The Glorious sound of Christmas
 Dec. 18, Verizon Hall With the Philadelphia Orchestra, conductor Rossen Milanov tries to make occasion concerts spirited fun. He’s game to put on costumes at Halloween and he doesn’t just phone it in on his New Year’s Eve performance. This year Milanov built his holiday programming around the orchestra’s famous 1964 recording Glorious Sound of Christmas. For this restoration the band is paired with the mighty Mendelssohn Club (& choir director Alan Harler) to reflect the musical traditions, if not the epochal sound, of the Fabulous Philadelphian.

Two centerpiece carol medleys displayed this choir’s full, warm and serene sound. The classical vocal highlight was a sneak preview of the Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah. The chorale warming up for their full version with the orchestra the next day.

Milanov ignited holiday symphonic fare, highlighted by the Fab Phils sonority in the strings during Gustav Holst’s ’Christmas Day’ orchestral familiar holiday themes riding in. The exuberance in the Prelude to Hansel and Gretel by Humperdinck is an example of Milanov’s fine detailing.

This maestro is also a veteran ballet conductor and it is interesting to hear his accents, sans dancers, on the Nutcracker Suite. The first thing you notice is the quicker, more assertive tempo. Next is the character instrumentals which are telling the story without visuals. Mis en scenes with the oboes and strings conjuring the mystery of the very sensual dance of the Arabian (Coffee) dance and David Bigler’s stellar horn on the Spanish (Chocolate) dance a charging Tarantella and the Russian Cossack dance a swirling orchestral blizzard.

There was a extra fab Phil for the holiday when Tom McCartney, the voice of the Phillies, came on to narrate ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.’ And Santa took over the podium at one point turning a Hollywood pastiche into a Basie-band swing out on Sleigh Ride.

Milanov’s musical gifts

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