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Classical new releases: Hidden gems from Sousa and Morricone

Ennio Morricone composed music for solo piano?

John Philip Sousa wrote music for the theater?

Both are true, and two new releases highlight some surprises by these two composers.

Sousa was not only the "march king," but he also composed music for the stage. Among his oeuvre are 15 operettas and more than 20 dances.

A new release on the Naxos label presents three of Sousa's work for the stage.

These include selections from the operetta "Chris and the Wonderful Lamp" (a re-telling of "Aladdin"), a ballet called "Sisterhood of the States" (with musical vignettes for each of the then-48 states) and a charming work called "Showing off before Company" (with solo features for each instrument, culminating in the march "Semper fidelis").

This is volume 21 in a Naxos series featuring conductor Keith Brion. This particular volume includes the Royal Conservatoire Birmingham Wind Orchestra.

Composer Ennio Morricone is best known for his film soundtracks, and perhaps most famously his collaboration with director Sergio Leone in the "Dollars" trilogy and "Once Upon a Time" trilogy.

A new release by pianist Roberto Prosseda shows that Morricone was far more than a composer of spaghetti western soundtracks.

The album is a half-and-half mixture of Morricone's original compositions for solo piano and his own piano transcriptions of some of his film soundtracks.

Prosseda and Morricone were collaborators, and Morricone even dedicated one of the pieces to him.

The nine transcriptions from Morricone's film soundtracks are largely from his lesser-known works such as "The Two Seasons of Life" and "White Dog." But there are also more famous themes from "Cinema Paradiso" and "The Legend of 1900."

Dr. Amanda Sewell is IPR's music director.