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John Philip SOUSA (1854-1932)
Music for Wind Band Vol. 5

The Minnesota March (1927)
The Thunderer (1889)
The Charlatan Waltzes (1898)
The Pride of the Wolverines (1926)
University of Nebraska (1928)
The Gallant Seventh (1922)
Powhattan’s Daughter (1907)
Cubaland - Suite in three parts (1925)
George Washington Bicentennial (1930)
The Diplomat (1904)
The Directorate (1894)
Our Flirtation (1880)
Sabre and Spurs (1918)
The Atlantic City Pageant (1927)
Royal Artillery Band/Keith Brion
Rec. Blackheath Concert Halls, January 2002 DDD
NAXOS 8.559131 [58:32]

This is the fifth and latest instalment in a series which aims to record Sousa’s complete works for wind band, including 136 marches. Previous issues in the series have been well-received by MusicWeb reviewers (see below for links). In addition to a good selection of short marches, this disc contains some variety in form of the three-movement suite Cubaland and the Charlatan Waltzes. Personally I don’t take this composer’s music very seriously but, on the right occasion, it can be great fun.

Cubaland was written following a holiday Sousa took in Havana in 1924. Each movement depicts the rule of a different government (I – Spain; II – USA; III – Cuba) and quotes themes drawn from the relevant country (e.g. Swanee River in the second movement). The work is generally light-hearted and, if played blind, I suspect it might not be immediately obvious who composed it (unlike the rest of the disc).

The waltzes derive from The Charlatan, an operetta produced in Montreal, New York and London (where it was known as The Mystical Miss) around the turn of the 20th century. Sousa in triple, rather than common, time is just as mercurial as ever.

Three of the marches were familiar to me from a Mercury disc recorded at least 20 years ago and featuring the Eastman Wind Ensemble under Frederick Fennell, i.e. The Thunderer, Pride of the Wolverines and Sabre and Spurs. Other highlights are The Diplomat (said to be one of Sousa’s favourites) and The Atlantic City Pageant, written in 1927 for a beauty contest. This piece concludes the disc in rousing fashion and spawned the amusing photograph on the booklet cover. This depicts Sousa waving his baton, apparently at several contestants who were elegantly arranged on the deck of a ship.

As in previous issues in this series, Keith Brion conducts the Royal Artillery Band, whose playing is both euphonious and mellow. They tend to play down the potential brashness in the music, certainly by comparison with the Eastman Wind Ensemble in the pieces mentioned above. It is notable that, in all three, Brion adopts slower tempi than Fennell. Preference between the two is a matter of taste and might also be a question of mood.

I have no criticisms of the recorded sound, nor the documentation, which provides valuable short notes on each piece by the conductor.

Collectors of this series should not be disappointed. If you already have recordings of Sousa’s most famous marches (e.g. Stars and Stripes Forever, Liberty Bell, Washington Post etc.), this disc would be an excellent way of sampling some less familiar fare.

Patrick C Waller

Links to reviews of previous issues in the series :
Volume 1 :
Volume 2 :
Volume 3 :
Volume 4 :

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