Despite the restrictions imposed by Covid-19, there was a remarkable list of 350 entries for the 2021 Swiss National Solo & Quartet Championships.
The first round of competition was held on-line, with the 40 qualifiers for the final held in the Covid-19 safe conditions of the EventFabrik venue in Berne chosen by an adjudication panel of Alexis Demailly, Mark Wilkinson, Richard Marshall and Ian Porthouse (cornets), Owen Farr (horn), David Thornton (euphoniums/baritones), Nick Hudson (trombone), Les Neish (tubas) and Michael H. Lang (percussion).
The SSQW/CNSQ organisers of the event ensured that a worldwide audience enjoyed the performances from the finalists in each category, thanks to an excellent on-line broadcast introduced by well- known conductor Michael Bach who interviewed and congratulated the performers as soon as they came off stage.
Regulations meant that the 'live' audience for the event was restricted to proud parents and family members only for each competitor, although there still a great atmosphere to enjoy.
Hat trick victory
The Blue Riband Open Solo Championship title was also won in remarkable fashion by 22-year cornet player Mathilde Roh from the lower Valais area, performing Gilles Rocha's latest work, 'Unconventional' — a triptych showcase of stunning virtuosity and lyricism.
It gave the modest Brass Band Treize Etoile star a hat-trick of Swiss National title successes (Mathilde also won the Junior title in 2017 & 2018) — a superb achievement (awarded 99 points by judges Oliver Waespi, Thomas Ruedi and Guy Michel) given the quality of the performances of her rivals.
These were led by runner-up, tenor horn player Guillaume Stadler playing 'Flight' by Philip Wilby, with flugel player Claude Romaille in third with 'Scherzo Diabolico' by Bertrand Moren.
There were also outstanding performances to enjoy from finalists Damien Lagger (trombone — 'Fly or Die'), Antoine Maron (Eb tuba — 'Blue Opium') and Stephanie Gaspoz (euphonium — 'Stratos').
The senior hat-trick has only been achieved before by Vincent Bearpark (2011-13) and Jeremy Coquoz (2014-16) since the competition was first held in 1974. Mathilde is now one of only five players to have won the title on three occasions.
Junior and Under 13 success
In Junior category, where the 10 brass finalists had to qualify from a field of 151 competitors, victory was claimed by 17-year old cornet player Oriane Bruckel, also from Brass Band Treize Etoiles, with a sparking rendition of 'Devil's Virtuosity' by Yvan Lagger.
Runner-up was fellow cornet player Alena Imseng from Brass Band Lotschental, with Fanny Evequoz on euphonium from Fanfare La Perseverante in third.
Meanwhile, there were 87 players (including 59 cornet entries) battling for a place in the Under 13 category final, where victory eventually went to the precociously talented 12-year old cornet star Simon Gabriel from Musikschule Oberengadin with wonderful rendition of 'La Belle Americaine'.
He was joined on the podium by fellow cornet players LÃ©a Boulnoix from La Lyre Conthey, with Emilie De Luca in third from Concordia Bagnes.
It was also heartening to see a fine representation in the quartet competitions (with a record 31 entries in the different categories), although due to the Covid-19 restrictions the titles were decided on-line with the three category champions invited to perform live at the event before the announcement of the individual results.
It saw Senior Excellence title winners Shake Brass made up of Jeremy Coquoz, Anthony Rausis, Paul Crognaletti and Valentin Duc gave a sparkling rendition of the test-piece, 'Water Illusions' by Yannick Romailler, every bit as flamboyant as their cartoon/video game inspired multi-coloured suits.
They claimed the title ahead of 10 high class rivals, with Quat'Roh — made up of the Roh family members of Mathilde, Herve, David and Patrick in second, with third place going to BBI B-N-N-G (Anthony Buchard, Raphael Naef, Fiona Naef, Marcel Grob).
In the Premier Category, there was victory for the Les Bagnolets foursome of Theo Morelli, Lucie Farquet, Michael Nicollier and Lisa Farquet as their fine rendition of Yvan Lagger's 'Family Things' set-work saw them take the honours ahead of The Pec's Quartett with RINEVA 1 a point further back.
Meanwhile, Vbrassion, made up of Gregory Lambert, Virginie Yerly, Jonas Schafer and Christophe Savoy claimed the Deuxieme Category title with their performance of the set-work, 'Brass Fusion' by Mario Burki. Second place went to BBI U-B-H-H with Lousse 18 a point further back in third.
There were separate classes held for percussion with plenty of excellent playing on show in each of the three categories.
Victory in the Under 13 event went to marimba player Victor Sparleanu from Musikschule Zug, with the Junior title claimed by drum kit player Tom Muller from Musikschule Luzern. The premier class Senior title was won by snare drum player Marin Mouth from BML Talents Band.
Speaking about the event a SSQW/CNSQ spokesperson told 4BR: "The first online and live-stream version of the competition after the requirements to take a compulsory break in 2020 was a great success.
The overwhelming registration record of over 350 participants clearly showed that the musicians also took the chance to actively be involved and the adjudicators were impressed by the desire to make music and the presentation of personnel skills.
The potential of the younger players in all classes and the excellence of the senior performers was something to be very proud of.
It was a demanding challenge for everyone involved and we congratulate them on their motivation to practice and to strengthen their self-confidence."
Although the event remains a beacon of success, the organisers told 4BR that they are keen to expand its attraction into more areas of the country, as at present the majority of percussion finalists come from central Switzerland, while the majority of brass soloists and quartets are from organisations from the west.
The SSQW/CNSQ President Simon Estermann told 4BR: "Our young and innovative committee is ready to work on another attractive edition of the event in 2022 and we will look at the best way to do this to further promote music-making for percussionists and brass instrumentalists in all of Switzerland."
You can enjoy all the finalists in performance at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlbS-xUHt18
The potential of the younger players in all classes and the excellence of the senior performers was something to be very proud oforganisers
Brass adjudicators: Oliver Waespi, Thomas Ruedi, Guy Michel
1. Mathilde Roh — 99pts
2. Guillaume Stalder — 98pts
3. Claude Romailler — 96pts
1. Oriane Bruckel — 98pts
2. Alena Imseng — 97pts
3. Fanny Evequoz — 96pts
1. Simon Gabriel — 93pts
2. LÃ©a Boulnoix — 91pts
3. Emilie De Luca — 90pts
1. Shake Brass — 97pts
2. Quat'Roh — 96pts
3. BBI B-N-N-G — 90pts
1. Les Bagnolets — 96pts
2. The Pec's Quartett — 95pts
3. RINEVA 1 — 94pts
1. Vbrassion — 95pts
2. BBI U-B-H-H — 94pts
3. Louse 18 — 93 pts
Adjudicators: Damien Darioli, Peter Fleischlin
Under 13 Category:
1. Victor Sparleanu — 93pts
2. Theo Hoppe — 92pts
3. Naji Nouraddin — 91pts
1. Tom Muller — 99pts
2. Jonas Naf — 97.5pts
3. Sven Dahinden — 96.5pts
1. Marin Muoth — 98.5pts
2. Nathan Frei — 97pts
3. Vincent Munier — 96pts