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POP MUSIC REVIEWS : Davis Conducts Mannheim Steamroller

March 21, 1994|DON HECKMAN

Chip Davis, the Nebraska-based composer who appeared at the Universal Amphitheatre on Saturday with his Mannheim Steamroller, has been one of the remarkable success stories of the music business for nearly two decades.

His loosely-defined ensemble is actually a range of different sized groups that have sold almost 10 million albums of original compositions Davis likes to describe as "18th-Century rock 'n' roll."

What he conducted with his full orchestra on Saturday, however, had very little rock or roll, and a great deal of atmospheric, film music-like themes bearing titles such as "Sunrise at Rhodes," "Earthrise" and "Dancing Flames."

Although Davis was also the composer of C. W. McCall's 1976 novelty hit "Convoy," his preferences clearly lean toward combining easy-listening melodies with classical forms and orchestrations. But many of his pieces Saturday were so short, and so epigrammatic, that they functioned primarily as accompaniment for a series of big-screen projections of nature scenes.

Davis' conducting--workmanlike and efficient with his own music--produced a concert-opening reading of segments of the "Spring" Concerto from Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" that can most charitably be described as lugubrious. Mannheim Steamroller seems a more appropriate medium for his skills.

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