SOUSA: Volume 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 the Symphony"
Overture to The Irish Dragoon.  Marches:  Bullets and Bayonets, Jack Tar from Chris and the Wonderful Lamp, The Power and the Glory, The Invincible Eagle, The Daughters of Texas, Semper Fidelis and The Stars and Stripes Forever.  RÍverie:  Nymphalin.  Sacred Selection:  Songs of Grace and Songs of Glory.  Excerpts from Dwellers of the Western World (Red Man, White Man, Black Man).  Humoresques on Gershwin's Swanee and Kern's Look for the Silver Lining
Razumovsky Symphony Orch/Keith Brion, cond.
NAXOS 8.559013 (B) (DDD) TT:  62:12

SOUSA:  Volume III "On Wings of Lightning"
Marches:  The Gladiator, The Federal, The Belle of Chicago, The Fairest of the Fair, Venus and Hail to the Spirit of Liberty.  Tango:  The Gliding Girl.  The Presidential Polonaise.  Circus Galop from The Irish Dragoon, Sandalphon Waltzes.  Silver Spray Schottische.  Foxtrot:  Peaches and Cream.  Myrrha Gavotte.  Caprice:  The Coquette. Galop:  On Wings of Lightning.  Three Quotations:  Grand March - The King of France, Reverie - I, Too, Was Born in Arcadia, and Cakewalk - In Africa.
Razumovsky Symphony Orch/Keith Brion, cond.
NAXOS 8.559029 (B) (DDD) TT:  61:08

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).

The third Volume celebrates the composer's early associations with dance and the music theatre taking its name from the galop On Wings of Lightning, "as played by Hassler's orchestra at the Chestnut Street Theatre, Phila."  There's a total of 18 tracks of marches, galops and other dances.

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)