Comparing Notes: John Sousa’s (OBM) Stars and Stripes

by Alex Davydovich (MGBH)

Let martial note in triumph float
And liberty extend its mighty hand;
A flag appears ‘mid thunderous cheers,
The banner of the Western land.
The emblem of the brave and true.
Its folds protect no tyrant crew;
The red and white and starry blue
Is freedom’s shield and hope.

– P. Sousa (OBM), 1896.


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The famous Stars and Stripes March was written by Philip Sousa (OBM) in 1896 for the Unites States Marine Band.  In his autobiography, “Marching Along”, Sousa wrote that he composed the March on Christmas Day 1896.  He was on an ocean liner on his way home from a vacation with his wife in Europe and had just learned that David Blakely (OBM), the manager of the Sousa Band, had passed away.  He composed the march in his head and committed the notes to paper on arrival in the United States. (1)

Symbolic of flag-waving in general, it has been used with considerable effectiveness to generate patriotic feeling ever since its introduction in Philadelphia on May 14, 1897, when the staid Public Ledger reported: “It is stirring enough to rouse the American eagle from his crag, and set him to shriek exultantly while he hurls his arrows at the aurora borealis.” (2)  Since then, the Stars and Stripes have been played times and times over by bands not only in America, but also in Europe and Asia.

The March has become so popular, that it got the attention of the piano community after Vladimir Horowotz (OBM) made a piano arrangement of this music piece to celebrate his becoming an American citizen.  His arrangement grew legs and has become part of the repertoire for many pianists.  Each one of them added their own personality to this arrangement.

In this section, we present eight different performance of this piece by various pianists. Please, leave a comment below with your thoughts: how does each pianist contribute his own tone to it? Which one appealed to you the most?  And remember the old saying: if you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all.

We hope you enjoy this uplifting and inspiring march!

Happy Holidays! 🙂


1. Performance by a Georgian pianist Giorgi Latsabidze (MGBH):


2. Performance by an American pianist David Pasbrig (MGBH):


3. Original performance by Vladimir Horowitz (OBM):


4. Performance by a Russian pianist Valery Kuleshov (MGBH):


5. Performance by an American pianist Ian Gindes (MGBH) – from his most recent album “American Visions”:


6. An eight-piano arrangement performance by Leif Ove Andsnes (MGBH), Nicolas Angelich (MGBH), Emanuel Ax (MGBH), Evgeny Kissin (MGBH), Lang Lang (MGBH), James Levine (MGBH), Mikhail Pletnev (MGBH), and Staffan Scheja (MGBH): 


7. Performance by a Chinese pianist Lang Lang (MGBH):


8. Performance by an American pianist Claire Huangci (MGBH): 



(1) J.F. Sousa, “Marching Along: Autobiography.” GIA Publishing (December 12, 2014), ISBN-10: 1622771389

(2)  Paul E. Bierley (OBM), The Works of John Philip Sousa (Westerville, Ohio: Integrity Press, 1984), p. 84. Online Source: