MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing



Sound Samples & Downloads

John Philip SOUSA (1854-1932)
Sousa’s Greatest Marches
Full track-listing at the end of this review
Royal Artillery Band/Keith Brion
rec. 5-6 August 1999, Henry Wood Hall, London; 16-17, 29-30 November 2000, 15-16 January 2002, 11-12, 17-18 January 2005, Woolwich Town Hall, London; 9-10 August 1999, 10-11 January 2002, Blackheath Concert Halls, London
NAXOS WIND BAND CLASSICS 8.572651-2 [53:43 + 54:59]

Experience Classicsonline

There’s something uniquely visceral about a military band in full cry, even more so if the music is as accomplished - and stirring - as that of John Philip Sousa. This American ‘march king’ was certainly prolific, composing more than 100 marches over a period of some 40 years. On disc he was very well served by Wilma Cozart and her team at Mercury, who produced the most celebrated Sousa collection of the early stereo era. Even after fifty years this recording - featuring Frederick Fennell and his Eastman Wind Ensemble - still sounds remarkably fresh and dynamic (Mercury 434 300-2) (other Fennell/EWE reviews). For a short time it was also available on SACD, copies of which can be found on the Internet at ridiculous prices.
Cost is hardly an issue with this Naxos set, made up of items from their eight-volume series with the Royal Artillery Band under Keith Brion. The London-based ensemble, formed in 1762, has a fine reputation; indeed, Raymond Walker warmly welcomed their last Sousa disc - review (previous Naxos series reviews indexed here). As for the avuncular Mr Brion, leader of his own New Sousa Band, he is also associated with Alan Hovhaness, some of whose works he has premiered. So, he certainly has the credentials for this repertoire, but how does he stack up against Fennell?
Inevitably with a collection made over a number of years - and divided among three venues - balances and perspectives are variable. Hands Across the Sea, recorded in London’s Henry Wood Hall, gets the collection off to a cracking start, but the stereo focus is a little narrow, the acoustic a tad dry. That said, it’s a polished and strangely affecting performance, that recurring tune liable to lodge in one’s mind for hours afterwards. The sound in Woolwich Town Hall is fuller and more reverberant; in fact the latter’s more expansive acoustic suits Semper Fidelis very well, the snap of the snare drum particularly well caught. Even better are Blackheath Concert Halls, where these spacious versions of the Royal Welch Fusiliers and Sabre and Spurs were recorded, albeit three years apart.
Really, sonics aren’t a huge issue here, especially when the music is this well played. It won’t efface memories of the Fennell disc - there’s a brightness and brio there that’s hard to beat - but I doubt lovers of this repertoire will feel the music loses anything in translation as it were. True, the bass drum in King Cotton would have benefited from less restricted dynamics - this music, poorly represented on SACD, cries out for a decent high-res recording - but the Artillery brass are refined and well articulated, the percussion discreet but easily heard. It’s a disciplined sound, with none of the tubby, sometimes rather florid sound one associates with British bands past and present.
The real test of collections such as this is whether they pall after a few tracks; happily that’s not the case here, such is the energy and inventiveness of Sousa’s output. Monty Python fans will recognise The Liberty Bell, played here in an arrangement by James Ord-Hume. It’s wonderfully perky, the bells nicely done, but it’s the sparkling renditions of Hail to the Spirit of Liberty and the baton-twirling High School Cadets that will surely win Sousa - and this band - some new admirers. The rest of disc one is just as exhilarating; Fairest of the Fair - winsome in parts, ebullient in others - The Thunder and The Washington Post more subtly scored than their macho titles might suggest. The only real disappointment is Sousa’s calling-card, The Stars and Stripes Forever; it’s rather distant and, despite some rousing moments in the final straight, it’s no match for the likes of Fennell, Fiedler, Kunzel and others.
One dullish track out of seventeen ain’t bad, although the start of disc two - Nobles of the Mystic Shrine - is also a tad underwhelming. The bass is rather boomy and ill-defined, but at least the percussion is well caught. And if you’re expecting The Invincible Eagle to follow you’ll be sorely disappointed; the third track on this disc is in fact the first of Sousa’s Quotations, subtitled ‘The King of France’, from Volume 6 in the series (8.559132). No matter; this and The Diplomat are superbly sprung, the variety and symphonic thrust of this pair reminiscent of Suppé and the Strausses. Two terrific performances and glorious apotheoses, on their own enough to make this a must-have collection. And goodness, the brush of cymbals in the peppy Picador is thrilling, the piece played with more ease and affection than we’ve heard thus far. This is the sound of a band having fun, and I daresay the rollicking Jack Tar will raise a few smiles as well.
The players really seem to be hitting their stride at last, with a string of foot-tapping tunes, from the fizzy America First to the high-spirited whistles of The Atlantic City Pageant via the goosebump-inducing sound of Auld lang syne, as used in The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company. There are other nuggets here too, among them the Spanish-inspired La Flor di Sevilla, which has splendid bounce and verve. And may I sneak in a ‘wow’ for The National Game, with its sound of baseball on bat and the cheers and whistles of an enthusiastic crowd. It’s a riotous piece, worthy of Charles Ives, and it’s rousingly played to boot. Speaking of sound-effects, the gunfire of Bullets and Bayonets is very well managed - shades of Strauss’s Auf der jagd. The ringing clarion calls of The Naval Reserve - complete with somewhat distant chorus - brings this compendium to a terrific close.
Listening to Fennell for the first time in years I was struck by the general swiftness and knife-edge precision of his readings, the fabled Mercury sound not as fulsome or as dynamically challenging as I’d remembered. I’m pleased to say this Naxos twofer stands up very well alongside Fennell’s classic. And at this - or any other - price point, these discs are an absolute steal.
Huzzahs all round.
Dan Morgan
Full track-listing:  
CD 1
Hands Across the Sea (1899) [2:50]
Semper Fidelis (1888) [2:57]
The Royal Welch Fusiliers (1929) [2:42]
Sabre and Spurs (1918) [3:16]
King Cotton (1895) [2:57]
Pathfinder of Panama (1915) [3:14]
The Liberty Bell (arr. J. Ord-Hume) (1893) [3:45]
Hail to the Spirit of Liberty (1900) [3:19]
The Black Horse Troop March (1924) [3:31]
The High School Cadets (1890) [2:35]
Daughters of Texas (1929) [3:21]
The Fairest of the Fair (1908) [3:40]
Riders for the Flag (1927) [2:38]
The Thunderer (1889) [2:53]
The Washington Post (1889) [2:43]
The Glory of the Yankee Navy (1909) [3:32]
The Stars and Stripes Forever (1896) [3:50] 
CD 2
Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (1922) [3:34]
Wisconsin Forward Forever (1917) [3:27]
Quotations I - The King of France (1895) [5:18]
Solid Men to the Front (1918) [3:59]
The Diplomat (1904) [3:24]
The Picador (1889) [2:57]
Jack Tar (1903) [2:33]
America First (March of the States) (1916) [2:28]
Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company (1924) [2:31]
The Minnesota March (1921) [3:19]
The Atlantic City Pageant March (1927) [2:39]
Sesqui-Centennial Exposition (1926) [3:39]
La Flor di Sevilla (1929) [2:41]
The Corcoran Cadets (1890) [3:09]
The National Game (1925) [3:19]
Bullets and Bayonets (1918) [3:39]
The Naval Reserve (1917) [2:24] 





Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.