John Philip SOUSA (1854-1932)

Music for Wind Band – Volume 9
From Maine to Oregon – March [2:09]; The Charlatan – Overture [7:18]; Flags of Freedom – March [2:34]; Nymphalin [4:10]; The Dwellers of the Western World – Suite [15:43]; The Man behind the Gun – March [2:32]; The Lily Bells [2:09]; The Chantyman’s March [2:52]; When my dreams come true – Fantasy [8:27]; US Field Artillery March [2:47]; Harmonica Wizard March [2:48]; University of Illinois March [4:02]
Sarah Oving (violin)
The Royal Norwegian Navy Band/Keith Brion
rec. Domkirke, Tønsberg, Norway, 11, 14, 15 April 2008
NAXOS 8.559396 [57:31]
In the ninth volume in this fascinating and enjoyable series Naxos has made use of a different band whilst wisely retaining Keith Brion as conductor. The Royal Norwegian Navy Band yield nothing to their predecessors, the Royal Artillery Band, in terms of technical expertise, including their enthusiastic singing in the “Caisson Song” at the end of the US Field Artillery March. I was at times conscious of some lack of the gusto and vivacity that marked their predecessor’s playing but I suspect that this is due to a somewhat less interesting choice of music. In particular it would be difficult for any band to make much of the lengthy Fantasy “When dreams come true”. This dates from 1929, and was presumably intended to project a positive image during the Depression. It consists of a potpourri of songs with suitable titles, including, somewhat oddly, “For he’s going to marry Yum-Yum” from “The Mikado”. Whilst it is undeniably well scored it remains dull.
The Suite “The Dwellers of the Western World” is however much more interesting, even if it is not remotely politically correct in its depiction of the three races in America – “The Red Man, the White Man, and the Black Man”. The first and last have the kind of simple musical picturing that Ketèlbey did so well. The White Man is the longest movement – over eight minutes – and is a kind of miniature tone picture of the settling of America. It is delightful whether or not you are able to keep a straight face. It was later arranged for orchestra and personally I prefer it in that form, but the performance here makes a good case for the band version. “Nymphalin” is a charming violin solo, and “The Lily Bells” is a gentle intermezzo. The Overture to “The Charlatan”, a selection of tunes from a musical comedy, is interesting but few of these tunes are very memorable. Unfortunately this applies also to most of the marches on the disc although “The Flags of Freedom” with its quotations of national airs of the Allies is entertaining, as is “The Chantyman” which includes a series of tunes connected with the sea. The remaining marches are all somewhat run-of-the-mill, lacking the verve and sheer intoxication of Sousa’s best. Nonetheless there is enough on this disc to attract those who are collecting the series even if it would not be a good choice for anyone wanting just one disc from it.
John Sheppard
Enough here to attract those who are collecting the series even if it would not be a good choice for anyone wanting just one disc from the cycle.