John Philip Sousa: Music for Wind Band - 23. © 2022 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd

CD Spotlight

An Immense Achievement

The final disc in Naxos' series of John Philip Sousa wind band music, recommended by GERALD FENECH

'... Keith Brion and his players do themselves proud with some superb playing full of dash and swagger ...'


The fame of John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) as 'The March King' came about in part due to the tireless touring of Sousa's band, attracting worldwide acclaim with thousands of concerts. This final 23rd volume in the series dedicated to his music for wind band explores some of the lesser-known corners of Sousa's output. These include fantasies and humoresques that use renowned classical works and fashionable melodies of their day. Also featured are some rarely heard pieces that deserve to be better known.

Over the Footlights in New York, Fantasy (1897) is made up of a series of themes from various sources, beginning with Paderewski's Minuet in G, Op 14 No 1, a short composition for piano which became world famous. Sousa made a transcription of this work for his band and took it to Rochester, NY on 12 November 1894.

Listen — John Philip Sousa: Over the Footlights in New York, Fantasy
(8.559881 track 1, 0:00-0:59) ℗ 2022 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

The Fantasy continues with the 'Allegretto' from Sousa's operetta El Capitan, and then the Sextet from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor. This is followed by 'They All Follow Me' from the musical The Belle of New York, with music by Gustave Kerker. The footstomping drinking song, 'Vin ou biere' from Gounod's Faust is followed by 'Sister Mary Jane's Top Note' from the musical comedy The Girl from Paris, with music by Ivan Caryll. Another Sousa favourite, the Anvil Chorus from Verdi's Il Trovatore leads finally into Sousa's Manhattan Beach March.

Melody in A (1912) is the best-known work by Charles Dawes (1865-1951). Born in Marietta, Ohio, Dawes was a banker, diplomat and Republican who became the thirtieth Vice-President of the United States and was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. Added to these prestigious posts and accolades, Dawes was also an accomplished composer. Melody in A for piano and violin was written in 1912, and almost overnight it became a big hit. It was recorded by Fritz Kreisler in 1921, and the piece has been arranged for orchestra, transformed into a song and eventually became a pop standard. Sousa's arrangement for wind band dates from 1912, the year it was composed.

Listen — Charles Dawes, arr Sousa: Melody in A
(8.559881 track 2, 0:00-0:56) ℗ 2022 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

En Revenant de la Revue, better known as Boulanger's March, was composed by the French conductor and composer Louis-César Desormes (1840-1898). Originally written as an instrumental waltz, the piece was converted into a protest song as a response to the political crisis in France in 1886, during which Georges Boulanger proposed expanding the French army in order to retaliate against Germany for losses endured in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. This arrangement is Sousa's orchestration for band from the march version.

What Do You Do Sunday, Mary? Humoresque (1924) is based on an original song composed in 1923 with music by Stephen Jones. Sousa's humoresque also includes passages of traditional songs such as the popular American folk song Oh! Susanna written by Stephen Foster, and various other melodies, some hymnlike, some popular.

We March, We March to Victory is a processional hymn based on music by the English composer and conductor Joseph Barnby (1838-1896). It is a stirring piece, and Sousa made this for choir (singing in unison) and wind band in 1914.

The Fancy of the Town, Fantasy (1921), completed and first performed in 1921, offers up a world tour of traditional and popular songs. Among the many tunes are the traditional Scottish song 'I love a Lassie' by Sir Henry Lauder (1870-1950), 'A little love, a little Kiss' (Un peu d'amour) by the Italian composer Lao Silesu (1883-1953) and 'Y como le va?' by the Spanish composer Joaquin Valverde (1846-1910). This Fantasy comes to an end by Sousa's piece 'Comrades of the Legion' March.

Listen — John Philip Sousa: The Fancy of the Town, Fantasy
(8.559881 track 6, 26:36-27:31) ℗ 2022 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

As in previous issues, Keith Brion and his players do themselves proud with some superb playing full of dash and swagger, and this concluding programme to the series could not have been better planned. A fitting musical ending full of colourful tunes, imaginatively arranged by 'El Capitan' of the March. This is an immense achievement from Naxos that took twenty-one years to complete, but boy, was it worth it. Unhesitatingly recommended.

Copyright © 2 April 2022 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta








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