Sousa: Marches (CD review)

Lt. Col G.A.C. Hoskins, Band of HM Royal Marines. EMI 7243 5 85535-2 (2-disc set).

The remarkable thing about this two-disc set is that it contains forty-three Sousa marches. That’s about one-third of the March King’s total output and includes all the marches that Lt. Col. Hoskins recorded for three separate CDs between 1983 and 1985.

The main reason that EMI can accommodate so many of the marches on the two discs would appear to be the brisk pace with which Hoskins and his players dispatch the works. You can call them bracing or exciting or stimulating, but there’s no doubt some listeners will find them speedy. These are marches, after all; just how fast would a column of soldiers have to be stepping to keep up with the music? Of course, they’re concert marches, so the practicality of their tempo is beside the point. Still, they lose a little of their charm when Hoskins takes all of them at so fast a clip.

Nevertheless, they sound nicely recorded, EMI offers them at a low price (under $10.00 many places), and the two discs provide all of Sousa’s most popular pieces plus a number of less well-known ones, covering the entire time span of his march output. Yes, you’ll find “King Cotton” here, and “Semper fidelis,” “Manhattan Beach,” “The Liberty Bell,” “El Capitan,” “The Washington Post,” “The Thunderer,” and “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” But you’ll also find “Powhatan’s Daughter,” “Kansas Wildcats,” “The Royal Welch Fusiliers,” “Marquette University,” “The Northern Pines,” “The Lambs,” “Jack Tar,” and many more.

Truly, a little goes a long way, though, especially when Hoskins and his Royal Marine Band hardly vary their pace. I made the mistake of trying to listen through both discs at once and found myself tiring less than midway though. However, I entertained myself further by getting up and comparing the sound of these EMI remasterings to the sound of the first disc of Hoskins’ original CDs I had on hand. The difference was striking. The new discs sound a bit thin in the bass and somewhat top heavy in the treble, but they absolutely sparkle compared to EMI’s first disc, which appeared to have placed a thick blanket across the front of my speakers, it sounded that muffled. So, kudos to the new edition.

It was interesting, too, that the remasterings of the earliest, 1983 recordings, the first fourteen on disc one, seemed to favor slightly the left side of the sound stage, but the ‘84 and ’85 recordings brought the stereo balance back in line. Hey, these may not be the absolute best Sousa performances on record or in the best sound, but for the money they represent a terrific value. And, who knows, taken a few at a time, they may just get your blood pumping, as they should.

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

JJP

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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For over 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me--point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, as of right now it comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio High Current preamplifier, AVA FET Valve 550hc or Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa