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on October 30, 2011
First, for anyone who does not already know: The arrangements on this CD are essentially the same as the ones on the previous MS CDs. The only real difference is the instrumentation. So, for example, "Deck The Halls" and "Hark The Herald Angels Sing" are still played in that bouncy 12/8 time as they were so many years ago, but instead of synthesized horns and keyboards, they're now played by an actual symphony. Whether or not this will be enough to make the album a worthwhile purchase for you depends on a few things.

If you're just a casual fan of MS, I really don't think the differences will be enough to make this CD too interesting. However, if you're a diehard fan who grew up listening to this stuff every year, and you know the original arrangements inside-out, like I do, then it's a lot of fun to hear how they've been reworked on this CD. Everything sounds so much bigger and richer this time around, and replacing synthesizers with acoustic instruments makes certain songs feel a lot more expressive.

If you're not much of an audiophile, or you just play MS's music on a cheap CD player in the background, I don't think you'll get too much out of this (assuming you already own the previous albums. But if you tend to listen through headphones, or on a good sound system, then the fullness of the sound makes this a very enjoyable, worthwhile CD to add to your collection.

If you've never bought a MS Christmas CD, then I would not hesitate to recommend starting with this one. It takes some of their best music throughout the years, and makes it even better. Removing the synthesizer sounds actually makes the music much more timeless than any of their other CDs. Symphonies never sound dated, but the Yamaha DX-7 keyboards that were used on the original recordings haven't aged so well. Neither have Chip's electronic drums, which, thankfully have now been replaced by a proper acoustic drum kit(FINALLY!)

My only complaint about this CD is the song selection. Don't get me wrong, all of the songs are GREAT, but some of them are wasted here. Greensleeves, for example, is a beautiful tune, but since it was originally recorded with an orchestra, it doesn't sound that much different here. And while all of the renaissance stuff is fun, there's a bit too much of it. I would have preferred to see some of that replaced with songs like "Joy To The World" and "Good King Wenceslas", which would have been really interesting to hear with a symphonic arrangement. I almost wonder if Chip is saving those for a sequel album.

The bottom line is that I'm pleasantly surprised by this album. Based on Amazon's samples, I had my doubts, but now that I've listened to the full thing, the expanded arrangements really do sound great. Now I'd love to see them do a "Fresh Aire Symphony" album, so they could take classics from the Fresh Aire series, like "Dancing Flames" and "Mere Image", and rework them for a full symphony.
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287 helpful votes
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on March 27, 2014
When I first saw this CD, my first thought was “Ah - the marvelous Mannheim Steamroller Music set to full orchestra – how nice!” It piqued my interest enough to get the album.

"Christmas Symphony" contains gems from the first three Mannheim Steamroller Christmas album. While the orchestral arrangements were very good, it lost something when the pieces done with synthesizers and Renaissance instrumentation were transcribed for full orchestra, sounding more like John Williams, the Cincinnati Pops or Henry Mancini than Mannheim Steamroller. There are some definite highlights though - like the wonderful cello solo (replacing the vocal “oo’s”) in Silent Night. “O Holy Night” also sounded good with a full orchestra, but not so much with “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and the Christmas Sweet selections. That being said, however, “Christmas Symphony” is a good album to play as background music for entertaining Christmas guests, as well as at work or simply to relax by. Mannheim Steamroller purists might not enjoy it as much, however.

If you enjoy full orchestral music, then you will enjoy “Christmas Symphony,” but if you would rather hear Mannheim Steamroller as they were originally intended, I would recommend getting “the real thing” first!
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on November 8, 2012
I love their music but in recent years it seems that all their new album releases contain songs from previous years with nothing new. How about some new material?
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on January 25, 2012
I've been a huge fan of MS albums for many years (particularly the Fresh Aire series) but I haven't been terribly impressed by the recent MS Christmas albums. They've just been becoming more and more cheesy synthesized and sequenced-sounding (because much of the instrumentation is sequenced. Honestly I was hesitant about purchasing this album. But for the sake of completing my MS collection, I bought it and I started off playing it with expectations pretty low. But I soon realized that this album was completely different than what I expected.

I was blown away. This album is absolutely THE BEST MS Christmas album. In some ways, it is definitely the finest recorded MS album.

Every song is so rich and just..well, epic.

The performance by the all of the musicians is perfect. Chip Davis' arrangements really, really shine through and Arnie Roth's orchestration is just phenomenal. Combined with the quality of the recording and skill with the mixing and mastering and it literally sounds like you're listening to a full, glorious live performance in a symphony hall.

All of the cheesy synthesizer stuff is gone (with the exception of some on Deck the Halls, but it is never the focus). The drums are completely acoustic, no dated Roland R8 drum machine! That has been my biggest beef with MS albums since Fresh Aire 7 came out in 1990. In fact, the drums on this album are played exactly like the original tracks, hit for hit. Fans, such as myself, will tell you this is a big deal.

I totally agree with dliamt's review that there needs to be a Fresh Aire Symphony album. Chip and crew, get on that! ;-) And while you're at it, release Christmas Symphony on DVD-Audio or better yet, Blu-Ray. Yeah!
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on May 3, 2017
Excellent music. I will play it when it's not even Christmastime. The CD came in good time.
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on November 6, 2013
Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Manheim Steamroller. But I am getting a bit tired of the same songs being released over and over again, with slight alterations. On this album the core group is joined by a full symphonic orchestra. Yes, it gives the pieces a greater "depth" and a bit of "gravitas" - but at heart, they are the same basic MS Christmas songs that are on all of the other albums. For Christmas parties I typically have an MS "mix" playing in the background, and adding these track in provides a different "texture" to the mix, but this is not an album that I will probably play in it's entirety very often.I think MS has reached the limit as to what they can do with Christmas music, and the "need" to release a new album every year has lead to exercises such as this one.
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on January 5, 2012
I bought the Christmas Symphony as a Christmas gift for my son in CA. He's a musician, music lover, and a computer scientist. I have always enjoyed the music I've heard by Mannheim Steamroller; so, I figured, "Great Choice." Much to my surprise, I found out that my 12 year old grandson was so delighted with the music that he was going to add it to a CD Christmas album he was creating to be played for Christmas 2012. It will be presnted and incorporated for all to hear and see as they pass by their house, with decorations and a light show that my son will put together. It should be a fantastic display. Wow, who thought that my one purchase of a CD would have such an impact. Bringing Joy to the World is the understatement of the year. I must say that, "Shopping on line with Amazon has made all this possible." I never would have thought of the idea otherwise.
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on December 2, 2016
I love Christmas music, but sometimes it's nice to have a break from all the standard songs. This CD provides beautiful symphony style renditions of favorite songs in elegant arrangements. It's the perfect background for dinner parties or just to have on in the house or car during the holidays.
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on November 29, 2011
I very much enjoy Mannheim Steamroller's music. I have every one of their Christmas CDs and recently purchased Symphony. My only disappointment with this CD is that nearly all (or maybe all) of the songs are the same ones that are on other Mannheim Steamroller Christmas CDs. It sounds like a few songs have been redesigned, but most are essentially the same songs. It may be difficult for them to find Christmas songs that fit their style, but I would have preferred if they had recorded this CD with all new songs. Other than that, the CD portrays the same superb quality and craftsmanship that I have come to relish with their music.
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on January 12, 2017
It is the very best -not soupy- Chrristmas music ever. It gives you wings while baking or decorating. I would not have all the work for the holidays without it. I love it, love it love it. It is superior to any other recording in my opinion.
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