AT https://brassbanned.5stream.com

 

A remarkable evening of band contesting here in Ostend, rivalling that of any event we’ve ever attended. Four bands sit above the others for us, but one towering performance has put itself ahead even that remarkable pack. We have Eikanger ahead of the brilliant Brass Band Willebroek, the also brilliant Cory and another storming show from Valaisia. The truth is any one of the four could have taken tonight’s contest, but we have to put them in some order! Paris and Brighouse lead the chasing pack for us, and the sad fact is that someone is going to have to finish last on a night that has seen some of the best band playing we’ve ever witnessed.

Back at 9.00am (local) for the Challenge Section then it's the Championship Own-choice at 12.30. Time for a cup of cocoa now...

 

12. Brass Band Schoonhoven (Ivan Meylemans) Netherlands

Textbook opening leading to another locomotive-like allegro energetico, in which the band lays out its cultured sound. It’s power-packed too and the technical side is up to the mark. A real question over tuning in meno mosso. In fact, it’s not even a question and it derails the performance somewhat. Adagio devoto also seems to lack a bit of confidence but it gets back on track in allegro energetico. Big sounds again in andante religioso (another fabulous bass section!) and it continues in style to the end. A pity about the temporary loss of focus in the middle - a lot of this was excellent.

 

11. Brass Band Willebroek (Frans Violet) Belgium

Largo doloroso is characteristically well measured, leading with power into allegro energetico, which is transparent - every note there to be heard, all in place with the warmest of band sounds. Meno mosso is possibly the best we’ve heard tonight - enchanting. Young soloists work as one and we get the magic moment. High quality maintained in allegro energetico - again, every not laid out for the audience to hear and it’s as committed as it gets. Andante religioso - built from the bottom up (what a fantastic bass section sound!). M. Violet continues to work the miracles with this remarkable band, which is an as good shape as ever. Another contender!

 

 

 10. Eikanger-Bjorsvik Musikklag (Ingar H. Bergby) Norway

Sublime opening largo and the build-up to the first allegro is thunderous. Mechanical approach to allegro energetico really pays off - technically sound, but stylistically drilling straight into the mind. Flugel is sublime in meno mosso , although there is a hint of intonation between flugel and euphonium. Great cornet contribution, but again there is a question over intonation in the middle/lower band. Allegro energetico - not the fastest we’ve heard it, but such precision and commitment to the music makes it every bit as effective as any others. Andante religioso - surging dynamic effects make the magic moments.

Towering finale. What a performance!

 

 

9. Tredegar Town (Ian Porthouse) Wales

Opening largo is relatively safe dynamically, but all secure. Full band sound is committed and the lead in to allegro energetico is impactful. Highly driven and all played with character through to meno mosso, in which soloists all deliver with class (what brilliant cornet playing…), although there are some minor clips. Adagio devoto has all the right musical intentions, but niggly slips are there (and in this company there is little room for even the slightest blip). Allegro energetico is high-octane Tredegar - committed, technically precise and full of drama, driving relentlessly to the andante religioso.

Tredegar really stepped up to the mark with this one. Not perhaps the tidiest performance of the night but so much to commend in both the technical and the artistic playing.

 

 

8. Concord Brass Band (Jesper Juul Windahl) Denmark

Mass evacuation after the two ‘big guns’ but Concord is undeterred with a well-controlled opening largo. Allegro energetico is relentless and secure all the way. Perhaps ‘undercooked’ dynamically but driven and precise. Glorious flugel sound in meno mosso and the following solos are all delivered with aplomb. Adagio devoto is as good as most we’ve heard so far - true artistry in the solo lines - very impressive. Allegro energetico - some real picture painting going on here, although some tired sounds do creep in towards the final sections. Andante religioso perhaps less well balanced than some but this has been a truly excellent performance from the Danes.

 

7. Valaisia Brass Band (Arsene Duc) Switzerland

Opening is suitably subdued but there are a couple of uncharacteristic slips. Huge sounds lead into allegro energetico and again every note is there to be heard. Surging dynamic effects are striking and it continues with mechanical surety. Beautiful flugel sound in meno mosso and euphonium joins to make the perfect duet. Cornet really nails it to the wall - what great cornet players they make in Switzerland! A demonstration in small ensemble playing follows in adagio devoto. Allegro energetico - not only technically brilliant, but the lines all join with so much unity of style. Andante religioso - like a cathedral organ, and we hear some dynamic effects for the first time. The animated section that follows is all in place and the end is simply gigantic.

Perhaps missing some of Cory’s 'brilliance', but the central slow section was simply magnificent. Won’t be far away.

 

 

6. Cory (Philip Harper) Wales

Complete security in the opening, with only the tiniest moment of poor intonation in lower band, but then it’s supercharged Cory in the allegro energetico - tempo by the score but the energy levels are high. Excellent soloists in meno mosso, although the band overcomes the cornet towards the end. Horn solo in adagio devoto is simply stunning - euphonium and cornet concur. Allegro energetico reaches the parts other bands haven’t reached - such technical brilliance, but there’s a whole spectrum of colour too. Andante religioso - wow, this is dramatic. Absolutely bristling with energy, but the technical security is unhindered.

Cory still at its brilliant best…

 

 

5. Brass Band Oberosterreich (Erik Janssen) Austria

Some lovely, subtle touches in the opening largo doloroso and it builds with purpose to allegro energetico. Terrific technical playing continues and it has the dynamic levels to match. Excellent solo work in meno mosso and guesting Kirsty Abbotts (again, are there no great cornet players in Austria?) shows her usual quality. Beautiful work between euphonium and cornet is the highlight of adagio devoto. Allegro feels poco energetico at times, but the good ensemble work is a notable feature. Glorious, organ-like sounds in andante religioso (we love the soprano player too…) and the technical playing that follows is of the highest class.

An odd one from BBO - technically as good as it gets but it felt like there was another gear available sometimes.

 

4. Brighouse and Rastrick Professor (David King) England

Largo doloroso under complete control - upper cornet work in opening especially is sublime. Great detail in allegro energetico, although contrasting  dynamics don’t impact as much as some. Terrific flugel in meno mosso and the quality remains when joined by euphonium. Rich cornet sound and the solo is full of verve - magnificent. Lovely horn to open adagio devoto while cornet and euphonium are musically as one. Allegro energetico is characteristically driven, although just less than precise occasionally. Andante religioso is of epic proportions at times - B&R really going for this one and, unsurprisingly, the colour and dynamisim is all coming from the middle.

Brighouse both brilliant at times, but also full of beauty at just the right moments. Could take a bit of beating, but the small flaws might just let some others in.

 

3. Paris Brass Band (Florent Didier) France

Largo doloroso has real beauty and shape, underpinned by confident but beautifully controlled soloists. Well-measured allegro energetico gives the band space to project the detail and it’s all heard for the first time. Excitement and accuracy - the perfect blend! Some poor intonation in the solo lines in meno mosso threatens to derail it somewhat, although the magnificent cornet pulls a few points back! Adagio devoto opens with an excellent horn, while the cornet and euphonium duet is full of artistry. Allegro energetico abounds with energy and drive, but some misfiring up top suggests some tiredness. Occasional moments of brilliance continue to appear (every time the solo cornet plays…) and the andante religioso finale has warmth whilst remaining powerful.

A fabulous sound at times from Paris and the musicianship on display was quite stunning at times. Just a couple of flaws detracted from time to time.

 

 

2. Bayerischen Brass Band Akademie (3BA) (Thomas Ludescher) Germany

A few high-profile English guests here, although we are pretty sure there are some great brass players in Germany…

Largo doloroso is again played with excellent control and we have some dynamic impact as the allegro energetico progresses. Languid flugel solo in Meno mosso although it does become a bit less secure as this section develops. Solo lines also get lost among the texture of the band. Adagio devoto again perhaps lacks a bit of feeling, but the elaborate, interlinking solo lines work very well. Allegro energetico is generally well placed but the tuning isn’t always 100%. We love the energy being generated here though - real commitment to the playing from band and conductor, but there are small technical flaws along the way. Conductor draws every ounce (gramme!) of effort from the band in andante religioso and it builds with purpose to the end.

A fine effort from the German international brigade. Not perhaps as refined as Buizingen’s opener, but some colourful music-making that could make an impact in the box.

 

 

1. Brass Band Buizingen (Luc Vertommen) Belgium

Largo doloroso is beautifully controlled to open with the merest hint of insecurity. Not all the detail clear in allegro energetico while the dynamic contrasts are obviously going to take a lot of work in this giant of a hall. Very accomplished technical, however. Meno mosso introduces the very artistic flugel - beautiful. Duet with euphonium works perfectly and the cornet soloist performs with aplomb. Adagio devoto - again it’s all there but the overall impression is perhaps lacking in some emotion. Allegro energetico is a technical tour de force but again it seems like hard work for the band to make an impact. Andante religioso - perhaps keeping something in reserve volume-wise, while the religioso to the end shows fine control as the energy builds.

An interesting piece in a very challenging acoustic. This hall is going to take a lot of filling but the piece certainly provides the scope to do so. A fine show from Buizingen, but we suspect there may be bands that make considerably greater impact as the night goes on.