Set-test pieces Malmö, EBBC 2023

The European Brass Band Association is delighted to announce the composers and titles of the four set tests for the EBBC in Malmö 2023.  All the composers are Swedish, and the local organizing committee, Brassmusik Skåne, commissions all pieces.

EBBC championship section – Aurora, Joel Thoor Engström
EBBC challenge section – Tragic Overture, Tobias Broström
EYBBC premier section – Phoenix’ Chant, Daniel Möllås
EYBBC development – Turning Torso, Magnus Hylander

EBBC championship section
– Aurora, Joel Thoor Engström

Joel Thoor Engström (1987) is based in Stockholm. His works range from orchestra, choir, chamber/solo works, and opera and have been performed at several established Swedish venues including Berwaldhallen and Folkoperan. Joel was also a finalist in the 2006 EBBC Composers’ Competition, a success story worth celebrating. Joel’s music is often characterized by colorful expressions in rhythm and harmony, influenced by neo-classical composers and the French tradition following Debussy and Ravel all the way to electronic funk and progressive disco. Joel’s work, Aurora, was commissioned by Brassmusik Skåne for the EBBC in Malmö.

Aurora was the Roman goddess of the dawn. Every day she opened the gates of the east with her rosy fingers and rode her chariot in a glowing mantel across the sky, accompanied by children, she announced the coming arrival of her brother, Sol (the sun). The natural phenomenon of Aurora Borealis (or “northern lights”) is what inspired the Romans to this personification of the dawn and it can be a mysterious thing to behold, of both beauty and awe.

The dawn can be a symbol for many things, something beginning as well as something ending. The age-old message of Aurora could therefore be considered timeless. Her call amid the joyous dance of the children of the stars that a new hope, a new light is on its way can be a comforting notion to all in the face of hardships.

This piece is in three movements, played attacca. Though not written with a programmatic intent, the writing process has evoked my thoughts on the symbolic themes of the Roman myth; the setting of an unstable and uncertain scene – like an endless fall – in the first movement, followed by waiting and the “kindling of light” in the second, finishing with a festive song of praise in the third.

One of the key musical thematic features of this piece is a harmonic progression (first heard in the trombone section at bar 16). It twists and turns around its axis like the waves of the northern lights or the turns of Aurora’s chariot. Throughout the piece, its harmonic “magnetic fields” constantly pull and shape the music into new forms.

EBBC challenge section
– Tragic Overture, Tobias Broström

Tobias Broström was born in 1978 in Helsingborg, Sweden. Following four years of percussion studies at the Malmö Academy of Music, he embarked on the pursuit of a Master’s degree in composition, studying with the Swedish composer Rolf Martinsson and the Italian composer Professor Luca Francesconi.

Known for his rhythmically powerful music, colorful orchestration, and poignant harmonic sense, Tobias Broström has swiftly established himself among the foremost Scandinavian composers of his generation.  He describes his music as full of frenzy and power, appearing in attacks and waves.

Tobias collaborates with renowned conductors and soloists such as Håkan Hardenberger, Colin Currie, Karen Gomyo, Anna Larsson, John Storgårds, Michael Sanderling, James Gaffigan, Dima Slobodeniouk, Robin Ticciati, and Rumon Gamba.  To date, Håkan Hardenberger has performed Broström’s Lucernaris some 20 times at major concert venues in Europe and in the US.

Tobias has composed the set test for the EBBC Challenge Section and it is entitled Tragic Overture. Speaking to Tobias recently, it is clear that he has a keen sense of humor, as he thinks that his piece did not turn out to be so tragic in the end! Structurally, the piece has an overall A-B-A form with the first section, an extended and ferocious passage in 6/8 time. Tobias has exploited the rhythmic possibilities in 6/8 and cross-rhythms and cross-dynamics are a feature and challenge that bands will need to overcome.  The Overture could be considered as absolute music, rather than having a fixed program – the only potential tragedy being people attending the EBBC in Malmö and not hearing the performances of this exciting piece.

EYBBC premier section
– Phoenix’ Chant, Daniel Möllås

Daniel Möllås (1993) is a Swedish composer and arranger, based in Malmö. He began his musical journey early by playing trombone and piano, through which he soon developed an interest in composing and arranging music. Since graduating from the music program at Per Brahe upper secondary school in Jönköping, Möllås has studied composition at the Linnaeus University in Växjö (2012-13), Gotland School of Music Composition (2013-15) and at Malmö Academy of Music (MAM), including an exchange course at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre in 2018. Through the years Möllås has worked with several ensembles, orchestras, and soloists, such as Malmö Symphony Orchestra, Helsingborg SO, Norrköping SO, Jönköping Sinfonietta, Musica Vitae, the Swedish Wind Ensemble, Malmö Brass Band, Uppsala Chamber Soloists and more.  Daniel writes about his set work Phoenix’ Chant, for the EYBBC premier section.

The initial sketches to Phoenix’ Chant were written in the late Autumn of 2021; a time of increasing political tensions both nationally and worldwide, but also some relief that our society was starting to see the return of better times after the pandemic. Whether this relief actually came or not might be quite hard, if not even impossible to say in todays social climate. However just as it was then, hope remains as our strongest tool to cope with the difficult times – and above all to inspire us to work towards an actual better future.

Although maybe a bit of a cliché, the myth of the majestic firebird encapsulates this theme with impeccable decisiveness. Consumed by its own flames, the old Phoenix is reborn from its ashes; younger, brighter, and stronger than ever before.

As the sketches were developed and later on revised as the set piece commissioned by Brassmusik Skåne for the European Brass Band Championships Youth Premier Section in Malmö 2023, the Phoenix theme became even more relevant, as it highlights the true importance and influence of the young for a sustainable journey ahead through time. Although challenges will occur, hope remains through the voices of youth, calling for a brighter future.

This chant is for them. For all.

EYBBC development
– Turning Torso, Magnus Hylander

Magnus Hylander is a Swedish composer and arranger born in 1967. Living in Fristad, Magnus is a tuba player, who in addition to his composing duties, can also be found conducting bands in the area.

 Magnus studied the tuba at the Malmö Academy of Music and played with the brass quintet Brassa Nova as their tuba player between 1992 and 1998. Over the years, he has composed and arranged many pieces, mostly for brass, but also for ensembles as well. Some of his works are recorded by Göteborg Brassband, Flesland Musikklag, BrassaNova, Band of the Malmö Fire Brigade, Borås Brassband, and the Salvation Army Band, Lidköping.

Magnus has composed Turning Torso as the set test for the EYBBC Development Section. Magnus writes about his piece.

The name of the composition refers to the neo-futurist skyscraper built in the western harbor of Malmö in 2005. It was designed by Spanish architect, structural engineer, sculptor, and painter Santiago Calatrava. One reason for building Turning Torso was to have a new symbol for Malmö in lieu of the shipbuilding crane that had been removed a few years earlier.

 The piece starts off, quiet and calmly, from a distance where you just barely can see the building.  The next section describes the odd shapes and quirkiness of the building.  In the middle section, we are up at the top level and enjoying the spectacular view of the city on one side and over to Denmark on the other.  At last, we take the speedy elevator down for a last look at the magnificent building using the music from the opening.