Keith Brion / Marine Band of the Royal Netherlands Navy

John Philip Sousa: Music for Wind Band, Vol. 16

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The Naxos label's complete edition of the wind band music of John Philip Sousa, played by a non-American ensemble no less, here reaches its 16th volume. Casual observers may be forgiven for thinking this is for the Sousa hardcore only, yet there is more to it than that. For one thing, for a composer so universally known, Sousa remains remarkably little recorded outside of a handful of pieces. Johann Strauss II, a comparable figure in some ways, enjoys much better coverage, and the four world premieres here are welcome indeed. For another, the performances by the Marine Band of the Royal Netherlands Navy under American Sousa specialist Keith Brion are ideal: clean, crisp, and with just the right amount of American rhythmic zing. A third attractive feature of the present volume is that Sousa's output, so often divided into marches and operettas, is here shown to contain a good deal of overlap between the two. The centerpiece is a big medley of band renditions of tunes from Sousa's lost operetta The Charlatan. There is the "original" version of the most familiar band version of The Star-Spangled Banner, arranged by Sousa and Walter Damrosch. And best of all, yes, there are a few pieces here (although certainly not all of them) that deserve a place in the Sousa canon. Sample On the Tramp, with one of those Sousa tunes that both generates a lot of energy pointing toward the tonic triad and avoids it in the main melody. Yes, you can get a good Sousa selection without buying 16 volumes, but this is of more than specialist interest.

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