Brass Band Burgermusik Luzern will represent Switzerland at the 2014 European Championships in Scotland after claiming a sixth National title in Montreux.
A decade after they last won the imposing top section trophy, Michael Bach led his band to victory following two days in intense competition at the Stravinski Auditorium overlooking the stunning alpine beauty of Lake Geneva.
2009 champion Valaisia Brass Band directed by Arsene Duc was second, with 12 time winner Treize Etoiles conducted by James Gourlay in third.
Defending champion Brass Band Fribourg ended fourth, with 2011 winner Brass Band Valaisan fifth and Brass Band Berner Oberland in sixth.
As Michael Bach lifted the cup high above his head in celebration, his proud parents looked on from the foot of the stage as they savoured their youngest son’s achievement, especially as Markus Bach had led Brass Band Berner Oberland to success at this event in 1987 and 1990.
Before Michael left to join his players for what promised to be a long and happy night in Montreux, he recalled that it was one of the great ambitions of his musical life to do what his father had done — even when as a child he used the trophy as a makeshift football goal, trying to kick tennis balls into its top!
Wanted to win
"This has always been the one trophy I have wanted to win most—simply because my father won it when I was so young. I don’t think I really understood how important it was at the time when I was trying to score goals in it with tennis balls, but now I do."
His father laughed when he recalled his son’s fledgling football skills.
"I’m so glad he didn’t take up football," Markus said. "The whole family is very proud of his achievement and we all hope to be able to see him conduct the band at the European Championships in Perth."
One of the first people to hear the news of the success was Michael’s brother Philippe, who was conducting Eikanger Bjorsvik in a high profile concert in Norway.
Markus added: "We phoned him immediately and he has passed on his congratulations to his younger brother. He is also very proud of him and what he has achieved this weekend."
The foundation to Luzern’s victory came with an outstanding performance of the set work, ‘Masquerade’, which proved to be an exacting test of the technical and musical qualities of the 11 competitors.
Aided by a prize winning ‘Best Euphonium’ performance by Phillip Renqqli, Luzern ended Saturday ahead of close rivals Brass Band Treize Etoiles with Valaisia in third.
The set work judges (Ian Bousfield, Alan Fernie and Mark Wilkinson) later told 4BR that in their opinion the top two bands stood out in being able to master Wilby’s fearsome and witty musical portrait of Shakespeare’s colourful extrovert character.
The following afternoon came the climax of the contest with the substantial own choice offerings, with no less than three premiere performances—including Luzern’s own spectacular rendition of ‘REM-Scape’ by Thomas Doss, inspired by Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’.
With Treize Etoiles also giving the first performance of Kenneth Downie’s expertly crafted ‘Handel in the Band’—based on his famous ‘Sarabande’, it was to prove a difficult, but enjoyable task for the trio of British judges (Roger Webster, Michael Fowles and Russell Gray) as they compared and contrasted major works by composers such as Edward Gregson, Nigel Clarke and Ludovic Neurohr.
However, it was to be a stunning performance of Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen’s ‘Old Licks, Bluesed Up’ that gave Valaisia first place, thanks in no small part to a superb prize winning contribution from principal cornet Vincent Bearpark.
"There were some great performances of some great works," Roger Webster later told 4BR. "Some were more successful than others, but the overall standard was very good, especially between the top three bands."
However, Luzern’s second place with Treize Etoile in third enabled them to capture the title for the first time since 2003 and send the band to Perth.
They will be the fifth different Swiss representative in the last five years at the event, as the Montreux contest showed that there is now a growing batch of high class bands all more than capable of becoming National champion.
As Michael Bach later told 4BR: "We will celebrate tonight, but then we will start work immediately on our preparations for Scotland, where we hope to become the first Swiss band to win the European title.
It has been a wonderful achievement by the players and our thanks go to Thomas Doss for producing a quite brilliant work for us to perform.
He is an amazing composer and it was a real honour to give the premiere of his new composition this weekend."
Robert Redhead’s ‘Isaiah 40’ proved to be an exacting musical hurdle to overcome in the First Section, where a first National victory was claimed by Ensemble de Cuivres AMBITUS directed by Francois Roh.
Their hard earned success saw them beat off the close challenge of AEW Brass Band Fricktal, who ended just .33 of a point behind, with Liberty Brass Band Ostschweiz a point further back in third.
Defending champion Brass Band Rickenbach could only manage fifth behind Brass Band Kirchenmusik, although their solo horn player did claim the ‘Best Soloist’ prize. Former champion Ensemble de Cuivres Euphonia was sixth.
However, in what was overall a disappointing contest, the demands imposed on both main and secondary soloists as well as a propensity to overblow and choose over ambitious tempos undermined many performances.
Adjudicator Thomas Wyss (who was joined by Richard Evans and Hans Gansch) felt that the set work was perhaps at the very limit of current First Section capabilities in his home country.
"It was a very difficult test for the bands—although not helped on some occasions by the conductors.
The best managed to bring out the music in the score and it was pretty close between the top four bands for us in the box, but the winners managed to combine security of technique with warm musicality to come first."
A new work entitled, ‘Traversada’ by Oliver Waespi provided an enjoyable test in the Second Section, where Liberty Brass Band Junior conducted by Christopher Luchsinger re-claimed the title from defending champion Brass Band Feldmusik Escholzmatt, with Brass Band 43 in third.
It was the band’s third victory at the contest since 2007.
With its cleverly crafted exploration of a simple Romansh song about farewells and uncertain re-unions, the composition (meaning a mountain pass crossing) enabled bands to showcase both their technical and musical skill sets in full, something adjudicator Michael Fowles (who was joined by Russell Gray and Roger Webster) acknowledged.
"It’s a great work that would be an ideal test for a National Finals at this level in the UK. It also allowed scope for the best bands to flourish, but it also highlight intonation and balance problems.
We would have liked a bit more adherence to the quieter dynamics too, and no band came away unscathed, but it was a fine test that produced a very worthy winner."
An enjoyable Third Section contest provided the Sunday aperitif ahead of the Championship own choice selections, with Brass Band Abinchova conducted by Gian Walker retaining their National title with a fine performance of the set work, ‘Toccata Festivo’ by Jan Van der Roost.
In a close battle for the honours, Jugend Brass Band Michelsant was runner-up with Brass Band Fruitgen in third.
Trio of excellence
Adjudicator Alan Fernie (who was in the box with Ian Bousfield and Mark Wilkinson) congratulated the winners in a demanding contest that eventually produced three excellent performances from the podium finishers.
"These were a little way clear for us," he said. "It was a difficult choice of set work, but a good test. There were problems with some tempo choices and rhythms, but the winners had both elements well under control.
Percussion was essential in providing the foundation to the performances and that’s why we gave the solo award to the team from Abinchova who were excellent."
There were also a trio of well worked performances in the Fourth Section, where Entlebucher Jugend Brass Band, conducted by Mario Schubiger reclaimed the trophy they last won in 2009, with an exciting renditions of the set work, ‘Olympus’ by Philip Harper.
It proved to be good enough to repel the twin challenge of Elite Cressier FR in second with Jugend Brass Band Neuenkirch in third.
Adjudicator Mark Wilkinson (joined by Alan Fernie and Ian Bousfield) congratulated the winners and felt that despite the small number of competitors the overall standard had been very good.
"’Olympus’ certainly tested the three bands," he said. "However, all produced excellent performances and it was good to hear an appreciation of the dynamics and tempos as well as the warm ensemble and solo sounds on show.
The euphonium player was a real star and a deserved winner of the solo prize."
With its outstanding organisation and presentation, it was little wonder that the Swiss Brass Band Association was pleased that their National Championships continue to grow in strength and quality, as President Ariane Brun told 4BR:
"We have enjoyed another wonderful event and have welcomed many friends and guests to join us once more.
We feel the event is growing each year and that the overall standard of performances is getting better and better, which is good for Swiss banding and music making in our country."
It has been a wonderful achievement by the players and our thanks go to Thomas Doss for producing a quite brilliant work for us to performMichael Bach
Set Work: Ian Bousfield, Alan Fernie, Mark Wilkinson
Own Choice: Michael Fowles, Russell Gray, Roger Webster
Set Work: Masquerade (Philip Wilby)
Set Work/Own Choice = Total
1. Brass Band Burgermusik Luzern (Michael Bach): 1st + 2nd = 3
2. Valaisia Brass Band (Arsene Duc): 3rd + 1st = 4
3. Brass Band Treize Etoiles (James Gourlay): 2nd + 3rd = 5
4. Brass Band Fribourg (Frederic Theodoloz): 4th + 4th = 8
5. Ensemble de Cuivres Valaisan (Francois Roh): 6th + 6th = 12
6. Brass Band Berner Oberland (Corsin Tuor): 5th + 9th = 14
7. Ensemble de Cuivres Melodia (Stephane Duboux): 9th + 5th = 14
8. Ensemble de Cuivres Jurassien (Blaise Heritier): 8th + 7th = 15
9. mgrr Brass Band (Rino Chiappori): 7th + 11th = 18
10. Constellation Brass Band (Ivan Lagger): 10th + 8th = 18
11. Oberaargauer Brass Band (Armin Bachmann): 11th + 10th = 21
Best Soloist: Vincent Bearpark (Principal Cornet) — Valaisia Brass Band
Best Euphonium: Brass Band Burgermusik Luzern
Set Work: Isaiah 40 (Robert Redhead)
Adjudicators: Richard Evans, Hans Gansch, Thomas Wyss
1. Ensemble de Cuivres AMBITUS (François Roh) — 95.33
2. AEW Brass Band Fricktal (Roland Fröscher) — 95
3. Liberty Brass Band Ostschweiz (Andreas Koller) — 94
4. Brass Band Kirchenmusik Flühli (Armin Renggli) — 93
5. Brass Band Rickenbach (Corsin Tuor) — 92
6. Ensemble de Cuivres Euphonia (Michael Bach) — 91.66
7. Brass Band Treize Etoiles — B (Géo-Pierre Moren) — 89
8= Brass Band Eglisau (Andreas Buri) — 88
8= Oberwalliser Brass Band A-Band (David Lochmatter) — 88
10. Brass Band Sursilvana (Roman Caprez) — 87
11= Regional Brass Band Bern (Dani Haus) — 86
11= Brass Band Imperial Lenzburg A (Rafael Camartin) — 86
13. Brass Band Emmental (Heinz Heiniger) — 84.33
14. Brass Band Seetal (Pirmin Hodel) — 83.66
15. Brass Band Feldmusik Knutwil (Gian Stecher) — 82.66
16= Brass Band Harmonie Neuenkirch (Christoph Bangerter) — 82.33
16= Brass Band MG Reiden (Reto Näf) — 82.33
Best Solo Horn: Brass Band Rickenbach
Set Work: Traversada (Oliver Waespi)
Adjudicators: Michael Fowles, Russell Gray, Roger Webster
1. Liberty Brass Band Junior (Christoph Luchsinger) — 96.33
2. Brass Band Feldmusik Escholzmatt (Jonathan Kowszun) — 95
3. Brass Band 43 (Jacques Rossier) — 94.67
4. RosAlp Brass Band (David Bonvin) — 94.33
5. BML Talents (Patrick Ottiger) — 93
6. Brass Band Berner Oberland Junior (Jan Müller) — 91.67
7. Brass Band Harmonie Rickenbach (Lukas Scherrer) — 90.67
8. Brass Band Junior Valaisan (Maurice Donnet-Monay) — 89.33
9. 14 MG Lauduna Lalden (Tobias Salzgeber) — 89
10. Ensemble de Cuivres Mélodia Junior (Vincent Maurer) — 86.67
11. Ensemble de Cuivres Jurassien B (Florian Lab) — 86.33
12. Brass Band Rapperswil-Wierezwil (Sascha Hinni) — 84.67
13. Brass Band Cazis (Enrico Calzaferri) — 84
14. Musikverein Brass Band Henggart (Christian Bachmann) — 83.67
15. Oberaargauer Brass Band B (Hans Burkhalter) — 81.67
16. Brass Band Rhodan (Romain Vergères) — 81.33
17. Brass Band Solothurn (Martin Bütikofer) — 80
Best Flugel Horn: MG Lauduna Lalden
Set Work: Toccata Festiva (Jan Van der Roost)
Adjudicators: Ian Bousfield, Alan Fernie, Mark Wilkinson
1. Brass Band Abinchova (Gian Walker) — 90.67
2. Jugend Brass Band Michelsamt (Lukas Scherrer) — 89.00
3. Brass Band Frutigen (Adrian Germann) — 88.00
4. Musik Frohsinn Oberburg (Jan Muller) — 86.00
5. Brass Band Gurbetal (Urs Stahli) — 85.67
6. Brass Band Zurich (Werner Kubli) — 85.00
7. Brass Band Imperial Lenzburg (Lorenz Stockli) — 82.67
8. Oberwalliser Brass Band Junior (David Lochmatter) — 82.33
Best Section: Percussion (Brass Band Abinchova)
Set Work: Olympus (Philip Harper)
Adjudicators: Ian Bousfield, Alan Fernie, Mark Wilkinson
1. Entlebucher Jugend Brass Band (Mario Schubiger) — 88.66
2. Elite de Cressier FR (Martin Künzi) — 87.33
3. Jugend Brass Band Neuenkirch (Christoph Bangerter) — 86.33
Best Soloist: Euphonium — Entlebucher Jugend Brass Band