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Brass Band Treize Etoiles

Swiss excellence turns respect and expectation to acclaim and admiration on festival debut.



Conductor: Frederic Theodoloz 
Soloist: Lionel Fumeaux
RNCM International Brass Band Festival
Saturday 27th January

The Festival debut of the 2023 European and Swiss National Champion was greeted by applause that spoke of respect as well as expectation from a packed RNCM Festival audience. 

By the time MD Frederic Theodoloz and his players, drawn from local bands in the Canton of Valais eventually took their leave, it had turned to overwhelming acclaim and admiration. 

The ensemble’s immense tonal spectrum came with razor-edged precision and dynamic clarity, the maturity of a remarkably youthful ensemble polished by multi-layered balances and stunning solo contributions. 

It was also an intelligently curated showcase; the major test-pieces from Thierry Deleruyelle and Oliver Waespi performed as part of their recent triumphs, the solo a long-established element of Lionel Fumeaux’s repertoire, the smaller works performed in their 50th year celebrations in 2023. 

Imposing credentials

Their imposing credentials were set from the start with Damien Lagger’s ‘Euroflash’  - a brilliant aperitif whose lemon peel zing was soon replaced by the sound of a behemoth tuba section firing up the boilers with a coal tar richness that pinned the audience in its seats.

It was followed by Lionel Fumeaux on bass trombone for ‘Fly or Die’.  Written for him by Gilles Rocha it was an electrified AC/DC funk current that popped eyes as well as realigned listener’s vertebrae. It was phenomenal playing.  

It was followed by Lionel Fumeaux on bass trombone for ‘Fly or Die’. Written for him by Gilles Rocha it was an electrified AC/DC funk current that popped eyes as well as realigned listener’s vertebrae. It was phenomenal playing.  

With the wow factor set, the stamp of musical authority came with a reprise of ‘Sand & Stars’  – commissioned for their successful 2022 Swiss National title success, and subsequently used again at the 2023 European Championships.  

Tour de force

Its popular acclaim is now well established, but here, sheer virtuosity was replaced with a considered appreciation of pacing, style and security (the needless high top D cornet cadenza ending taken by the soprano) to give the rigid storyboard structure a narrative flow that enhanced the sense of drama and exotic excitement.  

It was a collective tour de force; superb soloists and cohesive ensemble controlled with clarity and nuance by an MD whose conducting style is a remarkably effective combination of orthodox and southpaw lead.

It was a collective tour de force; superb soloists and cohesive ensemble controlled with clarity and nuance by an MD whose conducting style is a remarkably effective combination of orthodox and southpaw lead.

Ludovic Neurohr’s ‘Remointze’  was a very personal homage to a former close friend Paul-Henri. His impending death was marked by a metaphorical journey past increasingly isolated chalets in his local Swiss valley - the glorious affirmation of a wonderful life eventually subsiding to its inevitable closure. 

Structural certainties

It led to the finale of the structural certainties of Oliver Waespi’s ‘Hypercube’ , a work inspired by the iconic architecture of the La Grande Arche de la Defense in Paris which features a hypercube space of air contained within a cube of concrete and glass.

An interpretation of a monument to humanitarian ideals, the pulsating symphonic sweep of its contemporary language, built on pile-driven tuba stanchions was brilliantly captured – the chorale inspired by the hanging cloud ‘nuages’ beautifully contrasting the sheer heft around it.

It was an immense performance by a band that had given ample confirmation of its equally immense credentials.  

Iwan Fox 

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