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Report & Result: 2023 European Soloist Competition

20 year old Belgian baritone star Thibaut De Bondt claims the first European title on offer in Malmo.

european
  The finalists each gave a concerto performance

The first title to be decided at the 2023 European Championships was won by 20 year old Belgian baritone player Thibaut De Bondt.

His mature performance of the Martin Ellerby 'Baritone Concerto' impressed the international jury of Allan Withington, Olle Elfstrom and Katrina Marzella-Wheeler and saw him claim the 9th European Soloist Championship, as well as the 1500 Euros first prize plus 1000 Euros award to further his studies.

Runner-up was Swiss marimba player Jonas Florin Elmiger, with third place going to 14 year old cornet player Simon Gabriel.

Winner

Jonas won 1,000 Euros plus a study package worth 500 Euros, whilst Simon not only picked up 500 Euros plays a study package of 500 Euros, but also claimed the 'Band Prize' of 500 Euros voted for by the players of the accompanying Concord Brass Band, as well as the 500 Euros 'Audience Prize'.

"I'm very, very happy,"a delighted Thibaut told 4BR. "I was persuaded to enter the competition by Steven Mead who heard me at a solo contest last year, so I will need to thank him this weekend when I see him.

I was nervous before going on stage as both Jonas and Simon are incredible players, but the band and conductor Andreas Hanson were fantastic and I was able to just concentrate on my playing."

Baritone star

Thibaut is a third-year student at the Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp. He started on cornet before switching to baritone and now plays solo baritone with Brass Band Willebroek.

He is tutored by Kevin Van Giel and now hopes to use the money to pay for further studies with him before starting a teaching career, passing on his love for brass and brass banding to a new generation of youngsters who he hopes will follow in his footsteps.

"That's my passion,"he added. "I have already done some teaching with children and want to inspire them to enjoy everything about music — and especially brass band music. I have been so very lucky and have been taught by people such as Kevin who have inspired me, so I want to do that with others."

"There was a maturity about his playing that stood out,"Allan Withington later told 4BR. "All three finalists have huge potential and obvious musical talent, but on the night it was that little extra from Thibaut in the way he delivered on a very difficult work, that just had the edge."

Supportive audience

The event was held at Malmo's Palladium Theatre, built in the early part of the 20th century and which offered an intimate atmosphere and fine acoustic that was enjoyed by a supportive audience.

Earlier in the week the 16 semi-finalists (from an initial entry of 37 European players), who were chosen to come to Malmo, performed for the jury of Simone Rebello, Camilla Soderstrom Tveit and Glenn Van Looy.

They admitted that such was the standard that they had a very difficult task of picking the final three to go through, but it was obvious on the night that the trio were all exceptional performers — confident and assured, and possessing a musical maturity beyond their years.

Bright future

"We were delighted at the overall standard,"Chris King, Head of EBBA's Music Commission told the audience before the announcement of the results.

"And as has been heard tonight with the three outstanding finalists and the European Youth Brass Band, the future of European brass banding is very bright."

Marimba player Jonas Florin Elmiger showed that in delivering a highly accomplished rendition of the Paul Creston 'Concertino for Marimba' without music — his two and four stick technique clear and precise in each of the contrasting movements.

All three finalists have huge potential and obvious musical talent, but on the night it was that little extra from Thibaut in the way he delivered on a very difficult work, that just had the edgeJudges

Intake of breath

Meanwhile, there was an audible intake of breath when 14 year old Simon Gabriel started to play the Philip Sparke 'Cornet Concerto' — his warm sound was backed by a razor sharp technique and a lovely air of nonchalance that saw him give himself a wry smile admonishment when he clipped a note. Followed by a Swiss television crew for the event, the prizes that came his way from the band and the audience were fully deserved for a young player with a huge future ahead of him.

Before the announcement of the results the European Youth Brass Band gave an enjoyable short concert performance under the baton of Per-Otto Johansson, with the players introducing the items that ranged from Glinka's 'Ruslan and Luydmilla' to 'Arctic Funk' as well as the trombone feature 'Sad and Blue', Faure's 'Pavane', 'Viking Age' and the encore of 'Walking with Heroes'.

Result:

1. Thibaut de Bont (Belgium)
2. Jonas Florin Elmiger (Switzerland)
3. Simon Gabriel (Switzerland)

Audience Prize: Simon Gabriel
Band Prize: Simon Gabriel

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