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John Philip SOUSA (1854-1932)
Music for Wind Band, Vol. 3
The Corcoran Cadets (1890)
Semper Fidelis (1888)
Selections from 'The Free Lance' (1905)
The New York Hippodrome (1916)
La Flor di Sevilla (1929)
Waltzes from 'El Capitan' (1896)
A Century of Progress (1931)
Suite: The Last Days of Pompeii (1893): In the House of Burbo and Stratonice; Nydia; The Destruction of Pompeii and Nydia's Death
The White Rose (1917)
With Pleasure – Dance Hilarious (1912)
The Belle of Chicago (1892)
The National Game (1925)
Royal Artillery Band/Keith Brion
Rec. Woolwich Town Hall, November 2000
NAXOS AMERICAN CLASSICS 8.559092 [54.09]

 

The third in this Naxos series, again by the Royal Artillery Band, England, with some marches so popular that they might have appeared in the first introductory volume. One should be aware that an American 'wind' band is commonly known in Europe as a military band, containing both woodwind and brass instruments.

John Sousa was immensely proud of his country, the United States of America, and in serving in the forces accrued a personal power through the stirring military music he wrote. By the age of 26 he had become conductor of the U.S. Marine Band. The Band provided the facility to tour widely with a presence at military functions. After a five-year gestation he commenced composing for the band. Within twelve years he had become known as the 'March King' and his heavy-beat march formula captivated American hearts.

Sousa marches are uncomplicated pieces. Their rhythm and regular use of cymbals and bass drum are distinctly Sousa. It would be unfair to suggest that he was incapable of composing in other genres. Occasionally we come across a piece of music which is not so mechanically inspired, contains more varied texture and is much more languid in composition. The Last Days of Pompeii is one such piece on this disc [tks.8-10], where inspiration came from a then popular novel (same name) by Edward Bulwer-Lytton.

The first two numbers, if not known by name, will be very familiar to the listener. These are two of his most popular marches: Corcoran Cadets (composed for a Washington teenage drill team) and Semper Fidelis (a title taken from the U.S. Marine Corps' motto 'Always Faithful'). With a well-trodden formula used over a twenty-year period, Sousa did not often stray into an unfamiliar style.

One of the best and most interesting sequences is the selection from The Free Lance [tk.3] - one of his operetta; yes, Sousa wrote operettas.

One will be aware of the influence of the Austrian 19th Century masters in the El Capitan waltzes: this is not surprising since Sousa had a liking for their style. El Capitan was another of his operettas and a very successful one on Broadway.

Both volumes 2 and 3 are rather short in timing and it might have been more sensible for Naxos to pool their resources and provide instead of three, two well-filled discs.

The notes provided are somewhat sketchy and it would have interested readers to be given details of Sousa’s childhood, background and musical training. Useful and adequate background material (in English) on each piece is included. The Royal Artillery Band rise to the pomp and ceremony indicated by this military music under the able conductorship of Keith Brion.


Raymond Walker



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