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David Hurwitz, May 2012

The music is fun. Aside from the usual collection of marches, including the incredibly famous U.S. Field Artillery March (its trio ably sung by the boys of the band), the other outstanding items on this program are: The Charlatan Overture; Nymphalin, with its sweet violin solo; and the fantasy When My Dreams Come True, which quotes a famous tune from The Mikado…the performances are light, bright, and brisk. Norway has a fine tradition of band playing, and Brion knows his Sousa. If you’ve been collecting this series, then keep on! © 2012 Read complete review

Barry Kilpatrick
American Record Guide, November 2011

Here is another excellent recording…As always in Keith Brion’s Sousa march recordings, enthusiastic playing is always tasteful, never bombastic, and reserved for just a few satisfying moments. The rest of the time, subdued dynamic levels allow solos and countermelodies to come to the fore. The Royal Norwegian Navy Band sounds terrific and sings well, too.

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John Sheppard
MusicWeb International, September 2011

In the ninth volume in this fascinating and enjoyable series Naxos has made use of a different band whilst wisely retaining Keith Brion as conductor. The Royal Norwegian Navy Band yield nothing to their predecessors, the Royal Artillery Band, in terms of technical expertise, including their enthusiastic singing in the “Caisson Song” at the end of the US Field Artillery March. I was at times conscious of some lack of the gusto and vivacity that marked their predecessor’s playing but I suspect that this is due to a somewhat less interesting choice of music. In particular it would be difficult for any band to make much of the lengthy Fantasy “When dreams come true”. This dates from 1929, and was presumably intended to project a positive image during the Depression. It consists of a potpourri of songs with suitable titles, including, somewhat oddly, “For he’s going to marry Yum-Yum” from “The Mikado”. Whilst it is undeniably well scored it remains dull.

The Suite “The Dwellers of the Western World” is however much more interesting, even if it is not remotely politically correct in its depiction of the three races in America—“The Red Man, the White Man, and the Black Man”. The first and last have the kind of simple musical picturing that Ketèlbey did so well. The White Man is the longest movement—over eight minutes—and is a kind of miniature tone picture of the settling of America. It is delightful whether or not you are able to keep a straight face. It was later arranged for orchestra and personally I prefer it in that form, but the performance here makes a good case for the band version. “Nymphalin” is a charming violin solo, and “The Lily Bells” is a gentle intermezzo. The Overture to “The Charlatan”, a selection of tunes from a musical comedy, is interesting but few of these tunes are very memorable. Unfortunately this applies also to most of the marches on the disc although “The Flags of Freedom” with its quotations of national airs of the Allies is entertaining, as is “The Chantyman” which includes a series of tunes connected with the sea. The remaining marches are all somewhat run-of-the-mill, lacking the verve and sheer intoxication of Sousa’s best. Nonetheless there is enough on this disc to attract those who are collecting the series even if it would not be a good choice for anyone wanting just one disc from it., July 2011

Naxos’ Sousa series is already a must-have for those who enjoy the music of the March King. And while Sousa’s works are in many ways quintessentially American, the ninth volume of the series has a distinctly Norwegian touch, being played not by the Royal Artillery Band (which Keith Brion led in the first eight volumes) but by Kongelige Norske Marines Musikkorps, the Royal Norwegian Navy Band. And a top-notch band this turns out to be, with a very strong military orientation among its 29 members and a long history of excellence in performance (the band was founded in 1820). Certainly Sousa did not write only military music, but when he did—as in the U.S. Field Artillery March (1917), heard on this recording—he offered bands a real chance at grandeur, which the Norwegian ensemble fully embraces. Indeed, although this march is now the official march of the United States Army, Norway’s navy-band members make it their own with tremendous spirit and excellent playing. They do an equally fine job with the other marches on this CD: From Maine to Oregon (1913), Flags of Freedom (1918), The Man behind the Gun (1899), The Chantyman’s March (1918), Harmonica Wizard (1930), and University of Illinois March (1929). Most of the titles show the overt American focus of these works, but this recording confirms their universality and considerable attractiveness. And the CD, like other entries in this excellent series, also includes some of Sousa’s non-march music: the overture to The Charlatan (a musical show from 1898); Nymphalin (a salon piece from 1880 in which Sousa includes a lovely violin solo, here played affectingly by Sarah Oving); The Dwellers of the Western World (a three-movement suite from 1910 depicting American Indians, European settlers and America’s African population); The Lily Bells (an 1895 arrangement of a charming love song from an 1880 Sousa comedy); and When My Dreams Come True (a 1929 set of variations on popular songs of the day, one of which is “He’s Going to Marry Yum Yum” from The Mikado). Forthright and mostly good-humored, Sousa’s very American music has continued appeal even in our more cynical age, and Brion’s conducting of the Royal Norwegian Navy Band makes it clear that it has international appeal as well.

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