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John Philip SOUSA (1854-1932)
Music for Wind Band 4

Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (1922)
Sesqui-Centennial Exposition (1926)
Tales of a Traveler (1911)
Riders for the Flag (1927)
Ancient and Honorable Artillery Co. (1924)
Coeds of Michigan (1925)
Pathfinder of Panama (1915)
The Glory of the Yankee Navy (1909)
Bride Elect Selections (1898)
The Aviators (1931)
The Stars and Stripes Forever (1896)
Royal Artillery Band/Keith Brion
Recorded Woolwich Town Hall, London, November 2000
NAXOS 8.559093 [59.02]

 

In no time at all we have leapt to volume 4 in Naxosís Sousa series. The fecund productivity of the series matches Sousaís own and summons up the days of his world touring when, sometimes bolstered by celebrity artists (such as violinist Maud Powell), he barnstormed the globe. British bands have a history of recording Sousa Ė there were a number of 78s recorded by military bands (what Americans call wind bands) Ė so itís not unusual to see the Royal Artillery Band taking the honours under visiting American guest Keith Brion.

Sousa always had a knack for titles. He summons up grandiose antiquaries in Nobles of the Mystic Shrine and quasi-impressionistic Kiplinesqueries in Tales of a Traveler. And then thereís the collegiate pep of Coeds of Michigan (what exactly does that promise, one wonders) and the mechanistic up-to-dateness of The Aviators (complete here with aero engines and maybe summoning the recent heroics of Eddie Rickenbacker and balloon-buster Frank Luke). Nobles of the Mystic Shrine does indeed have the requisite bold, brassy swagger and Tales of a Traveler has, unusually, three movements. The first movement promises local colour (itís titled The Kaffir on the Karroo) but we soon get a full range of Sousa-isms and the second, dedicated to The Matrons and Maids of Australia, certainly portrays them in robust form with a no-prisoners waltz. The final movement, Coronation March, was intended for George Vís coronation but as it wasnít used Sousa recycled it as Grand Promenade at the White House. Why wasnít it used? Well, itís a big Imperial-sounding (or maybe Democratic-sounding) march but somewhat unceremonial in its second subject.

Sousa employs Auld Lang Syne, their marching song, in Ancient and Honorable Artillery Co., an otherwise spruce affair but better by far is the vivacious The Glory of the Yankee Navy, which has plenty of contrasting material, is excellently constructed and has real colour and verve. Bride Elect Selections comes from a Sousa operetta first staged in 1897 (we donít hear so much of his symphonic poems and operas) and is a pleasing pot pourri Before we get the expected spectacular of The Stars and Stripes Forever we can enjoy the 1931 The Aviators. Apparently when the Sousa band played it they were accompanied by the sounds of an aero engine. Here we get several, swooping dramatically down on us: nostalgia for piston and crankshaft and canvas will run amok listening to them.

The conductor has written the succinct and attractive notes and the standards of this series have been well maintained.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Patrick Gary



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