Carols and Chorales

Christmas comes early at the Philharmonic

After a stressful autumn, the New York Philharmonic is looking forward to some holiday cheer with two “Don’t Miss” events.

For an old-fashioned, good time Christmas Concert, the orchestra smartly chose Deborah Voigt as host and guest star. The soprano’s warm, relaxed charm at her Broadway Cares AIDS benefit last year proved her a master of such occasions, and she’ll bring her gleaming instrument to bear on Vivaldi’s “Gloria in Excelsis,” “Rejoice greatly” from Handel’s “Messiah,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

Ms. Voigt will be on hand as Broadway conductor Donald Pippin makes his “NY Phil” debut, with Judith Clurman’s Juilliard Choral Union and poised boy soprano James Danner adding to the mix. “The Little Drummer Boy,” “We Need a Little Christmas,” “Deck the Halls,” and Franck’s “Panis angelicus” are also promised.

Last year, the orchestra pioneered doing “Messiah” in the awe-inspiring gothic spaces of Riverside Church. The resonance is a little fuzzy for the softer choruses, but the trumpet-based numbers ring out thrillingly. If you’ve never been in Riverside, here’s a particularly festive way to remedy that lack in your New York seasoning.

Three estimable British Handelians make their Philharmonic debuts. Openly gay conductor Nicholas McGegan should lead a swift, dancing, stylistically informed reading. Expect great things from lovely soprano Rosemary Joshua and Alice Coote, the most talked-about mezzo in Britain these days. (At press time the male soloists were unconfirmed).

Joseph Flummerfelt’s Westminster Symphonic Choir will loft the mighty choruses––expect to get to your feet for the “Hallelujah”, though there’s neither point nor meaning to this universal practice. Many people have the idea of “Messiah” as something stuffy––not at all. McGegan isn’t going to drown anyone in piety: this oratorio is full of wonder and musical delight.

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