Fa la la… Orchestra mixes it up for Xmas

The Glorious Sound of Christmas, Philadelphia Orchestra, Rossen Milanov, cond., Mendelssohn Choir,  Alan Harler, director, soloists from the Curtis Institute and Academy of Vocal Arts;  Pat Carriocchi, narrator. Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center, Dec. 15-17, 2011, Review of Dec. 17 for WRTI, 90. 1 fm.

To celebrate its 10th year at the Kimmel Center, the Philadelphia Orchestra wanted to include the musical community in its annual Christmas concert at Verizon Hall, maestro Rossen Milanov told the cheerful crowd at Verizon Hall Saturday night. The Mendelsohn Club offered a selection of carols, J.S. Bach (from The Mass in B Minor) and Handel;  pretty women from the Curtis Institute bowed away at Vivaldi’s Concerto for Four Violins in B Minor.

The Glorious Sound of Christmas was a potpourri of musical entertainment. Excerpts from The Nutcracker included two arrangements by Ellington and Strayhorn that showed bassist Mike Shaham and clarinetist Sam Caveziel’s gifts of improv and guest saxophone player Larry McKenna. On the other end of sentiment, newscaster Pat Carriocchi  narrated (very well) “The Night Before Christmas.” Whomever put together the orchestra’s holiday program took the kitchen sink approach.

The famous opening  scene from La Boheme was enacted on stage.  Curtis soprano Elizabeth Zharoff and AVA tenor Zach Borischevsky have superb voices. They did a terrific job staying in character through the long scene in front of maestro Milanov. They had some trouble powering  over the orchestra – which is to be expected -most Mimis and Rodolfos do not sing at these posts! Borischevsky was singing at the 11th hour for the tenor who took ill.

Nice to hear the Mendelsohnians whose esprit is unrivaled. The after- intermission number, Bass’s Gloria was richly legato.

Milanov is a smooth leader and genial host. Peter Conti at the organ did a fine job and  how swell his essential instrument looked with the colored pipes mimicking holiday ornaments.

Next up- gifted women worth knowing: English leader Jane Glover’s “Messiah,” and young Sarah Hicks’ Viennese New Years’ program.

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