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John Philip SOUSA (1854-1932)
Music for Wind Band - Vol. 12
Sound Off March (1885) [3:04]
Peaches and Cream - Foxtrot (1924) [3:40]
Transit of Venus March (1883) [2:08]
Marching Through Georgia - Patrol (1891) [2:47]
Maidens Three - Suite (I. The Coquette (1887); II. The Summer Girl (1901); III. The Dancing Girl (1897)) [9:44]
Mikado March (1885) [2:21]
The Honored Dead - Funeral March (1876) [4:23]
Marquette University March (1924) [2:55]
Revival March (1876) [3:22]
Chris and the Wonderful Lamp - Overture (1899)* [5:52]
Right Forward March (1881) [2:35]
Leaves From My Notebook - Suite (1923) (I. The Genial Hostess; II. The Campfire Girls; III. The Lively Flapper) [10:59]
Right-Left March (1883) [2:16]
The Royal Swedish Navy Band/Keith Brion
rec. The Admiralty Church (Ulrica Pia), Karlskrona, Sweden, 28-30 September 2010
* World Première Recording

When Naxos get the right collaborator and the bit between their teeth you are guaranteed that they will stay the course … marathon or not. So it is with Sousa. This site has been reviewing their Sousa discs since the early days though it is a very long time since I last applied myself to the task. Here we are again in the safe but not routine hands of Keith Brion.
The disc is not exactly over-packed but there is plenty of interest. The Sound Off March (1885) injects marching pace oompah but also a bitter battle skirl suited to US Marines. Right Forward (1881) and Right-Left (1883) marches are out of the same mould though rather more bland than Sound Off. The 1883 march even sports several shouts of “Right-Left” from the band. Peaches and Cream - Foxtrot (1924) shares Sound Off’s opulent confident oompah with the March but otherwise floats along as befits Sousa having watched his granddaughter at a dance. Feminine subject matter is a loose titular link for the Transit of Venus March which marks the moment when Venus passes between the earth and the sun, becoming visible while casting a small shadow on the sun seen in 1874 and 1882. It’s another struttingly self-possessed march. The Marching Through Georgia - Patrol (1891) is based on Henry Clay Work’s 1865 civil war song, written to commemorate William Tecumseh Sherman’s Union Army March to the Sea. This time a little less of the oompah DNA - the catchy song and a freight load of inventive little touches, some of them ppp,make this a little winner.

We know from earlier volumes that Sousa was not just a denizen of the parade ground: Maidens Three - Suite is a fragrant little light music triptych. The central The Summer Girl sounds like the music to a high-wire act but, as Keith Brion relates in the liner-note, is a re-titled version of Sousa’s Electric Ballet music from his operetta Chris and the Wonderful Lamp. Sousa was a great fan of G&S as you might surmise from the Mikado March (1885) which includes a medley of standards from the opera all tied up in Sousa’s trademark ribbons and bows. He could also turn his hand to funeral pomp grandeur as he did for the dark and somewhat Beethovenian march The Honored Dead (1876) used for the final rites in 1885 of President Ulysses S. Grant. The Marquette University March (1924) is out of Sousa’s standard confident chapbook and will not disappoint the faithful. The Revival March (1876) is much earlier and is another example of a march using a popular tune - in this case the Sally Army hymn In the Sweet Bye and Bye. Sousa wrote a fair few musicals or light operas of which two successes were El Capitan and The Charlatan. After these came the Aladdin-based, Chris and the Wonderful Lamp but did not take. Sousa quickly recycled its material into various marches and suites. The Suite - Leaves From My Notebook (1923) is dedicated to the Campfire Girls of America. Like Maidens Three and Peaches and Cream, a lighter female hand is at work. This is even apparent in the confiding innocent chumminess of Campfire Girls and - sign of the times - The Lively Flapper. The latter perhaps also a souvenir of his granddaughter’s dancing days?
The Swedish band has the manner off to a tee though given three days of rehearsal this was probably won at the expense of considerable graft. The notes are all you could reasonably ask and the sound is excellent.
Rob Barnett   
Reviews of the Naxos Sousa Wind Band series on MusicWeb International

Jeremy Siepmann interviews Keith Brion about Sousa