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European Brass Band Championships - 2013
Various brass bands
Presenter Frank Renton
rec. live, Oslo Konzerthaus, Norway, 3-4 May 2013
Picture: 16:9
Sound: Dolby 5.1 surround 
Format: DVD PAL
Region code: All region
Subtitles: none
WORLD OF BRASS DVD WOB173 DVD [130:00 + 104:00]
European Brass Band Championships - 2013
Various brass bands
rec. live, Oslo Konzerthaus, Norway, 3-4 May 2013
DOYEN DOY CD312 [60:55 + 71:16]

Both these DVD and CD sets will be snapped up by members of the band that took part in the competition and by brass band aficionados. I also urge those who don’t usually listen to brass bands to have an open mind and maybe give it a try. The standards of musicianship and technical assurance are stunning and there’s a palpable sense of occasion about all the performances. There’s also some fine new music that demands to be heard. In the world of “serious music” nowadays we often have to endure atonal “squeaky door” compositions that push out the boundaries for the sake of it just to be original or intellectual. Often the average listener is overlooked. The new works featured at the 2013 Oslo championships cannot all be called original but original doesn’t necessarily mean good. Composers such as Philip Sparke and Edward Gregson write beautifully crafted works full of excitement, virtuosity, melody and colour. Please don’t get sniffy about brass bands and those who compose for them. This is quality music-making at the highest level, full stop.
The Cory Band from Wales was the winning band in 2013 and they edged out Norway’s Eikanger-Bjorsvik Musikklag - who tied with them - purely on the basis that their performance of the set test-piece Myth Forest by Stig Nordhagen received a higher mark. A cruel way to lose perhaps but Cory were in spectacular form in Myth Forest and their performance of Perihelion - Closer to the Sun by Philip Sparke is pretty sensational, as is the work itself.
The DVD includes interviews with two of the brass band world’s legends - Edward Gregson and Philip Sparke. They talk about their recent compositions, presented here in Oslo by Black Dyke and Cory. There are also interviews with composers Stig Nordhagen, Nigel Clarke, Peter Meechan, Thomas Doss and David Glanneskog whose new works also featured in the competition. These add enormously to the appeal of the DVD. We are then treated to some spectacular music-making. Myth Forest and Perihelion are the two stand-out highlights in terms of performance and music. The 2013 set test-piece, Myth Forest was inspired by a pond close to the composer’s home. The Cory Band under Philip Harper capture its many moods, starting with a dark, mysterious introduction and culminating in a wild dance. It would have been a good idea had the Eikanger-Bjorsvik Musikklag performance also been included on the DVD to allow the listener to make a comparison but there we go. Perihelion - Closer to the Sun is very special. It’s a massive tour de force that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up on end. There are fleeting moments from The Planets (intentional?) and sections that breathe the same air as Daphnis and Chloe. Individual soloists are superb and the final fugue and closing bars have to be heard to be believed. This is fabulous music and I will definitely return to it. Having taken the trouble to include composer interviews in the DVD it’s a shame that we only get to hear short excerpts from their pieces. These are tantalising glimpses of some potentially interesting repertoire and maybe Doyen will issue them in full on an audio CD in the near future (please).
DVD 2 is really just a bonus containing a number of short entertaining pieces taken from the gala concert, many of them performed by the highly accomplished European Youth Brass Band. There is a rousing massed item - the finale from the 3rd symphony of Camille Saint-Saëns conducted by Nicholas Childs. Throughout the DVD, Frank Renton does a fine job as host, interviewer and compère and the camera-work and sound quality are excellent.
It’s always a difficult decision when it comes to choosing the contents for inclusion in compilation CDs such as this. Not everyone will be satisfied with the artistic decisions that have to be made but I’ll come back to that point later. Just by way of starters, Doyen’s recording is thrilling. The sound is warm and resonant but also full of detail. The audience is also very well behaved and extraneous noises are few and far between. I assume that the microphones were close to the players but that hasn’t resulted in a dry, boxy recording, thank goodness. As with the companion DVD set I can’t help thinking that an opportunity has been missed here. By all accounts Eikanger-Bjorsvik Musikklag and Cory both brought the house down with their versions of Myth Forest but all we get here is Cory’s recording. Both would have been great - it would have been nice to have been given the opportunity to become armchair adjudicators. However, we do at least get a complete performance of Edward Gregson’s Symphony in two movements. This is excellent, symphonic music in the traditional classical sense. It’s hard-hitting when it chooses to be - the opening reminds me of Nielsen’s Third - but it also has many tender lyrical moments. The work has a clear structure and the finale pushes forward to a satisfying conclusion that looks back to the very opening bars of the first movement. Black Dyke and Nicholas Childs do the work full justice. Why oh why do we then come across two excerpts from Peer Gynt - inferior to Grieg’s original orchestral version by a country mile - and other odds and ends including a Barry Manilow arrangement? This is in no way a sideswipe at the playing, which is all exemplary, and it’s only right and proper that the European Youth Band gets a look in. However, this double CD could have allowed the paying public to hear, in full, When Worlds Collide by Nigel Clarke and Sequences by David Glanneskog. Judging from the brief excerpts on the DVD they could be interesting compositions to hear in full. I suppose we have to be thankful that Fragile Oasis gets an airing as does Spiriti by Thomas Doss. This is a personal opinion. There may be people out there desperate to hear the shorter pieces included on the CDs. The highlights for me are Spiriti (a couple of minor fluffs aside), Perihelion - Closer to the Sun (fabulous but maybe the trombones are a tad off in one section. I don’t have a score so please excuse me if I am wrong), Myth Forest and Dyke’s crowd-pleasing When Thunder Calls by Paul Lovatt-Cooper.
I’ve had a fine time enjoying these DVDs and CDs. Despite minor reservations they should be warmly welcomed. They are much more than mementos for those who took part in the competition. Artistically and musically they offer some great playing, interesting new repertoire and in the case of the CD some state of the art recording quality. All very impressive.
John Whitmore 

DVD Contents 
1 Myth Forest Stig Nordhagen - Cory Band
2 Stig Nordhagen in conversation
3 Spiriti Thomas Doss - Eikanger-Bjorsvik Musikklag
4 Thomas Doss in conversation
5 Edward Gregson in conversation
6 Symphony in two movements (excerpt) Edward Gregson - Black Dyke Band
7 Nigel Clarke in conversation
8 When Worlds Collide (excerpt) Nigel Clarke - Brass Band Buizingen
9 Peter Meechan in conversation
10 Fragile Oasis (excerpt) Peter Meechan - Leyland Band
11 David Glanneskog in conversation
12 Sequences (excerpt) David Glanneskog - Windcorp Brass Band
13 Philip Sparke in conversation
14 Perihelion - Closer to the Sun Philip Sparke - Cory Band
15 Results  
1 Dances and Arias Edward Gregson - Oslo Brass Band conducted by Adam Cooke
2 One Voice - European Youth Brass Band
3 Salute to Youth Gilbert Vinter - European Youth Brass Band
4 Pines of the Appian Way from The Pines of Rome Ottorino Respighi arr. Howard Snell - European Youth Brass Band
5 Energy Robert Simpson - Oslo Brass Band conducted by Kalle Kuusava
6 Andantino Jean Sibelius arr. Laaksonen - Aura Brass Band
7 Mikkel Ole Edvard Antonsen - Norwegian National Brass Band
8 Cavanquino Ernesto Nazareth arr. Howard Snell - European Youth Brass Band
9 Vidda Ole Edvard Antonsen - Norwegian National Brass Band
10 Epic Symphony - Heroic March Percy Fletcher - Norwegian National Brass Band
11 When Thunder Calls Paul Lovatt-Cooper - Black Dyke Band
12 When the Saints trad. arr. Paul Duffy - Black Dyke Band
13 Valflikans Dans Hugo Alfvén - Black Dyke Band
14 Finale from Symphony No. 3 (Organ) Camille Saint-Saëns - Massed bands 

CD Contents:

CD 1
1 Myth Forest, Stig Nordhagen, Cory Band
2 In Perfect Peace, Kenneth Downie, Norwegian National Brass Band
3 Mikkel, Ole Edvard Antonsen, Ole Edvard Antonsen (trumpet) with Norwegian National Brass Band
4 Morning from Peer Gynt, Edvard Grieg, arr. Howard Lorriman, Black Dyke Band
5 In the Hall of the Mountain King, Edvard Grieg, arr. Howard Lorriman, Black Dyke Band,
6 Seabird Mob, Fly On! (3rd movement), Idar Torskangerpoll, European Youth Brass Band,
7 One Voice, Barry Manilow, arr. Ray Farr, European Youth Brass Band
8 Fragile Oasis, Peter Meechan, Leyland Band
9 When Thunder Calls, Paul Lovatt-Cooper, Black Dyke Band 
CD 2
1 Perihelion - Closer to the Sun, Philip Sparke, Cory Band
2 Cavanquino, Ernesto Nazareth, arr. Howard Snell, European Youth Brass Band
3 Andantino, Jean Sibelius, arr. Laaksonen, Aura Brass Band
4 Symphony in two movements, Edward Gregson, Black Dyke Band
5 Salute to Youth - III. Relaxation, Gilbert Vinter, European Youth Brass Band
6 Finale from Symphony No. 3 (Organ), Camille Saint-Saëns, arr. Philip Wilby, Massed bands
7 Spiriti, Thomas Doss, Eikanger-Bjorsvik Musikklag