Highlights of the 2012 European Brass Band Championships2-Dec-2012
De Doelen Hall, Rotterdam
Doyen Recordings: CD295
Total Playing Time: 1.30 mins approx
The European Highlights CD has become an annual ‘must-buy’ for the brass band aficionado – and rightly so given the quality of the performances that are now given at the event each year.
The standard of playing raises the bar higher and higher as the years go by, and nowhere else do we get the chance to compare the best of British against our European cousins in such a handy and well produced way.
This latest release is no exception – although why Schoonhoven’s ‘Audivi Media Nocte’ gets included (although it did top the own choice section of the contest with 99 points – much to the surprise of just about everyone except the judges in the hall) and not anything from second placed Nord Limburgse or even Manger’s jaw dropping ‘Audivi’ account is a disappointment.
Instead, the lightweight selections from Manger, the European Youth Band and the National Youth Fanfare Orchestra of the Netherlands give a musical flavour of the event, but do nothing to add real interest, although Philip Cobb is on breathtaking form and the Royal Concertgebouw Brass provides a masterclass in the art of ensemble performance.
Rock and hard place
You can see why the producers included the music they did (they are between a rock and a hard place to be fair) – but as a result, you sense a missed opportunity to bring you a feel of the real drama that unfolded over an engrossing weekend at the De Doelen Hall in Rotterdam (unfortunately the DVD does the same)
Most interest will be garnered from the two performances that saw Black Dyke claim the title under the baton of Dr Nicholas Childs.
‘Revelation’ may not be the most perfect technical performance you will ever hear but musically it is one of the most satisfying – with the euphonium duet between Gary Curtin and Ian Yates sending a musical shiver down the spine.
Their triumph was sealed however by a fabulous performance of ‘Vita Aeterna Variations’, which is one of the most satisfying test pieces of the modern genre thanks to the wonderfully subtle scoring of Alexander Comitas. Dyke do it complete justice with a masterly rendition of delicate shadings and textures.
From the opening moments, with Zoe Hancock on sublime form, through the various superbly crafted variations to the triumphant close, the rich musicality fully deserved its standing ovation in the packed hall (you can almost hear the audience rising to their feet).
In contrast, Brass Band Schoonhoven’s ‘Audivi’ is an exciting if somewhat scrappy affair (although it did send the locals bonkers) that leaves you wondering out loud just how Manger’s effort managed to finish some 9 points behind it in the opinion of the judges.
If only space on this release would have allowed for a compare and contrast repeat from the Norwegians or even the breathtaking middle section of ‘Old Licks Bluesed Up’ by Limburgse with their bass trombonist who made Barry White sound like Aled Jones.
What we do get though is a fine brace from the richly impressive Austrian Brass Band, conducted by an MD in Uwe Koeller whose ability to draw out the musicality from ‘Music of the Spheres’ and ‘Light in the Darkness’ was only bettered by his choice of footwear that would have made even Imelda Marcos blush.
The 2012 European Championship was certainly a memorable event – although you may not quite think so by the contents featured on this double CD, which manages to recall the flavour but somehow misses out on the musical drama that made it all so enthralling.
What's on this CD?
Disc 1 of 2
1. Vita Aeterna Variations, Alexander Comitas, Black Dyke Band
2. Virtuosity, Kenny Baker arr. Jack Peberdy, Philip Cobb (Trumpet) with Royal Concertgebouw Brass
3. Going the Distance, Paul Lovatt-Cooper, European Youth Brass Band
4. Music of the Spheres, Philip Sparke, Austrian Brass Band
5. Light in the Darkness, Joop van Dijk, Austrian Brass Band
6-9 Suite from The Gadfly - Dmitri Shostakovich arr Verhaert, 11.00
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Brass, Ivan Meylmans
i. Overture, 3.22
ii. Baron Organ Waltz, 2.06
iii. Galop, 1.45
v. Final, 3.47
10. Shine Down Gersmehl, Smiley and Farrel, National Youth Fanfare Orchestra of the Netherlands
Disc 2 of 2
1. Revelation, Philip Wilby, Black Dyke Band
2. Selection from Bon Anniversaire, Martin Winter, Manger Musikklag
3. Don't Doubt Him Now, Leonard Ballantine arr. Craig Woodland, Philip Cobb (Cornet) with Royal Concertgebouw Brass
4. Ceremonial Fanfare, European Youth Brass Band
5. Three Dance Episodes, from 'On the Town', Leonard Bernstein, National Youth Fanfare Orchestra of the Netherlands
6. Audivi Media Nocte, Oliver Waespi, Brass Band Schoonhoven
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