The Music of the Royal Swedish Navy (CD review)

Andreas Hanson, the Royal Swedish Navy Band. Mike Purton Recording Services MPR001.

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.

Andreas Hanson
The "Svensksund March" has a buoyant military air, and the "Intermezzo" that follows is appropriately somber, making a nice contrast of moods. Then it's back to a march, "With the Naval Men," which has a decidedly Sousa-like quality to it. The "Festspel" is aptly titled, a festive, celebratory piece, enthusiastically presented by Hanson and his team.

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:

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

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.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa