John Philip Sousa was and remains the
legendary composer of music for military band. Only his British counterpart, Kenneth Alford, came close to challenging him. There’s a great deal of his music – as well as this thirteenth volume in the Naxos series I have been listening to its successor, on 8.559730
, from the Naxos Music Library – and it’s all well worth hearing. When James Garfield was inaugurated as President in 1881, Sousa was so well established that he was the natural choice to compose the march for that occasion (Volume 13, track 5) and, poignantly, he composed the commemoration march for the funeral four months later (track 6).
The classic Sousa recordings were made by the Eastman Rochester Wind Ensemble under the command of Frederick Fennell. Several of their interpretations remain available on Mercury, albeit mostly immured in a 55-CD box – 4785092 – and as downloads from Beulah at eavb.co.uk
. I have reviewed several of those Beulah reissues in various editions of Download Roundup/Download News. They remain highly recommendable and can be purchased separately, but five of the items on the Naxos Volume 13 and two on Volume 14 were not recorded by Fennell or anyone else, though all contain the authentic Sousa spirit. As well as marches, both volumes also offer music of other kinds, equally appealing.
There are none of the great favourites here: Liberty Bell
is on Volume 6: 8.559132
, The Thunderer
on Volume 5, 8.559131
, Washington Post
on Volume 8, 8.559248
, and Stars and Stripes
on Volume 4, 8.559093
, and all four feature on a 2-CD anthology from the series, 8.572651/2
, but don’t let that deter you from Volumes 13 and 14. The attraction of having the less well known works is that you may have already followed me in snapping up the four marches that I have named in the Fennell recordings from Beulah: 2PD82 with other American Wind Band Classics
, from iTunes
, 29BX182, 30BX182 and 33BX182 respectively.
Rob Barnett gave his approval to Volume 12, recorded with the Royal Swedish Navy Band – review
– as did John Sheppard – review
. Though Sousa was as proudly American as they come – there is even a story that his immigrant father chose a name that ended with USA, but that’s probably an urban myth – the Swedish performances are fully idiomatic and the Central Band of the RAF also do him proud on both the volumes that I have heard.
Staunchly patriotic as he was, Sousa was also interested in establishing international relations, as in the famous Hands across the Sea
. I was particularly interested in the medley of national tunes on track 12 of Volume 14: The International Congress
, here arranged by Keith Brion for wind band.
The recordings, obviously more modern than the Fennell series, good as those are for their age, do full justice to the music and performances and there are detailed notes by Keith Brion – also available to subscribers to Naxos Music Library if you choose to listen there.
An index of reviews of earlier volumes in the series on MusicWeb International can be found here
. I intend to explore more of the series, so readily on tap as it is from Naxos Music Library.
Reviews of the Sousa series on Naxos