BATTLE OF THE TITANS - Bands gear up for a titanic battle at the Royal Albert Hall

Issue 6016

COMPOSERS' CORNER - Dr Liz Lane looks at the subject of  networking 

HERE IS THE NEWS - Looking back at the Daily Herald's Nationals sponsorship

Swiss National Championships - Excellence Division LIVE!

Saturday 25 November, 2017

Excellence Division

Test-piece: Eden (John Pickard)

Adjudicators: David Childs, Ian Porthouse, Franz Matysiak

Kenny Crookston reporting


What an engaging evening’s contesting! Eden has been a fantastic choice and the bands have lapped it up in spades. We were also privileged to hear one of the all-time great contest performances from the current British Open Champion, and that’s the one that we think will take the lead into tomorrow’s own-choice section. A lot still to play for though! 

In the BB Frame

1. Valaisia Brass Band (Arsene Duc)

2. Brass Band Fribourg A (Maurice Donnet-Monay)

3. Brass Band Burgermusik Luzern (Michael Bach)

4. Ensemble de Cuivres Valaisan (Francois Roh)

5. Brass Band Treize Etoiles (Dr. James Gourlay)

6. Brass Band Berner Oberland (Corsin Tuor)

N.B. Not the official result!


11. Brass Band Fribourg A (Maurice Donnet-Monay)

Not the tidiest start for the final band of the evening. The conductor opts for a style that is often detached, which produces real clarity. Classy trombone is the pick of the excellent soloists in the early stages, and he reaffirms his talent in the jazz break - outstanding. Once into its swing there’s a relaxed nature to the ensemble and as the layers begin to build it really is scintillating. Lovely calm section and the impressive euphonium leads the journey to the finale. One or two early issues are easily overcome here by a band and conductor with a real hallmark of quality.


10. Brass Band Berner Oberland (Corsin Tuor)

Rich sounds in opening are marred by hesitance at the top end and lack of precision affects much of the opening section. It finds it feet as the tempo picks up, but the percussion section seems intent on obliterating the band. Trombone one of the best of the day - makes it all sound easy too. We find the combination of a rich band sound and raw excitement generated by the conductor very appealing. The expansive ending brings the house down, and with good reason. Some of the early playing was rather ordinary though.


9. Brass Band Treize Etoiles (Dr. James Gourlay)


Opens well but there is a curious feeling of tension in solo lines and it takes time to settle. Once into its stride, however, the ensemble is scintillating. The drama continues to build through the mechanical section and Dr Gourlay takes every opportunity to find more excitement. An engaging ending follows. So much to like in this performance but we can’t help thinking that it could be a few places off the pace today. 


8. Ensemble de Cuivres Melodia (Vincent Baroni)

Not the tidiest of openings for the band with one of the worst draws in history, after Valaisia. Great work in the euphonium solo, but it’s not 100% clean as it progresses. Trombone goes for style and it almost comes off for him. Mechanical, driven section has plenty of quality, but again the odd slips are there to be heard. Some uncertainty in individual sounds as it reaches the final section. Well-measured finale to yet another very good show.


7. Valaisia Brass Band (Arsene Duc) 

Pristine opening from the British Open Champion and immediately we are exposed to the innate beauty of the band’s sumptuous sound. Euphonium maintains the pristine standard and is joined seamlessly by the cornet. The trombone has a sinister approach the like of which we’ve not heard previously on this piece - as for his jazz break: remarkable. The drama created in the following section will live long in the memory. As will the tranquillity created before the finale. What a special performance.


6. Liberty Brass Band Ostschweiz (Andreas Koller)

Tidy opening and the solo lines all appear with confidence. Otherwise excellent trombone could perhaps have more mystery. Ensemble in animated section not 100% clean and the trombone just loses the line as his solo breaks out. Dynamic contrast isn’t so marked as some others so far, but there is no lack of drama as it winds to the closing section. Surging dynamic effects are the hallmark of the finale to a very accomplished performance.


5. Brass Band Burgermusik Luzern (Michael Bach)

Cultured sounds in the opening - all balanced perfectly too. Euphonium and cornet interplay oozes class, matched brilliantly by the dark and mysterious trombone. Precise percussion and bass line lay a perfect foundation for the animated playing that follows. Trombone brilliant again - just a question mark over one note - and the whole ensemble is simply electrifying through to BB; such use of dynamics and attack has put this one well clear for us at this stage. Ecstatic ending only threatens to overwhelm very briefly. Outstanding.


4. Ensemble de Cuivres Valaisan (Francois Roh)

Best opening we’ve heard thus far - very delicately handled. Brilliant contribution from the 2nd euphonium chair and the solo cornet fits neatly into the drama. One or two clipped notes around the trombone solo but once the band is in its swing the precision is breathtaking. The trombone ‘duet’ didn’t come off as well as planned though. Rippling background provides a scintillating platform as it approaches BB and there is a real sense of drama in the music-making. End is electrifying. Bravo!


3. Constellation Brass Band A (Yvan Lagger)

Tidy start! We like the euphonium’s style and the work between him and the cornet is all played with some aplomb. The overall style is quite deliberate; perhaps it just need more flow at time. The menacing trombone really has bite and we like the way the animated ensemble develops. The inner detail is difficult to decipher at times though. The tranquil build up has one or two intonation issues. We have enjoyed this one overall, though. Some towering sounds in the finale really add an extra layer of polish.


2. Oberaargauer Brass Band (Christoph Luchsinger)

Opening bar not together and one or two entries are on the ‘robust’ side for the written dynamics. Good interplay between cornet and euphonium, but again at all feels very comfortable dynamically. Excellent trombone solo and the band and percussion work develops well from K. Trombone right on the limits at O but there is a brilliance in approach through to BB. Euphoniums emerge beautifully at HH, even if the baritone threatens to drown it. We love the expansive ending to a very good performance.


1. Ensemble de Cuivres Jurassien (Blaise Heritier)

Slightly hesitant opening. Euphonium and cornet figures are quite well handled overall among a comfortable landscape. Trombone shines as the menacing serpent, but there are a few slips around here too. Terrific dynamic energy from the bass end as it proceeds apace - the whole band is throwing everything at this, but unfortunately the dynamic contrasts in the score aren’t always apparent. Massive sounds into EE and the following quiet dynamics are slightly on the ‘safe’ side. One or two imbalanced sounds emerge in the final bars, but this has been a fine opener overall.


11. Brass Band Fribourg A (Maurice Donnet-Monay)