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European Gala Concert

Valaisia Brass Band and the European Youth Brass Band
Conductors: Arsene Duc; Bertrand Moren
Soloists: Lionel Fumeaux, Patrick Ottiger
Montreux Convention Centre
Saturday 27th April

stars

Before the drama of the announcement of the results of the 2019 European Championships, a packed Stravinski Auditorium sat back and enjoyed an engaging Gala Concert.

The Swiss opted for tradition rather than the esoteric artistic scope of the Dutch in Utrecht, but after the blockbuster thrills of the top section own-choice selections, it made for a relaxing interlude before the surprises that were to follow.

Success

Making the European Youth Brass Band an integral part of the week long ‘Festival’ has become one of EBBA’s substantive successes. The level of performance has been variable on occasions, but what has not has been the sense of musical inclusion, which this year saw the 37 performers under their inspirational MD provide energised concert appearances. 

Here they played with maturity under Bertrand Moren, who had elicited a sense of communal adventure with his charges throughout the week.

That was certainly shown as they performed with admirable rigour; the celebratory premiere of ‘Montreusia’ by Jean-Francois Michel balanced by the crisp pace of ‘Relaxation’ from ‘Salute to Youth’ and the funky swagger of Oliver Waespi’s ‘Blue Starter’.

‘Can you feel the love tonight’ and ‘Ende Mai’ offered stylistic contrast, whilst it was a delight to hear Howard Snell’s ‘Le Vieux Chalet’ performed in a hall that had the spacious acoustic to bring it evocatively to life. The virtuosic talents of Patrick Ottiger on flugel and trumpet very nearly burst a few eardrums.

The thumping bombast of ‘Innuendo’ in tribute to that other regular Montreux visitor Freddie Mercury was a great way to ramp up the excitement levels before everyone found out who would be singing his other hit ‘We are the Champions’ for the rest of the night.

Nod of appreciation

After the break there was a rare (and we do mean rare) chance to hear the defending European Champion in concert mode, as Valaisia delivered their set with a polished professionalism (especially as they must have known deep in their hearts that their reign was coming to an end).

A fizzing premiere of ‘Euroflash’ by Damien Lagger lived up to its name, before the excerpts from ‘The Firebird’ would have had the hall’s namesake nodding in appreciation.  Tom Davoren’s ‘Valaisia Variants’ was a classy homage, whilst the remarkable bass trombonist Lionel Fumeaux gave a stunning rendition of ‘Concertino in Blue’.  

The thumping bombast of ‘Innuendo’ in tribute to that other regular Montreux visitor Freddie Mercury was a great way to ramp up the excitement levels before everyone found out who would be singing his other hit ‘We are the Champions’ for the rest of the night.

Iwan Fox 

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