The Most Famous Marches

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The Most Famous Marches, an entry in EMI's super-budget "Encore" product line, is not a disc of military-style marches. Rather, it consists of orchestral marches, mostly drawn from larger works and, in some cases, taken from recordings that are available elsewhere in EMI's vast catalog. The recordings date anywhere from 1955 to 1980, and as the front cover reminds us, this compilation includes the conducting of such famous personalities as Leonard Bernstein, John Barbirolli, Herbert von Karajan, Thomas Beecham, and André Previn, among others. Bear in mind, however, that the longest track by far is Adrian Boult's recording of Tchaikovsky's Marche Slave at 9:56. Most of the others are quite short, with not-so-well-known conductor Paul Strauss' rendering of the Turkish March from "The Ruins of Athens" being the shortest at only 1:49.

Compilations of orchestral marches aren't generally the best way to experience the virtues of conductors or the sound of their orchestras. If the march is an excerpt derived from a larger work, it suffers through the lack of its greater context. Bernstein once made an album of marches with the New York Philharmonic that is regarded as one of his lesser achievements, held in the same regard as his recordings of Vivaldi. Boult and Karajan had somewhat better luck in such projects, but it happens that those records were made for labels other than EMI. In any event, this diffuse collection lacks variety, isn't particularly well sequenced, and fails to cohere as a whole.

This might be an okay collection for children who like rousing, loud orchestral music and like to play "March around the living room," or as a general interest piece for adults who are not very fussy about whether a band or an orchestra plays their marches. The rest of us, however, don't need it. This is the 1994 release, which is now deleted, however in 2004 EMI Classics resurrected this title as Famous Marches.