John Philip SOUSA (1854-1932)

Works for Wind Band: Volume 8
The High School Cadets (1890)
The Northern Pines (1931)
Selections from El Capitan (1895)
Boy Scouts of America (1916)
Crusader March (1888)
Oh, Warrior Grim (from ‘El Capitan’)* (1895)
On the Campus (1920)
Jack Tar (1903)
Comrades of the Legion (1920)
Pride of Pittsburgh (1901)
Suite: At the King’s Court (1904): Her Ladyship, the Countess; Her Grace, the Duchess; Her Majesty, the Queen;
The Washington Post (1899)
*Martin Hinton (solo cornet)
Royal Artillery Band/Keith Brion
rec. Woolwich Town Hall, London, 17-18 January 2005
NAXOS 8.559248 [58:48]
This Sousa wind band series continues to grow. One has to admit that Sousa’s prolific output of stirring tunes is justly acknowledged by Naxos. This inventive composer has found many textural corners to turn in a march, even if some of his musical devices have become predictable.
The most interesting track for many will be the long forgotten El Capitan: in this compilation there is a generous selection covering the numbers from this Broadway show. Many forget that Sousa was an enthusiastic composer for the stage, with nine operettas to his name, written between the 1880s and early 1900s. Of them El Capitan is the most notable. A Bride Elect selection was included in Volume 4 of this series, and marches from both operettas appeared in Volume 7.
Some of the titles provide little indication of the music to follow. In The Northern Pines, the only connection happens to be the location of a national music camp in Michigan. Likewise, the Crusader March having associations with the Knights Templar, carries no aural link yet it is a good piece with an excellent sense of flow, punctuated by fanfare sections.
Sousa is always sparkling in style. His fun and humour is perhaps most apparent in his use of novel decoration for the comic cuts introduced in track 7, On the Campus, the only track to include a chorus. Up to now, the most famous of Sousa marches that had been missing from the previous volumes in this series, The Washington Post, now makes an appearance as the last track. This sturdy piece echoed round many a circus ring in Britain and on the Continent as well as America before being flung into popularity by the BBC’s Monty Python programme. In contrast the delicately phrased waltz style, O Warrior Grim is a tranquil piece with carefully balanced cornet solo (by Martin Hinton).
Keith Brion needs to be congratulated for the most successful ambience. Then there’s precision playing by the Royal Artillery Band and a recording nicely balanced by Mike Purton. In military music there is often a tendency for the percussion to mask the more delicate phrases of woodwind, yet here much sensitivity is shown to provide us with wide dynamics and colour.
The notes, in English only, are adequate yet disappointing; all the more so when the jewel case is filled with a lavish catalogue on heavy-weight paper of Naxos American Classics. This catalogue is likely to be discarded. More information about Sousa’s background and influences would have been welcomed, considering his enormous output of some two hundred pieces.

Raymond J Walker


Good performance and excellent sound to match the colour of these sturdy pieces