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DVD - Highlights from the European Brass Band Championships 2011

Perhaps the most eagerly-anticipated recordings of any year, the highlights of the European Brass Band Championships, held in Montreux, Switzerland in the spring, were recently released by Doyen and World of Brass. As ever, there is a certain amount of crossover between the CD and the DVD, but this is actually impossible to avoid if each is to provide a true reflection of the weekend’s activities. In terms of performances, the standard of the competition of the European Championships continues to astound year-on-year, and the 2011 event was no exception. Both collections feature the winning performances by Manger Musikklag under the expert direction of Peter Szilvay. Oliver Waespi’s Audivi Media Nocte is the latest tour de force in an impressive collection of ‘European’ set test-pieces in recent years and the virtuosic display given by this brilliant Norwegian band really is something to be experienced for those who didn’t have the opportunity to travel to Montreux. For those of us who did, none would want to miss the chance to hear it again! At the event, Manger followed up its Friday evening victory with another terrific display in its own-choice of Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen’s Old Licks Bluesed Up, and if ever a piece was written to showcase the talents of any particular band this is it. Stand by for some of the best bass trombone playing you are ever likely to hear, and a bass section to die for!

The other great contest performance to appear on both the CD and DVD is Cory’s winning own-choice of Jan Van Der Roost’s From Ancient Times. Yet again, the Welsh champion and European hat-trick winner from 2008-10 was on electrifying form under Bob Childs, with a performance that, although judged top of the pile on the Saturday, fell just short of matching Manger’s impressive total over the two days. Look and listen for the peerless Bert Van Thienen on soprano, but impressive playing is everywhere in this display. Also of considerable note was Tredegar’s performance of Gavin Higgins’ Destroy, Trample, as Swiftly as She, which benefited considerably from a second hearing (and viewing), for this listener at least. Most impressive! Another surprising addition to the DVD was the performance by the Belgians from Noord- Limburgse of Audivi Media Nocte, the inclusion of which allows for an interesting comparison and contrasting experience from that of the European Champion.

DVD 2 includes highlights of the gala concert and farewell concert that took place over the weekend, with nothing but impressive playing all round, not least from the excellent Swiss Brass Consort, which opens the disc. The European Youth Brass Band also performs with distinction under Philippe Bach, while his brother, Michael, inspires some pretty impressive playing from Bürgermusik Luzern, notably in Fanfare and Funk by Oliver Waespi. For those who enjoy the lighter side of Cory, Karl Jenkins’ Stabat Mater lights up both CD and DVD, with David Childs providing one of the weekend’s highlights in the Lament. He is joined by David Thornton in Peter Graham’s Brillante, and those who enjoy outstanding euphonium playing will do well to take in the outstanding Duo Synthesis, in which Swiss star, Thomas Rüedi, also excels.

As ever, Frank Renton provides the ‘glue’ for the DVD highlights, and his ‘bonus’ interviews provide a fascinating insight into the weekend’s activities, as well as demonstrating the conditions that the brass band press have to endure when ‘forced’ to travel to exotic destinations like Lake Geneva.

It’s a hard job, but someone has to do it! If faced with a choice between the CD and the DVD, it is, of course, a good idea to check the track listings for your own personal favourites, but you can’t go wrong with either of these excellent products. Whether listening on long car journeys or watching on the computer or television, I can almost guarantee that anyone who has never been fortunate enough to attend a European Championship event in recent years will be inspired to make the journey to one sometime soon after experiencing the next best thing. Absolutely unmissable!

Kenneth Crookston
British Bandsman, Saturday 15th October 2011

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