Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

John Philip SOUSA (1854-1932)
STRICTLY Sousa: A Collection of Marches
Solid Men to the Front 1918
The Black Horse Troop 1924
Hands Across the Sea 1899
Nobles of the Mystic Shrine 1923
The Pride of the Wolverines 1925
Semper Fidelis 1888
The Glory of the Yankee Navy 1909
Easter Monday on the White House Lawn 1928
Manhattan Beach 1893
Salute to Kansas 1930/31
The Liberty Bell 1893
The Gallant Seventh 1922
El Capitan 1896
The Rifle Regiment 1886
The Washington Post 1889
The Picadore 1889
The Thunderer 1889
King Cotton 1895
The Stars and Stripes Forever - no date listed
The Star-Spangled Banner (written by Francis Scott Key)
Dallas Wind Symphony/Jerry Junkin
Recorded in the Meyerson Symphony Centre, Dallas, 16 July 1998

Reference Recordings

Does anyone want to sit down and listen to nineteen Sousa marches on the trot? Reference Recordings presumably think that somebody does (in the USA, at any rate) - hence this disc.

Sousa's mastery of the march-form is undeniable, but equally undeniable is the fact that for over forty years he worked to an unchanging formula which cannot stand up to the sort of over-exposure it receives here. Actually he had two formulas: the two-minute-plus (eight of them here) and the three-minute-plus (eleven). Not without significance, I think, is the fact that a disc lasting over an hour could be recorded on a single day.

Still, the disc does raise some points of interest.

1) Only one of the marches is attributed entirely to Sousa; all the others have been 'arranged' in one way or another. It's far from clear how much of what we hear is pure Sousa: in any case, why were these 'arrangements' necessary? - the gushing programme notes (The Stars and Stripes Forever, a work lasting all of 3:32, is described as the composer's 'magnum opus') offer no enlightenment on this point.

2) The typically earnest American earnestness of approach is well illustrated by the recording of Liberty Bell. A two-ton replica of the original bell had been shipped in for the occasion, but the tight time-schedule precluded a preliminary test, and when the piece came to be recorded, it was found to sound B natural rather than the F required by the score. So we get both versions: the original bell makes much the better sound but is musically absurd. We are also afforded a glimpse into the ponderous 'humor' of the band's reaction to this.

3) Most importantly, we are told that Sousa's marches (almost 100 all told) formed only a part of his vast output. A more imaginatively-planned disc would have contained examples of his work in other genres.

Performance and sound are faultless. The disc would provide ideal background music for a garden party or village fête.


Adrian Smith


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