Sousa: Music for Wind Band, Vol. 13 / Brion

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SOUSA The Occidental. Mother Goose. Katherine: Overture. Chris and the Wonderful Lamp: Mamma, Papa. President Garfield’s Inaugural March. President Garfield’s Funeral March, “In Memoriam.” Resumption...


SOUSA The Occidental. Mother Goose. Katherine: Overture. Chris and the Wonderful Lamp: Mamma, Papa. President Garfield’s Inaugural March. President Garfield’s Funeral March, “In Memoriam.” Resumption March. Gallagher and Shean: Humoresque. Paroles d’amour. Camera Studies. While Navy Ships are Coaling. The White Plume Keith Brion, cond; Central Band of the RAF NAXOS 8.559729 (60: 22)


We are at number 13 of the projected 16 volumes of John Philip Sousa’s complete music for wind band conducted by Sousa expert Keith Brion. Fanfare hasn’t published a review of a disc from this series since Lynn René Bayley savaged volume 10 in 35:5. In the intervening two years, Brion moved from the Royal Norwegian Navy Band (which I like much better than Bayley does), to its excellent Swedish counterpart, and back to the United Kingdom. Rather than the Royal Artillery Band, which recorded the first eight volumes, this program is performed by The Central Band of the RAF, one of the UK’s most prestigious bands, and one of its most experienced in the recording studio. It was, in 1989, the first band outside the USA to be awarded the Howard Citation for Musical Excellence from the John Philip Sousa Foundation. The playing is alert, generally accurate (though intonation is not infallible) and, most importantly, responsive to the historic Sousa band style which Brion has promoted with his own New Sousa Band, as well as in this series. This style includes more relaxed tempos than are now fashionable, as well as a more reed-dominated texture in a smaller ensemble than is typical of a modern American concert band. The RAF band appears to number a little over 30 players. Big brass and percussion perorations are saved for climaxes and occasional punctuation. (For more on style, see Brion’s article on the New Sousa Band web site: newsousaband.com/articles_nsb.html.)


As before, the program includes not only marches, but also non-march works from throughout Sousa’s long career. There is an overture from his first operetta, Katherine , written when he was 25, and a wind arrangement of a patter song from his Aladdin operetta, Chris and the Wonderful Lamp , written 20 years later. Works of political/historic significance include both the inaugural and funeral marches written for President Garfield and played, tragically, little more than six months apart. White Plume March is a reworking of We’ll Follow Where the White Plume Waves , a campaign song Sousa wrote for unsuccessful presidential candidate James G. Blaine in 1884. The melody ensconced here far transcends its original ephemeral purpose. Musical forms familiar from earlier releases include a humoresque, this one, from 1923, using tunes associated with the famous comedy duo Gallagher and Shean; a set of waltzes in the Strauss style dating from 1880, Sousa’s first year as director of the Marine Band; and Camera Studies , a 1920 suite of picturesque snapshots of Spanish beauty, romantic love, and the innocence of a children’s ball. Recalling his time in the Navy, While Navy Ships are Coaling is a potpourri of sea shanties. Other marches, less well known but still showing the composer’s indefatigable inventiveness, complete the program.


The editions for these recordings are, as usual, primarily by Keith Brion, or by Loras Schissel, curator of the Sousa Collection of the Library of Congress. President Garfield’s Inaugural March is an interesting exception. Discovered by Richard Franko Goodman in 1975, it was arranged for large concert band by Dorothy Klotzman of Brooklyn College and published by J. C. Penney Company as part of a collection of sheet music donated to every high school, university, and college in the United States in 1976. If you wonder, as I did, when Penney’s got into the music publishing business, now you know. It sounds as if maestro Brion did his usual historically informed trimming to match the original Sousa band instrumentation and balance.


The sound is a little more opaque and resonant than the last few volumes have been, which is regrettable, though the engineering in no way detracts from the music-making. The presentation is the same as with previous volumes, with Brion’s four-paragraph introduction to Sousa and his music as used in each volume, and short but informative notes on each of the pieces. Far from being a “waste” of CDs, this series is every wind band lover’s dream, more interesting with each new discovery, and volume 13 is recommended as a worthy addition.


FANFARE: Ronald E. Grames


Product Description:


  • Release Date: January 28, 2014


  • UPC: 636943972922


  • Catalog Number: 8559729


  • Label: Naxos


  • Number of Discs: 1


  • Period: ""


  • Composer: John Philip Sousa


  • Conductor: Keith Brion


  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Central Band of the Royal Air Force


  • Performer: Central Band Of The Royal Air Force, Keith Brion