The first European title decided in Oostende saw Carlos Alberto Ramon-Perez of Spain claim the 7th European Conductors Competition.
After coming through three rounds against 11 other competitors from around Europe, conducting repertoire with string, wind and brass band ensembles, the 27 year old from Alicante maturely directed the top flight Belgian Noord Limburgse Band through a controlled rendition of John McCabe's imposing 'Cloudcatcher Fells' to claim the title plus 3000 Euros, and an added bonus of a 500 Euros Audience Prize.
Trio of talent
In a competition that showcased three engaging, technically proficient conducting personalities, 28 year old Borja Martinez-Alegre from Valencia came runner-up conducting 'Pageantry', with Maxime Pitois (29) in third with 'In Memoriam RK'.
Earlier in the day the finalists were given just 30 minutes to rehearse their pieces (picked at random from a prescribed list) with the band. The end result was a fine indictment of their skill sets, especially as none had any extensive brass band conducting experience.
The adjudication panel, sat at the side of the stage and in the auditorium to examine the conducting techniques and musical communication, were also impressed; later telling 4BR that the overall standard of the competition had been remarkably high.
For the winner, who studied wind band conducting at the Maastricht Conservatoire, and who now teaches both wind and string bands in schools in his home town of Alicante, it was a remarkable achievement — although he confessed that he had become a convert to brass band music from his time in The Netherlands.
"I heard some fanfare bands there and was impressed, but I also got to hear some brass bands too, and I felt I wanted to find out more. The repertoire really interests me and I have downloaded many tracks. The technique of the bands is amazing and the sound is unique."
Carlos Alberto added: "I entered this important competition to encourage myself further, and I worked hard on the repertoire. I was delighted to be able to conduct 'Cloudcatcher Fells' as it is a wonderful piece. I am very pleased of course to have won, but I must also congratulate Borja and Maxime who were fantastic and all the other conductors who took part."
There was also delight for his fellow Spaniard Borja Martinez- Alegre, who won 2,000 Euros, as he told 4BR that to get to the final was his goal.
The trumpet player and wind band conductor from Valencia has twice been a delegate on Allan Withington's Conductor Course in Leeuwarden, and he felt that experience had helped him enormously.
"The course has been essential to me," he said. "Allan taught me so much, and that has helped so much on 'Pageantry'. It is great music, and the band helped me as well. To get to the final was my goal and to finish runner-up is something I am very proud of against so many excellent conductors."
I was delighted to be able to conduct 'Cloudcatcher Fells' as it is a wonderful piece. I am very pleased of course to have won, but I must also congratulate Borja and Maxime who were fantastic Carlos Alberto Ramon-Perez
That was also a sentiment expressed by Maxime Pitois, as he took home to Dijon, 1,000 Euros plus an additional 500 Euros for winning the prize selected by the members of Noord Limburgse Band. He now conducts the junior orchestra at the Dijon Conservatory and recently joined the Dijon Brass Band that has performed at the French Championships.
"I love the sound of the brass band and the way it is so flexible," he said. "I am now starting to conduct at Dijon too. This has been a wonderful experience."
Before the announcement of the results, the European Youth Brass Band entertained a small but supportive audience at the De Grote Post led by Raf van Loveren.
EBBA President Ulf Rosenberg later told 4BR that he hoped that the trio will go on to enjoy the type of successful careers that the likes of former finalists Adam Cooke, Erik Van der Kolk, John Philip Hannevik and Jesper Juul Sorensen have since created for themselves within the brass band movement, or even go as far as Philippe Bach or Mirga Granzinyte Tyla, who are now the Principal Conductor of the Das Meininger Theatre in Germany and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.