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4 Bars Rest

European Brass Band Championships 2009
Cory Band/Dr. Robert Childs
Brass Band Oberösterreich/Hannes Buchegger
Brass Band Treize Etioles/James Gourlay
Eikanger-Bjørsvik Musikklag/Bjarte Engeset
Grimethorpe Colliery Band/Allan Withington
track listings below
recorded live 30 April - 3 May 2009, Kursall, Ostend, Belgium.
Dolby Stereo 16:9 COLOUR
All regions
WORLD OF BRASS WOB138 [2 DVDs: 116:20 + 91:00]
Experience Classicsonline

This DVD is an account of the seventeen brass bands that took part in the thirty-second European Brass Band Championships in Belgium. The first disc is a showcase of the winners of the two sections - a mandatory set-piece and the own choice test-piece. Jan Van de Roost’s From Ancient Times was the set test-piece for the event, and it has been hailed as one of the most difficult works of its kind to date. All eleven competing bands had to perform this fiendish work.

The players of the Cory Band were the overall winners of the championship, and their rendition of the piece is sublime. The piece evokes the early brass sounds of Gabrielli in a trombone duet, and the band has incredible control and unity. It’s great to see the intense concentration on the faces of these brilliant musicians. This is especially true during a very fast and technically demanding section, which also features a beautiful flugel horn solo, with embellishment from the xylophone. The complex and multi-layered texture of the work really pushes both the individual and the band as an ensemble to the limit, with a scarily hard melody passed between solo cornet and soprano cornet. Perhaps one of Cory Band’s greatest assets is their facility for incredible quiet playing, which is also called upon in this piece. The crowd go wild after an explosive ending, and the joy and maybe even relief on the players’ faces is evident.

The interview with Jan Van der Roost gives an insight into what one bandsman referred to as ‘a real workout’ piece. It was well received by the players, adjudicators, and most importantly, the audience. He discusses how a good brass band ‘can sound like a living pipe organ’, and that he was impressed by the fine artistry of most of the groups in their execution of his music.

In the own-choice test piece section, it has been seventeen years since every competing brass band has chosen a different work to perform. Two bands commissioned works especially for the event, including Brass Band Oberösterreich ‘s piece. As the name would suggest, Spirits of Puccini mixes various famous tunes such as O Mio Babbino Caro, Nessun Dorma, and Tosca within the musical language of Hermann Pallhuber for this fine brass band. From a stagecraft point of view it is very impressive when so many players manage to synchronise their mute changes. The piece has some excessively loud moments, predominantly due to over-scored or overzealous percussion. The placement of Nessun Dorma in the euphoniums with glittering percussion and scales in the rest of the brass is particularly effective.

Journey to the Centre of the Earth features an unusual tuba duet, with further duets passed round to various pairings in the band, including flugel horn and tenor horn. There is a brilliantly controlled and extremely high soprano cornet solo, which follows a not-so good trombone solo. The composer, Peter Graham, uses the band in an inventive way by directing a weird muttering under breath technique in the cornets, which is not mentioned in the sleeve notes but certainly asks the band as musicians to expand their repertoire.

A similar stroke of genius is found in Johan De Meij’s Extreme Make-Over. After a rather beautiful solo in the lead cornet, the players use bottles filled with different amounts of water and metal tubes to create various notes. The harmony produced is then mirrored in the marimba, and the effect is marvellous. The minimalist-meets-gamelan sound world is incredible, as is the total integration of the percussion with the band. Too many brass band pieces use the percussion as an after thought, or extra colour, and it’s great to see a composer place all instruments of a brass band on equal footing.

Grimethorpe Colliery Band set off with some impressive bass trombone playing, as well as a technically challenging melody for the whole cornet section in unison. The unity of this part of the band is awe-inspiring. This is repeated with a fabulous solo cornet melody with perfect intonation in the octave doubling in the soprano cornet. A brief tenor horn solo shines in its lightness of articulation.

The first disc ends with a return of overall winners Cory Band, with the second new commission for the competition, Peter Graham’s Standing of the Shoulders of Giants. Again the band’s quiet and precise playing is explored at the beginning of the piece. There is some heroic and completely fearless soprano cornet playing in this piece that was just awe-inspiring. The band really shines in the slow, expressive sections of this piece. Another trait of the band is their unified accuracy of performance. Under stress and in a live recording, it is understandable that a brass player may ‘crack’ a few notes but the playing of the Cory Band is faultless. They finish on a monumentally loud chord, and the audience are ecstatic.

The second disc features many shorter tracks, mostly taken from the Gala and Farewell concerts. A real highlight is the Cosy Brass Quartet, playing on period brass on loan from the fantastic musical instrument museum in Belgian. Their encore of the original theme tune of Fawlty Towers was nothing short of awesome. The shifting-sized ensemble Belgian Brass delivered some great arrangements, including a mini suite from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker and a medley of Piazzolla. They dazzled with the breadth of their playing, especially in the trumpet section, although the upper brass sound was more characteristic of a cornet tone to my ears.

Three works involving the European Youth Brass Band perhaps reflect the progression of ability in brass band. Their playing is enthusiastic and has some impressive playing from the cornets and flugel horn. I personally feel that Dukas’s Fanfare La Peri should be left in its original brass ensemble setting, but a fine performance is given of Jewish Wake. Former championships Brass Band Willebroek alas failed to qualify for this year’s event, but delivered three sterling pieces in their home country.  

The overall winners have various performances on this disc, including a beautiful work for soprano cornet solo, by Bert Van Thinen. Playing from memory, his clear and expressive sound soars over the supportive foundation of the band behind him. Sunrise over Blue Ridge is a quiet and pensive work, and complemented by images of sunrises and landscapes. The final work in the gala concert, Turris Fortissima is a brilliant composition by Steven Ponsford, representing the Salvation Army tradition of the brass band. Cory Band’s rendition do the work proud, with expressive solos in the quiet passages and a glorious sound in the interwoven worship songs My Jesus, my saviour, A might fortress of God, and Blessed be the name of the Lord. This was a truly fantastic way for the well-deserving winners to finish the whole event.

Sabrina Pullen 

Track listings:
Paul LOVATT-COOPER Enter the Gladiators, Cory Band/Dr. Robert Childs
Jan Van DER ROOST From Ancient Times, Cory Band/Dr. Robert Childs
Interview with Jan Van de Roost
Hermann PALLHUBER Spirits of Puccini, Brass Band Oberösterreich/Hannes Buchegger
Peter GRAHAM Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Brass Band Treize Etioles/James Gourlay
Johann DE MEIJ Extreme Make-over, Eikanger-Bjørsvik Musikklag/Bjarte Engeset
Philip WILBY Masquerade, Grimethorpe Colliery Band/Allan Withington
Peter GRAHAM Standing on the Shoulders of Giants, Cory Band/Dr. Robert Childs

Bert APPERMONT Catedrales, 3BA-Brass, Franz Matysiak
Edmund JUVIN Premier Grand Quatuor - final movement, Cosy Brass Quartet
Dennis WILSON Fawlty Towers, Cosy Brass Quartet
Tylman SUSATO arr. Mellaerts La Mourisque from Danserye Belgium Brass
Pyotr TCHAIKOVKSY arr. Verhaert Selection from The Nutcracker Suite Belgium Brass
Astor PIAZZOLLA arr. Van Haegenberghe Piazzolatino Belgium Brass
Agustin LARA arr. Mellaerts Granada Belgium Brass
Cai ISFYN Branwyn Cory Band/Dr. Robert Childs , Soprano Cornet Soloists Bert Van Thienen
Dan PRICE Sunrise Over The Bridge Cory Band/Dr. Robert Childs
Paul DUKAS arr. Houben Fanfare La Peri European Youth Brass Band, Benny Wiane
François GLORIEUX Fantasy for Euphonium European Youth Brass Band, Benny Wiane , Euphonium Soloist Glenn Van Looy
Simon VAN HOECKE Jewish Wake European Youth Brass Band, Benny Wiane
Rodney NEWTON Dimitri Brass Band Willebroek, Frans Violet , Flugel Horn Soloist Kristien Schuurmans
Manfred SCHNEIDER arr. Weeren Poem à la Carte Brass Band Willebroek, Frans Violet , Trombone Soloist Walter Hoeks
Peter MEECHAN Lament from Macbeth Brass Band Willebroek, Frans Violet
Steven Ponsford Turris Fortissima Cory Band/Dr. Robert Childs
Awards Ceremony
Bonus Tracks - Frank Renton talks with Ray Farr, Ulf Rosenberg, Kenneth Crookston, Trevor Caffull and Filip Sandy  



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