2007 European Brass Band Championships - B Section retrospective


There were only the three bands on display in the B Section but a great test piece and some determined efforts especially from the Italians more than made up for it.

Italian triumph: Brass Band Pfeffersberg claim the B Section title

Saturday morning's B Section was rather reminiscent of last year's competition whereby one band stood head and shoulders above the rest.  The original criteria when the contest was first introduced in 1994 was to integrate and encourage countries to send brass bands to an event where the musical idiom is not as prominent in its heritage as it is in other European nations.

This has paid dividends over the years to such an extent that the Europeans will head to Austria in 2010.  The Austrians have been welcomed into the mainstream European brass band family in recent years and not only has it helped with their development of a brass band infrastructure, the commercial benefits that holding the contest will also bring are varied and many too.

Unfortunately though, whilst bands from developing countries do want to appear here, they've found the costs of making the trip prohibitive and this was certainly the case this year, with the overall standard of the contest being a touch on the weak side with only three bands competing.  This almost certainly won't have gone un-noticed by EBBA and they'll be doing everything they can to get as many bands as possible to attend in future.

Due to the withdrawals, Phoenix West Midlands Band from England was invited by the British Federation of Brass Bands (with the directive coming from EBBA itself) at relatively short notice to compete at the event.  The one thing asking a local band to compete not only prolonged the contest but put a few extra bums on seats and gave the band an experience they would never forget (or may be repeated by another Second Section band from the UK in future)

Each band was required to play an own-choice programme of which the central link was a fine test piece, this year a commission from Simon Dobson, entitled The Drop.

Brass Band Frener-Reifer Pfeffersberg, from Italy conducted by Bernhard Reifer, took the chance to stamp their class on the contest from the number one draw even though they only played three pieces.

A winning line up: The Italians do it in style

From the opening bars of Jan van Der Roost's exhilarating work, ‘Excalibur – Sword of Justice' they sound completely in control and a very accomplished outfit.  Everything was kept tight and precise with some excellent ensemble playing enhanced by purposeful leadership from the MD. 

In complete contrast, the band then opted for Goff Richards' descriptive ‘Silver Mountain' where once again the tightness in the ensemble was very noticeable.

To conclude their winning programme, the band gave the World Premiere of ‘The Drop'.  The title refers to the term used by ‘drum and bass' DJ's to describe the moment they ‘drop' back the main body of a melodic line into their mix to finish off a record they have just been playing. 

The overall effect of the piece is sensational and whilst the music might not be everybody's cup of tea (in fact if you'd not read anything prior to the event about the work and heard a band play it, you'd wonder what on earth you were listening too) the composer should be applauded for this very ‘different' set work.  Within the brass band movement are some talented composers of which Simon is just one, but he's made a huge impact with his music and it surely won't be too long before he's writing another major work for the competition stage.

Pfeffersberg was the one band who seemed to understand the composer's intentions the best on the day.  The style of music was one thing, but the quality of the playing was something else.

Phoenix West Midlands Brass and David Maplestone played last of the three bands and deservedly came second on the day.  The locals performed five pieces, some of which varied in quality.  They top and tailed their programme with music from the pen of Peter Graham with ‘Prelude on Tallis' and ‘Shine as the Light' respectively – both of which were neatly packaged and presented.

Phoenix rising: West Midlands claim the runners up spot

The test piece didn't quite have as much conviction as the winners but the band certainly got into the spirit of the work. However, their star of the show was the band's flugel player, who got a big hug off the MD for a fine performance of ‘The Lark in the Clear Air'.

For a Second Section band to come in at such short notice and produce a programme that also contained a measured performance of 'Mid all the Traffic' was a credit. A bit more time, especially on the test piece and they would have pushed the Italians all the way.

Finally, Laganvale (Metal Technology) from Northern Ireland led by Ernest Ruddock who never really settled on the day.  Throughout their five pieces a lot of the ensemble playing was not always together and ‘The Drop' was completely outside the bands comfort zone.  Their finest moments though came from the band's soprano player in ‘On with the Motley' and the closing Philip Harper work, ‘Elan' both of which showed their true potential.

Irish eyes smiling? Third place for Laganvale

Overall though, the Italians were superb as was that test piece – it's bound to appear on one (if not both) the commercial recordings, so give it a go - it's totally different. 

Taking everything into consideration though, not perhaps the most memorable contest, but one that did have some real moments of quality from the competitors - and of course from the intriguing new test piece.

Malcolm Wood


2016   2015   2014   2013   2012
2011   2010   2009   2008   2007
2006   2005   2004 (1)   2004 (2)   2003
2002   2001