SOUSA: Music for Wind Band, Vol. 2 (Keith Brion/ Mike Purton/ Royal Artillery Band) (Naxos American Classics: 8.559059)
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John Philip Sousa personified turn-of-the-century America, the comparative innocence and brash energy of a still new nation. His ever-touring band represented America across the globe and brought music to hundreds of American towns. John Philip Sousa, born on 6th November, 1854, reached this exalted position with startling quickness. In 1880, at the age of 26, he became conductor of the U.S. Marine Band. In twelve years the vastly improved ensemble won high renown and Sousas compositions earned him the title of \The March King." Sousa went one better with the formation of his own band in 1892, bringing world acclaim.
In its first seven years the band gave 3500 concerts; in an era of train and ship travel it logged over a million miles in nearly four decades. There were European tours in 1900, 1901, 1903, and 1905, and a world tour in 1910-11, the zenith of the band era. The unprecedented popularity of the Sousa Band came at a time when few American orchestras existed. From the Civil War to about 1920, band concerts were the most important aspect of American musical life. No finer band than Sousas was ever heard. He modified the brass band by decreasing the number of brass and percussion instruments, increasing its woodwinds, and adding a harp. His conducting genius attracted the finest musicians, enabling him to build an ensemble capable of executing programmes almost as varied as those of a symphony orchestra. The Sousa Band became the standard by which American bands were measured, causing a dramatic upgrading in quality nationally.
Sousas compositions also spread his fame. Such marches as The Stars and Stripes Forever, El Capitan, Washington Post, and Semper Fidelis are universally acknowledged as the best of the genre. Sousa said a march "should make a man with a wooden leg step out," and his surely did. Although he standardised the march form as it is known today, he was no mere maker of marches, but an exceptionally inventive composer of over two hundred works, including symphonic poems, suites, operas and operettas. His principles of instrumentation and tonal colour influenced many classical composers, while his robust, patriotic operettas of the 1890s helped introduce a truly native musical attitude in American theatre. The library of Sousas Band contained over ten thousand titles. Among them are the numerous band compositions of Sousa including the marches and many other compositions; as well as the countless classical and popular works of other composers who he presented in his forty years of touring. The present series seeks to record these for the world to hear.
1 The Royal Welch Fusiliers (1929)
The march The Royal Welch Fusiliers was composed in memory of the association of the U.S. Marines with the Second Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers during the 1900 Boxer Rebellion in China. The première was given in Washington at the annual Gridiron dinner in the presence of President Hoover. It was repeated two weeks later at the White House. Later that month Sousa conducted it in England with the band of the Second Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers.
2 Untitled March (1930)
The untitled march of 1930, nearly completed two years before Sousas death, was not discovered until 1988, when the Sousa scholar Loras Schissel successfully matched two long separated score fragments. Keith Brion conducted the première in 1990 with the Stockholm Symphonic Wind Orchestra. Since Sousa often awaited the first performance before adding titles to a march, this march remains Untitled.
3 The Fairest of the Fair (1908)
The Fairest of the Fair was composed for the Boston Food Fair. It is said that Sousa had been quite impressed by the beauty and charm of a young lady he had seen at the fair on a preceding year. Whatever the motivation, it is one of his greatest and most elegant marches.
4 Songs of Grace and Songs of Glory (1892)
During the first season of Sousas Band, needing a religious medley to play at Sunday concerts, Sousa fashioned Songs of Grace and Songs of Glory from popular hymn tunes. It ends with a stirring setting of Nearer My God to Thee, which he had previously arranged for the Marine Band to play at President Garfields funeral.
5 Willow Blossoms (1916)
From 1901 to 1928, the bands summer home became Philadelphias Willow Grove Park. For many years, Sousa and his Band were the parks most popular attraction. Sousa composed the delightful Willow Blossoms in the form of a slow ragtime. It was dedicated to The Management and Patrons of Willow Grove Park. The music evokes the swaying of a weeping willow, and suggests the gently perfumed breezes of a warm spring evening. He subtitled it A Legend.
6-8 At the Movies (1922)
Subtitled Scenarios of Cinematographers, the first movement of At the Movies depicts coeds being serenaded at a university. In the second the timid maid pleads for her safety while being pursued by a clever villain. The third, a ragtime hoe-down, depicts a dance on the village green.
9 The Rose, Shamrock and Thistle (Patrol of the United Kingdom) (1901)
The Rose, Shamrock and Thistle was composed for the Sousa Bands 1901 tour of Britain. The rose honoured England, the thistle Scotland and the shamrock Ireland.
This setting is a fitting companion to Meachams popular American Patrol.
10 Wisconsin Forward Forever (1917)
There can be no doubt that World War I inspired some of Sousas best marches, three of which are represented here. Wisconsin Forward Forever was dedicated to the University of Wisconsin, but was originally entitled Wisconsin to the Front.
11 Solid Men to the Front (1918)
Solid Men to the Front is one of Sousas finest and strongest marches. It is also one of the very few marches recorded by the Sousa Band with the March King himself conducting.
12 King Cotton (1895)
King Cotton was created for the Cotton States Exposition in Atlanta and marked the important first major appearance of the Sousa Band in the American South. Without a doubt it has become one of Sousas greatest marches. It may be that he wanted it to follow in the path of the great dance music success of The Washington Post (1888), since he fashioned a beautiful King Cotton trio melody that is essentially The Washington Post trio played upside down.
13 Bullets and Bayonets (1918)
Bullets and Bayonets, another First World War rouser, was dedicated To the officers and men of the U.S. Infantry.