I "On Stage"
Excerpts from The Bride Elect, El Capitan and Our Flirtations
Razumovsky Symphony Orch/Keith Brion, cond.
NAXOS 8.559008 (B) (DDD) TT: 60:42
SOUSA: Volume II "At
SOUSA: Volume III "On
Wings of Lightning"
Here are three delightful additions to Naxos' American Classics series. Conductor Keith Brion has been presenting Sousa concerts with American orchestras for about two decades. Now we have the opportunity to hear many of the works he has featured in these concerts, in original orchestrations or arrangements for full orchestra made either by the composer or Brion, many in premiere recordings. Volume I is called "On Stage" and features excerpts from three of his fifteen operettas. Sousa wanted to become an American version of Gilbert and Sullivan (he led the Broadway premiere of HMS Pinafore in 1879) and came rather close, a major failing being that his librettos were usually weak. The Bride Elect was premiered in 1897; Waltzes, a Tarantella and a March are joined by a 14-minute ballet interlude celebrating various drinks and the countries from which they come. From one of Sousa's best operettas, El Capitan, composed in 1895, we hear a medley including a famous cornet solo, "Oh Warrior Grim," and from an earlier work, Our Flirtations (1880), we have the overture and march.
Volume II has a miscellany
including five marches, and some delectable treasures: a medley of popular
religious melodies, a suite Dwellers of the Western World (1910),
each movement depicting a race that populated the New World, and two of
Sousa's Humoresques, one on Gershwin's Swanee, the other on
Kern's Look for the Silver Lining the latter including a parody of
drunken musicians, and musical sound effects ending with the familiar tune
played one note to an instrument (as CD notes state, this was a precursor
of Spike Jones, Gerard Hoffnung and Peter Schickele).
Brian obviously cherishes this music and leads vigorous performances. Don't expect the dazzle Frederick Fennell brought to Sousa's Marches on his Mercury recordings of four decades ago, but these new recordings are more than respectable with the "Razumovsky Symphony Orchestra (actually members of the Slovak Radio Symphony) playing like Americans born. As usual, Naxos has provided high quality sonics in these recordings made in the Slovak Radio Concert Hall 1995-1996. Quite comprehensive program notes make these issues even more attractive.
R.E.B. (April 2003)