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John Philip SOUSA (1854-1932)
Music for Wind Band Vol. 6
Easter Monday on the White House Lawn (From Tales of a Traveller) ed. R. Mark Rogers (1928) [2:20]
The Golden Star (1919) [4:40]
The Dauntless Battalion (1922) [2:51]
Sextet from The Bride Elect (Arr. Herbert L. Clarke) (1897) [2:17]
The Federal March (1910) [2:33]
Three Quotations (Suite for Band) ed. R. Mark Rogers (1895) [13:27]
Liberty Bell (Arr. Brion/Schissel) (1893) [3:45]
The Gridiron Club (1926) [3:21]
La Reine de la Mer (1886) [7:10]
The Chariot Race (1890) [5:31]
The Gladiator (1886) [2:53]
New Mexico March (1928) [3:06]
The Picador March (1889) [3:02]
Royal Artillery Band/Keith Brion
rec. Woolwich Town Hall, 15-16 January 2002. DDD
NAXOS 8.559132 [56:56]

Nearly three years have passed since I reviewed volume 5 of this series (see links below). The two discs were recorded in the same month over five years ago. Life moves on and Keith Brion now leads the New Sousa Band but what is happening to this series – which I imagine has some way to go – is not obvious from either their website or the Naxos one. A compilation box of volumes 1-5 seems to have been issued but is currently more expensive on Amazon UK than buying the six single issues now released. One can only admire Naxos for this kind of undertaking – of which they have many on the go – but is there any good reason to keep potential customers in the dark about progress?
Easter Monday on the White House Lawn is a light-hearted and festive opener. The Golden Star then comes of something of a shock – it is a funeral march written in memory of lives lost in World War I. Apart a contrasting section which brings some hope, this is about as dark-toned as Sousa gets. The Dauntless Battalion is a march which returns us to a much more typical vein. The Bride Elect is an operetta from which the liner notes tell us Sousa made and often performed an arrangement for sextet but the version on the disc was apparently made by Herbert L. Clarke. In 1911 Sousa undertook a world tour and for it he composed The Federal March which he dedicated to the peoples of Australia and New Zealand – not that you could tell by listening to it! The Three Quotations form a suite with some rather disparate themes. The first is distinctly humorous, the second reflective and third highly syncopated.
I was a little surprised to find Liberty Bell appearing as late as volume 6 but the most well-known items have been carefully spread between discs. I find it impossible to hear this music without thinking of John Cleese and naked pianists – yes, it’s the tune from Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Apparently this was Sousa’s first financial success although I presume it was out of copyright by the time it was hijacked by the BBC. The Gridiron Club is another favourite – apparently dedicated to a club of journalists of which Sousa was a member. La Reine de la Mer is the earliest work here and consists of a series of waltzes written whilst Sousa was in charge of a marine band. The Chariot Race is a story by Lew Wallace which was staged on Broadway the year before Sousa produced this rather untypical piece which contains some harmonies that might have been approved of by Charles Ives. There are three more marches – The Gladiator and The Picador March are fairly well-known and come from Sousa’s youth whilst the New Mexico March was written around four decades later. This is notable for containing an adaptation of the state song. The Picador March was a good choice to finish – even though its depiction of a bullfight seems to have an intermission in the middle and is all fun rather than blood and gore.
As in previous reviews of the series, I only can only find positive things to say about this well-presented and recorded disc. My feeling about the playing of the Royal Artillery Band is very much as last time round i.e. beautifully clean and slightly understated – probably a good idea if you are going to listen to large doses of Sousa. Of course, there is another, more upfront way and Frederick Fennell on Mercury (see review) offers such an experience in readings which sound more (and are) American. That disc provides the obvious single disc compilation of this composer but Sousaphiles should add this disc to their collection and hope that they don’t have to wait so long for the next instalment.
Patrick C Waller
Links to reviews of previous volumes in the series:
Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3 Volume 4 Volume 5

Naxos American Classics page




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