Any rumours that Valaisia Brass Band had passed their peak as a major contesting force were dispelled in formidable fashion in Montreux as they claimed the Swiss National title for a fifth consecutive year.
After somewhat underwhelming performances at the 2019 European and British Open Championships, they returned to the Stravinski Auditorium stage determined to ensure they would not relinquish their domestic hegemony under an impassioned MD, Arsene Duc.
They certainly had to perform to the very limits of their collective brilliance, as for the second year in a row rivals Brass Band Burgermusik Luzern, led by an equally passionate Michael Bach, came within a hairsbreadth of reclaiming the title they last won in 2013.
Ultimately though it was Valaisia's formidable set-work performance of Philip Wilby's 'Jazz' that secured victory — one that took precedence over Luzern's remarkable own-choice rendition of Roland Szentpali's new composition, 'Cataclysms'.
They will now prepare to head to Palanga for the European Championships reinvigorated by a success that saw them become the first band to claim five consecutive national title victories.
In reality, the eventual margin between the two heavyweight contenders (who swapped first and second place finishes over the two legs) was minuscule — an opinion reinforced by members of the separate adjudication teams who later told 4BR that such was the standard of playing that theirs were in many ways 'artistic' decisions.
The written remarks for both bands certainly outlined the admiration for what they had heard in the box.
The set-work team of Paul Holland, Bert Appermont and Thierry Deleruyelle described Valaisia's 'Jazz' as "quite something", "a fantastic performance"of "remarkable good quality".
Meanwhile, Luzern's account of 'Cataclysm' was variously described by own-choice adjudicators Chris Wormald, David Thornton and Andrew Duncan as "exceptional", "quite incredible"and "so vivid".
It still wasn't enough though, as despite taking the own-choice laurels for a second successive year, they once again missed out on victory by the narrowest of 'artistic' margins.
Crucially, by ending the first day at the top of the twin-discipline standings, Valasia had given themselves a extra level of title winning protection — one they optimised in full less than 24 hours later as they took to the stage off the number 1 draw to perform Oliver Waespi's immense new work, 'Other Lives'.
It set an incredible marker — one that was described by the own-choice adjudicators as "a performance of the absolute highest quality", "stunning music making"and "majestic".
The staggering display of solo line musicianship and ensemble technical virtuosity proved priceless as Luzern literally did everything in their musical power to try and prise loose they four year grip on the National Trophy.
Little wonder the fingernails of Valaisia players (if they had any left after the nervous wait for the results) may have left scratch marker on the handles of the cup.
It had been a quite memorable battle for everyone else to savour though.
Behind them came eight Excellence Division contenders who also provided high class performances over the two days, although 'Jazz' proved to be a somewhat troublesome challenge in terms of 'artistic' rather than technical understanding.
A number of stiffly portrayed accounts (especially in the swing and be-bop elements of the score) spoke of a literal reading rather than an intuitive free flowing feeling for the music — something the various iconic greats to have graced this stage at the famous 'Montreux Jazz Festival' will have found disappointing.
In the end the overall consistency of Brass Band Treize Etoiles (helped by the contribution of their outstanding 'Best Euphonium' William Birrer) backed by an evocative own-choice account of 'Trance' saw them come third, ahead of the delighted Liberty Brass Band Ostschweiz.
They claimed their best ever National result, thanks to their fifth place 'Jazz' finish (alongside an extravagant 'REM-scapes') taking precedence over the stylish Brass Band Fribourg ('Absalon in Wonderland').
Ensemble de Cuivres Valasian also benefitted from their 'Jazz' inclinations as they took sixth ahead of Melodia and Berner Oberland (with their Eb tuba player Samuel Gyger taking the 'Best Soloist' award in the own-choice element).
In the end though, the ultimate domestic honour was claimed by a band that once again showed the ultimate desire to maintain its supremacy over their rivals.
Whilst listeners at the Stravinski Auditorium have become accustomed to the almost limitless own-choice ambition from the Excellence Division contenders, this year the Swiss Brass Band Association also set demanding test-piece challenges for the competitors in the other competitive sections.
However, it perhaps proved a little too much in the Elite Division, as not even the eventual winners, Ensemble de Cuivres Euphonia could fully tame Johan de Meij's 2005 European set-work, 'Extreme Make-Over'.
They certainly produced an exciting account under the sharply focussed direction of Michael Bach, but as even he generously admitted later, theirs had been a performance with inherent fragilities — especially in the deceptive opening quartet and build to the Tchaikovsky inspired metamorphosis that followed.
They were not alone (although the standard of tuned percussion playing, led by the 'Best Section' winners of Euphonia was stunning) as the imposing technical demands and the fearsome stamina needs took more casualties than Napoleon's doomed assault on Moscow.
A bold defending champion, Brass Band Emmental eventually came second with a delighted Brass Band Eglisau in third.
The remaining top-six places in a contest which highlighted both admirable endeavour as well as starker levels of reality went to Brass Band Rickenbach, Brass Band Fribourg B and Brass Band Sursilvana.
In contrast musical ambitions were certainly exceeded in a highly enjoyable First Division contest, won in outstanding manner by BML Talents Band conducted by Patrick Ottiger.
Packed with a host of teenage players aided by a few older, more experienced counterparts, they produced a superb rendition of Philip Sparke's 2000 European set-work 'Tallis Variations' that wouldn't have been out of place at that event.
Their cultured tonality was further enhanced by razor sharp ensemble precision and uber-confident soloists as the 'junior band' of the Brass Band Burgermusik Luzern organisation took the title by a point from the equally impressive Brass Band Kirchenmusik Fluhli.
Both bands will now be promoted to the Elite Division — just reward for their efforts.
The overall standard was set by Brass Band RosAlp off the number 1 draw, with the vastly experienced Angelo Bearpark rolling back the years to take the 'Best Principal Cornet' accolade.
The remaining top-six places in an impressive battle between 15 intelligently led contenders went to Brass Band Reiden, Treize Etoiles B and Brass Band Lotschental.
A packed audience in the Miles Davis Hall also enjoyed plenty of fine performances throughout the weekend, led by a delighted Constellation Brass Band conducted by Olivier Vergeres who claimed the Second Division title with a cultured account of the set-work, 'Fanfare & Love Songs' by Gavin Higgins.
It enabled the band to claim a narrow single point victory over rivals MG Konkordia Aedermannsdorf with Liberty Brass Band Junior in third.
The remaining top-six places in a contest where all the MDs tried show the stylistic differences of the composer's engaging score went to Brass Band Abinchova, Brass Band Berner Oberland Junior and Brass Band Harmonie Rickenbach.
The contest weekend got off to a great start early on Saturday morning when the impressive Musik Froshsinn Oberburg claimed a clear three point margin of victory over Brass Band Imperial Lenzburg B and third placed
Hinterlander Jugend Brass Band.
The remaining top-six places went to Thunerseebrass, Brass Band Prattigau and Jugend Brass Band Michelsamt.
Bertrand Moren's 'Sinfonietta Epica' test-piece proved to be a fun-packed challenge of eclectic musical styles and technique — the filmatic score with nods to Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman allowing the bands to play with vibrant excitement and colour — none better than the deserved winner.
Although there were only four bands in the foundation level Fourth Division, the overall standard was marked as they tackled Stephen Hodel's 'Argos' with mature appreciation.
A fine performance by Entlebucher Jugend Brass band directed by Patrick Notter took the honours (much to their delight at the awards ceremony), two points ahead of Brass Band des Franches-Montagnes, Jugend Brass Band Oberer Sempachersee and Jugend Brass Band Regionale Musikschule.
With the contest set to remain at the Montreux Convention Centre for at last another two years (it is due to be refurbished in 2022) the Swiss Brass Band Association, led by its President Ariane Brun, continues to develop one of the most impressive National Championship events in the banding world.
And with 63 bands providing outstanding competitive performances, led by the standard bearing brilliance of the five time champion Valaisia Brass Band, it is also an event that continues to be an unmissable occasion.
The set-work team of Paul Holland, Bert Appermont and Thierry Deleruyelle described Valaisia's 'Jazz' as "quite something", "a fantastic performance" of "remarkable good quality"4BR
Set Work: Paul Holland, Bert Appermont, Thierry Deleruyelle
Own Choice: Adjudicators: David Thornton, Chris Wormald, Andrew Duncan
Set Work/Own Choice = Total
1. Valaisia Brass Band (Arsene Duc): 1 + 2 = 3*
2. Brass Band Burgermusik Luzern (Michael Bach): 2 + 1 = 3
3. Brass Band 13 Etoiles A (Frederic Theodoloz): 3 + 3 = 6
4. Liberty Brass Band Ostschweiz (Stefan Roth): 5 + 7 = 12*
5. Brass Band Fribourg A (Maurice Donnet-Monay): 6 + 6 = 12
6. Ensemble de Cuivres Valaisan (Francois Roh): 4 + 10 = 14*
7. Ensemble de Cuivres Melodia A (Vincent Baroni): 9 + 5 = 14
8. Brass Band Berner Oberland (Corsin Tuor): 10 + 4 = 14
9. Oberaargauer Brass Band OBB (Christoph Luchsinger): 7 + 8 = 15
10. Ensemble de Cuivres Jurassien A (Blaise Heritier): 8 + 9 = 17
*Set Work placing takes precedent
Best Soloist (Own Choice): Samuel Gyger (Eb tuba) — Brass Band Berner Oberland
Best Euphonium: William Birrer (Treize Etoiles)
Adjudicators: Etienne Crausaz, Jean Claude Kolly, Rolf Schmacher
Test Piece: Extreme Make-Over (Johan de Meij)
1. Ensemble de Cuivres Euphonia (Michael Bach) — 96
2. Brass Band Emmental (Jan Muller) — 95
3. Brass Band Eglisau (Andreas Buri) — 94
4. Brass Band Rickenbach (Enrico Calzaferri) — 93
5. Brass Band Fribourg B (Maurice Donnet-Monay) — 90
6. Brass Band Sursilvana (Russell Gray) — 89
7. Brass Band Harmonie Neuenkirch (Manuel Imhof) — 88
8. Brass Band Imperial Lenzburg A-Band (Rafael Camartin) — 87
9. Brass Band Cazis (Susanne Rechsteiner) — 85
10. AEW Concert Brass Fricktal (Adrian Schneider) — 81
Best Percussion: Ensemble de Cuivres Euphonia
Adjudicators: Bert Appermont, Paul Holland, Thierry Deleruelle
Test Piece: Tallis Variations (Philip Sparke)
1. BML Talents (Patrick Ottiger) — 95*
2. Brass Band Kirchenmusik Fluhli (Armin Renggli) — 94*
3. Brass Band RosAlp (David Bonvin) — 93
4. Brass Band MG Reiden (Roland Froscher) — 92
5. Brass Band 13 Etoiles Formation B (Eric Fournier) — 91
6. Brass Band Lotschental (Aldo Werlen) — 90
7. Musikgesellschaft Risch-Rotkreuz (Adrian Schneider) — 89
8. Universal Brass Band Wil (Gian Stecher) — 88
9. Brass Band 43 (Olivier Neuhaus) — 87
10. Ensemble de Cuivres Ambitus (Gilles Rocha) — 86
11. Oberwalliser Brass Band (Lionel Fumeaux) — 85
12. Feldmusik Knutwil (Enrico Calzaferri) — 84
13. Brass Band Breitenbach (Reto Naf) — 83
14. Ensemble de Cuivres la Covatte (Boris Oppliger) — 82
15. Brass Band Uri (Markus Steimen) — 81
* Promoted to Elite Division
Best Principal Cornet: Brass Band RosAlp
Miles Davis Hall
Adjudicators: David Thornton, Chris Wormald, Andrew Duncan
Test Piece: Fanfare and Love Songs (Gavin Higgins)
1. Constellation Brass Band B (Olivier Vergeres) — 95
2. MG Konkordia Aedermannsdorf (Simon Gertschen) — 94
3. Liberty Brass Band Junior (Christoph Luchsinger) — 92
4. Brass Band Abinchova (Roman Caprez) — 91
5. Brass Band Berner Oberland Junior (Jan Muller) — 90
6. Brass Band Harmonie Rickenbach (Lukas Scherrer) — 89
7. Burgermusik Untereggen (Stefan Roth) — 88
8. Brass Band Junior Valaisan (Aurelien Darbellay) — 87
9. Brass Band Feldmusik Escholzmatt (Roger Muller) — 85
10. Ensemble de Cuivres Melodia B (Joelle Gaillard) — 84
11. Brass Band l'Avenir de Lignieres (Cyril Perrenoud) — 83
12. Ensemble de Cuivres Jurassien B (Rainier Chetelat) — 81
13. Brass Band Zurich (Werner Kubli) — 80
Best Principal Cornet: Constellation Brass Band B
Adjudicators: Etienne Crausaz, Jean-Claude Kolly, Rolf Schmacher
Test Piece: Sinfonietta Epica (Bertrand Moren)
1. Musik Frohsinn Oberburg (Jan Muller) — 96
2. Brass Band Imperial Lenzburg B-Band (Stefan Aegerter) — 93
3. Hinterlander Jugend Brass Band (Luca Frischknecht) — 92
4. Thunerseebrass (Christoph Hertig) — 91
5. Brass Band Prattigau (Lothar Uth) — 90
6. Jugend Brass Band Michelsamt (Peter Stadelmann) — 88
7. Brass Band Gurbetal (Amos Gfeller) — 87
8. Brass Band Solothurn (Yannick Mathys) — 86
9. Brass Band Matzendorf (Marcel Bossert) — 85
10. Musikverein Brass Band Henggart (Amos Gfeller) — 84
11. Musikverein Rothrist (Cyrill Schaub) — 83
Best flugel horn: Musik Frohsinn Oberburg
Miles Davis Hall
Adjudicators: Paul Holland, Thierry Deleruyelle, Bert Appermont
Test Piece: Argos (Stephan Hodel)
1. Entlebucher Jugend Brass Band (Patrick Notter) — 94
2. Brass Band des Franches-Montagnes (Frederic Praz) — 92
3. Jugend Brass Band Oberer Sempachersee (Manuel Imhof) — 91
4. Jugend Brass Band Regionale Musikschule Liestal (Ivan Estermann) — 90
Best Euphonium: Brass Band des Franches-Montagnes