Prague Symphony Orchestra

Symphony of Praise

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Despite the misuse of the term symphony, the Prague Symphony Orchestra's three-CD set, Symphony of Praise, is a competently arranged medley of hymn tunes grouped into three large sections, "God the Father," "Jesus Prince of Peace," and "Holy Spirit of God," each of which occupies a full disc. In no way can this long and loose work be deemed a symphony, in even the most grandiose, post-Romantic sense of the word, for its organization is too diffuse and its ostensible purpose is to provide inspirational background music for other activities, not necessarily to be appreciated in its own right as an original work of art. Even so, as innocuous as it is, Symphony of Praise can be criticized for its obviousness and its blandness, which work against listening to it attentively for any sustained period of time. Nearly all the clichés of classical orchestral music are deployed in this extended piece, so listeners should expect no sonic surprises. Furthermore, the ready familiarity of such hymns as "All Creatures of Our God and King," "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," and "Praise to the Lord," just for openers, may bring a comforting feeling of recognition and reverence, but this doesn't last long, and as the music progresses through the most popular Christian melodies, it meanders into a free fantasia of easy listening mildness that produces no real highs or lows, just a plateau of religiosity. The audio quality is exceptional, and the acoustics around the Prague Symphony Orchestra, conducted by arranger Paul Terracini, are well-suited to this music's mellow ambience.

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