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Wednesday, 18 December 2013 20:38

Concert review: St. Louis Symphony presents "A Mannheim Steamroller Christmas" Saturday and Sunday, December 14 and 15

Mannheim Steamroller's Chip Davis Mannheim Steamroller's Chip Davis
Written by Gary Liam Scott
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One of the miracles of an ensemble that works as tirelessly as the St. Louis Symphony is its ability to perform not just in the classical mode, but in a plethora of genres.  This was demonstrated once again on December 14-15 when the Symphony presented a “Mannheim Steamroller Christmas”, immediately on the heels of the “Gospel Messiah” and the Bach “Christmas Oratorio”.  The ability of these musicians to continually don new musical garb, so to speak, is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Bear in mind that what we heard was not the Mannheim Steamroller, but rather the Steamroller music in symphonic dress.  Conducted by Arne Roth, whose multi-faceted background includes collaboration  with Steamroller founder Chip Davis, the program pays tribute to phenomenally successful concept that originated in Omaha nearly 30 years ago—and which utilized, among others, at least a couple of musicians from St. Louis.

Although Chip Davis’s renderings seem to enjoy basking in a symphonic glow, one could argue that a bit of the spontaneity and bounce of the original sound is lost.  There is a certain unavoidable heaviness in the symphonic performance that was not present in the sparser and electronically enhanced performances that first enchanted the world.  Ultimately, each listener must make up his or her mind as to what is preferred—or, perhaps there is room for both.

It is worth remembering that Arne Roth, as a close associate of Chip Davis, carries the blessing and torch of the original Mannheim Steamroller concept.  The sparkle is definitely there, as evidenced by Roth’s warm and engaging comments to the audience.  This concert makes a fine family activity, yet provides enough intimacy for a couple or even a solo outing. 

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