Everybody likes a good march. The trouble is that most march albums contain the same popular tunes, and unless one knows a lot about the subject, it's hard to find something new and worthwhile. That's where discs like this one come in. It contains mostly marches, reveilles, signals, and other ceremonial and practical military music composed by Swedish composers, many of whom were members of the Swedish navy.
To do them justice, the Royal Swedish Navy Band plays with great precision and spontaneity under the direction of former Navy Band conductor and now symphonic conductor Andreas Hanson. What's more, the album's producer, Mike Purton, obtained the services of noted audio engineer Tony Faulkner to record the disc. The result is a program of stirring music and outstanding sonic quality, well worth one's time.
I doubt that it would be advantageous to list every selection on the agenda, so let me just tell you that the program involves thirty-four tracks and over seventy-six minutes of music, which means the producers filled it out quite well. Let me also tell you a few of the selections I liked best.
The first two marches--"Reveille" and the "Regina March"--pretty much set the tone. They are brief, compact, rousing, and extremely well played. Although maestro Hanson certainly emphasizes the martial aspects of the tunes, he never goes overboard, always remembering that this is music, after all. And very enjoyable music it is, too.
And so it goes, high-stepping all the way, with occasional somber interludes like the "Elegy for Gustav II Adolf." Likely my favorite selection on the whole program, though, is "Viva Esperanto!," which may also be one of the best-known marches on the program. In fact, the whole album is terrifically entertaining, with a little something for everyone, even non march fans. And perhaps most important, as I said before, it contains mainly music probably unfamiliar to most listeners.
Producer and editor Mike Purton and recording engineer Tony Faulkner recorded the album in 24-bit sound at The Admiralty Church, Karlskrona, Sweden in October and November 2007 (released 2016). The good news here is that Tony Faulkner is one of the best and most respected recording engineers in the business, and his recording philosophy works, as evidenced on this album. In an interview recently with Hi-Fi World, Mr. Faulkner explained his feelings about audio recording: "My philosophy is to try and keep things simple. Typically for a Mahler or Beethoven symphony, I'd use two mics if possible, which is a horrible shock! If I pull up the faders and two mics on their own do not work, I would do whatever is necessary but I don't see the recording process as demanding over-complication, digesting and excreting, but rather a transparent channel."
On the present disc, the sound is transparent, indeed. I loved the musical ambience, the bloom on the instruments, which enhances the reality of the occasion without masking the sound. The stereo spread is not enormously wide but realistically broad, enough to fill in the entire space between the speakers. Otherwise, dynamics are good, impact sometimes extremely impressive (drums), frequency response well balanced, and highs sparkling. It's the kind of recording you can play quite loudly (as you might actually hear a military band) without distortion, without getting a headache, and without ruining your ears.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow: