John Philip SOUSA (1854-1932)
Marches Gallant and gay we’ll march away/Let’s hurrah [1:23]
The Pathfinder of Panama [3:28]
El Capitan [2:22]
Ancient and Honourable Artillery Company [2:18]
The Gladiator [2:49]
The Gliding Girl (Tango) [4:38]
Foshay Tower Washington Memorial [3:20]
Who’s who in Navy Blue [2:42]
King Cotton [2:42]
The Presidential Polonaise [3:59]
The Liberty Bell [3:39]
With Steady Step [0:47]
The Stars and Stripes forever! [3:45]
Sabre and spurs [3:12]
La Reine de la Mer (Valses) [5:58]
Mikado March [2:17]
George Washington Bicentennial [3:30]
Manhattan Beach [2:17]
With Pleasure (Dance Hilarious) [3:41]
The Fairest of the Fair [3:35]
Here’s to your health, Sir! [0:38]
The Washington Post [2:44]
The Great American Main Street Band/Timothy Foley
rec. Rye Presbyterian Church, New York 19-22 June 1990
EMI CLASSICS 6411222 [66:33]

Many composers have excelled in writing marches - Alford, Coates, Fuçik and Texidor to name a few. None however had quite the same ability to impel the listener to physical activity that Sousa had. I imagine I am far from alone in looking forward to each new release in what I hope will eventually be a complete edition from Naxos. They have all been splendidly played and presented but there must be room for more than one version of these little masterpieces, and this disc is at least as good as the Naxos versions in terms both of performance and recording. I have never come across the Great American Main Street Band before but this is clearly my loss as they play with just the right degree of panache and loose-limbed swagger that the music needs. The term “American Classics” has been overused by several recording companies to include several works which could never realistically be described in those terms but the music on this disc does wholly deserve it, especially in performances of this quality.

Inevitably most of it consists of marches. Most of the best known are here along with a few less familiar such as “Ancient and Honourable Artillery Company” and “Who’s who in Navy Blue”. Specialists in Gilbert and Sullivan will have to have it because of the “Mikado March”, similar to Komzak’s “Barataria March” in its use of G&S melodies to form a march. In addition to the marches the disc includes several short bugle and drum pieces. Amazingly given the limitations of the medium these are actually worth hearing … if not too often. There is also a Tango - the least erotic I have come across, a Polonaise, a set of Valses and a “Dance Hilarious” - a kind of impression of ragtime as seen by an outsider. None of these really match the sheer genius of the marches but they are entertaining and help to break up what might otherwise become a predictable set of pieces. None of the Suites or other longer items that Naxos have are included here but it is nonetheless a disc that can be listened to straight through with enjoyment.

All in all this is an essential addition to the Naxos series for the enthusiast, and for anyone wanting just a single disc of Sousa it might well be just right. The notes are brief but helpful. One point they do not discuss is one that has long puzzled me. Most European marches are in an ABA form but Sousa’s are simply AB (although sometimes European editions include a spurious da capo marking). Why is this?

John Sheppard

For anyone wanting just a single disc of Sousa it might well be just right.