Report & Results: 2021 Swiss National Championships

Valaisia Brass Band Rejoice once again as they retain their Swiss National title with divisional honours to Ensemble de Cuivres Euphonia; Brass Band Bern; Brass Band Feldmusik Escholzmatt; Musik Frohsinn Oberburg Jugend Brass Band Oberer Sempachersee

Swiss National
  The Championships took place in Montreux

Valaisia Brass Band claimed an unprecedented sixth consecutive Swiss National title in Montreux in what was one of the most dramatic contests in the event's recent history.

Although the bare statistics of the Excellence Division may record that the defending champion secured victory and their place as the nation's representative at the 2022 European Championships in clear cut fashion — in reality it was anything but.

Peak of powers

Led by Arsene Duc, Valaisia had to perform to the peak of their renowned abilities on their showcase own-choice selection after coming second in the set-work discipline — the first time since 2013 that they had not entered the second day of the contest in pole position.

Despite their outstanding principal cornet Vincent Bearpark claiming the 'Best Principal Cornet' accolade (added to by the 'Best Soloist' award the following day) they had ground to make up on arch rival Brass Band Burgermusik Luzern, who produced an inspired account of Edward Gregson's 'The World Rejoicing' under MD Michael Bach.

Superbly shaped and paced, it deservedly found favour with judges Oystein Baadsvik, Stephen Cobb and Eric Crees to lead the way, whilst third place went to an imposing rendition from Brass Band Treize Etoiles.

For the third time in succession, the trio that were to ultimately fill the podium places once again produced performances of the very highest quality.

Some way behind them came the rest of the nine-band field, led by solidly portrayed accounts from Ensemble de Cuivres Melodia from Liberty Brass Band and Ensemble de Cuivres Valaisian.

High drama

However, if those performances were not thrilling enough, the drama was ratcheted up to fever pitch in the Stravinski Auditorium the following day.

The trio of favourites followed each other on stage — the defending champion setting the mark by producing a scintillating world premiere of their specially commissioned own-choice work, 'A Gabrieli Fantasy' by Bert Appermont that set the hall ablaze with acclaim.

It's intoxicating mix of the baroque and modernism brought breath-taking playing from around the stands, as Arsene Duc drew every drop of inspiration from his ensemble — led once again by their brilliant principal cornet.

The judges (Jan de Haan, Erik Janssen and Thomas Wyss) were also bowled over, giving it first place (the first time the band had topped the own-choice discipline since 2016).

With the hall packed to the rafters, Brass Band Burgermusik Luzern followed. However, despite a brilliantly virtuosic performance of their world premiere commission 'Two Worlds' by Philip Harper, its cinematic character failed to make an impression with the judges — eventually finishing sixth.

More drama was to follow, as with the audience still breathless with the excitement, Treize Etoiles under Frederic Theodoloz gave the third memorable world premiere — this time of Daniel Hall's vividly coloured 'Glitch' — although this also failed somewhat to capture a positive response from the judges to end fifth.

Instead it was Brass Band Berner Oberland's balanced account of Oliver Waespi's 'Other Lives' that pushed Valaisia closest, with a sparkling 'Audivi Media Nocte' from Brass Band Fribourg in third and Liberty Brass Band's exciting 'Explorers on the Moon' in fourth.

Opinions split

Before the announcement of the results, the title winning opinions of listeners was split between the three main protagonists — each worthy of claiming the honours.

The announcement of its results though brought an even more dramatic twist.

Brass Band Fribourg's third place own-choice finish pushed them into sixth place (their fourth top-six finish since 2017), with Berner Oberland's second place enabling them to come fifth and Liberty Brass Band repeating their 2019 fourth place finish.

However with the podium results revealed the audible surprise from the audience indicated that many felt it was a contest much closer than those bare statistics confirmed.

For fans of Valaisia though it was the statistic of a sixth consecutive victory that will be indelibly marked in the history books with the band determined to add a second European title to their name in Birmingham in a few months time.

Elite Division:

Although there was disappointment for conductor Michael Bach in his pursuit of a second top section title (he has seven runner-up finishes since 2009) he once again led Ensemble de Cuivres Euphonia to the Elite Division crown with an imposing victory.

It was the defending champions sixth National success together — this time courtesy of an outstanding performance of the set-work, 'La Passuin' by Oliver Waespi.

The two-point margin was marked and thoroughly deserved, as the MD brought out the contrasting colour, texture and musical 'passion' from the complex score which represents an imaginary drama based on two old folk songs in a tribute to the many 'storm' scenes by composers such as Beethoven and the more harmonic 'visions' that follow.

There was delight for runner-up Gaubunden Brass as they secured their best finish at the event since 2006 whilst Brass Band Harmonie Neuenkirch claimed their second successive podium finish in third.

The remaining top-six places went to Brass Band Rickenbach, Brass Band Emmental and BML Talents.

First Division:

There was a thrilling battle for the First Division honours as Regional Brass Band Bern claimed the title by a point from rivals Universal Brass Band Wil, with Brass Band mg Reiden in third.

Led by Manuel Reneggli, the winner delivered a vivid portrait of Stjin Aertgeerts set-work, 'Bipolarity' — a prize winning entry to the 2019 European Composer Competition to secure their first title success since 2014.

They were pushed all the way by Universal Brass Band Wil led by Gian Stecher who will now join them in being promoted to the Elite Division in 2022.

Brass Band mg Reiden posted their best finish at the event since 2015 in third whilst the remaining top-six places went to 2013 winner Ensemble de Cuivres Ambitus ahead of mgrr Brass Band and Brass Band RosAlp.

Second Division:

The Second Division competition featured several very good performances of Fredrick Schjelderup's colourful 'Sollicitus' set-work.
In the end the judges opted for Brass Band Feldmusik Escholzmatt conducted by Zeno Schmidiger. It was the band's fourth National title at this level, but their first since 2012 as they managed to repel the challenge of former champion Brass Band with defending champion Constellation Brass Band in third.

The remaining top-six places were filled by Brass Band Berner Oberland Junior, Liberty Brass Band Junior and Brass Band Imperial Lenzburg — B Band.

Third Division:

The Miles Davis Hall in the Montreux Convention Centre Complex hosted an enjoyable Third Divisions competition, with Musik Frohsinn Oberburg retaining their title with an excellent rendition of the set-work, 'Red Mountain' by Marc Jeanbourquin.

Led by Jan Muller it was the combination's third National title success sine 2016, as they managed to pip the impressive debutants of Brass Band Thurgau with MG Richenthal-Langnau in third.

The remaining top-six places were claimed by Ensemble de Cuivres Melodia B, Thunerseebrass and Jugend Brass Band Michelsamt.

Fourth Division:

Although there were just four competitors in the Fourth Division contest at the Miles Davis Hall, there was no lack of quality, with a fine performance of Daniel Hall's 'Smoke Sketches' produced by each band.

In the end it was Jugend Brass Band Oberer Sempachersee led by Manuel Imhof that reclaimed the title they won in 2018 by securing victory over defending champion Entlebucher Jugend Brass Band.

2016 and 2017 winner Hinterlander Jugend Brass Band was third ahead of Jugend Brass Band Regionale Musikschule Liestal.

Excellent organisation:

With the Swiss National and local Regional Governments continuing with strict Covid-19 protocols following a recent vote and rising cases, the Swiss Brass Band Association worked extremely hard to enable the event to go ahead in what was in effect a Covid-19 secure bubble.

After being forced to cancel the event in 2020, their excellent efforts were greatly appreciated by performers and listeners alike.

Before the announcement of the results, the title winning opinions of listeners was split between the three main protagonists — each worthy of claiming the honours4BR


Excellence Division:

Test Piece: The World Rejoicing (Edward Gregson)
Set Work: Oystein Baadsvik; Stephen Cobb; Eric Crees
Own Choice: Jan de Haan; Erik Janssen; Thomas Wyss

Set Work/Own Choice = Total

1. Valaisia Brass Band (Arsene Duc): 2/1 = 3
2. Brass Band Burgermusik Luzern (Michael Bach): 1/6 = 7
3. Brass Band Treize Etoiles (Frederic Theodoloz): 3/5 = 8
4. Liberty Brass Band (Stefan Roth): 5/4 = 9*
5. Brass Band Berner Oberland (Corsin Tuor): 7/2 = 9
6. Brass Band Fribourg (Maurice Donnet-Monay): 8/3 = 11
7. Ensemble de Cuivres Melodia (Vincent Baroni): 4/8 = 12
8. Ensemble de Cuivres Valaisan (Francois Roh): 6/7 = 13
9. Ensemble de Cuivres Jurassien (Ueli Kipfer): 9/9 = 18

*Set Work result takes precedence

Best Principal Cornet in Set Work: Valaisia
Best Soloist in Own Choice: Principal cornet (Valaisia)

Elite Division:

Test Piece: La Passiun (Oliver Waespi)
Adjudicators: Jan de Haan; Erik Janssen; Thomas Wyss

1. Ensemble de Cuivres Euphonia (Michael Bach): 97
2. Graubunden Brass (Gian Stecher): 95
3. Brass Band Harmonie Neuenkirch (Manuel Imhof): 94
4. Brass Band Rickenbach (Enrico Calzaferri): 93
5. Brass Band Emmental (Jan Muller): 92
6. BML Talents (Patrick Ottiger): 91
7. Brass Band Imperial Lenzburg A-Band (Rafael Camartin): 90
8. Brass Band Kirchenmusik Fluhli (Armin Renggli): 89
9. Brass Band Fribourg B (Maurice Donnet-Monay): 88
Withdrew: Brass Band Eglisau (Andreas Buri)

Best Soloist: Euphonium (Brass Band Emmental)

First Division:

Test Piece: Bipolarity (Stjin Aertgeerts)
Adjudicators: Oystein Baadsvik; Stephen Cobb; Eric Crees

1. Regional Brass Band Bern (Manuel Renggli): 94
2. Universal Brass Band Wil (Gian Stecher): 93
3. Brass Band MG Reiden (Roland Froscher): 92
4. Ensemble de cuivres Ambitus (Gilles Rocha): 91
5. mgrr Brass Band (Roman Caprez): 90
6. Brass Band RosAlp (David Bonvin): 89
7. Brass Band Cazis (Enrico Calzaferri): 88
8. Brass Band Konkordia Busserach (Christoph Bangerter): 87
9. Brass Band Treize Etoiles 'B' (Lionel Fumeaux): 86
10. Brass Band Schotz (Urs Bucher): 85
11. Brass Band Lotschental (Aldo Werlen): 84

Best Flugel Horn: Universal Brass Band Wil

Second Division:

Test Piece: Sollicitus (Fredrick Schjelderup)
Adjudicators: Jean-Francois Bobillier; Roman Brogli; Remo Capra

1. Brass Band Feldmusik Escholzmatt (Zeno Schmidiger): 95
2. Brass Band Abinchova (Gian Walker): 94
3. Constellation Brass Band B (Olivier Vergeres): 93
4. Brass Band Berner Oberland Junior (Jan Muller): 92
5. Liberty Brass Band Junior (Stfan Roth): 91
6. Brass Band Imperial Lenzburg B (Stefan Aegerter): 90
7. Brass Band Rapperswil-Wierezwil (Jonas Danuser): 89
8. Brass Band Junior Valaisan (Aurelien Darbellay): 88
9. Brass Band Zurich (Werner Kubli): 86
10= Oberwalliser Brass Band (Laurent Zufferey): 85
10= Brass Band Munsingen (Christoph Hertig): 85

Best Solo Horn: Constellation Brass Band B

Third Division:

Test Piece: Red Mountain (Marc Jeanbourquin)
Adjudicators: Jean-Francois Bobillier; Roman Brogli; Remo Capra
1. Musik Frohsinn Oberburg (Jan Muller): 95
2. Brass Band Thurgau (Daniel Gubler): 94
3. MG Richenthal-Langnau (Fabian Brudermann): 93
4. Ensemble de Cuivres Melodia 'B' (Joelle Gaillard): 92
5. Thunerseebrass (Christoph Hertig): 91
6. Jugend Brass Band Michelsamt (Joel Spitaleri): 90
7. Ensemble de Cuivres Jurassien 'B' (Rainier Chetelat): 89

Withdrew: Musikverein Brass Band Henggart

Best Percussion: Musik Frohsinn Oberburg

Fourth Division:

Test Piece: Smoke Sketches (Daniel Hall)
Adjudicators: Oystein Baadsvik; Stephen Cobb; Eric Crees

1. Jugend Brass Band Oberer Sempachersee (Manuel Imhof): 92
2. Entlebucher Jugend Brass Band (Pirmin Hodel): 90
3. Hinterlander Jugend Brass Band (Luca Frischknecht): 87
4. Jugend Brass Band Regionale Musikschule Liestal (Ian Estermann): 85

Best Principal Cornet: Entlebucher Jugend Brass Band

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