The Orchestra's assistant conductor, Rossen Milanov, who led a scorching program two weeks back, returns for mellower music from Handel, Mozart, Vaughan Williams, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky ("Nutcracker" excerpts) and more. Renowned soprano Harolyn Blackwell and the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia are the Orchestra's guests in this "Winter Wonderland" potpourri (2 p.m. today, 7 p.m. tomorrow, Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Broad and Spruce streets, $10-$77.50, 215-893-1999).
On Sunday, the Orchestra begins its two annual readings of Handel's beloved "Messiah," led by Martin Haselbock with the Philadelphia Singers as the chorus. For a full-scale reading of this stirring piece, a performance by these forces is hard to beat (4 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Monday, Verizon Hall, $10-$72, 215-893-1999).
Jazz piano great Dave Brubeck guests with the Singing City Chorale in one of his exuberant sacred cantatas, "La Fiesta de la Posada." The show features the keyboard legend himself, with Russell Gloyd (his conductor for over 25 years) and soprano Serena Benedetti (stunning second-prize winner of the recent Marian Anderson Award) as partners (8 p.m. Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday, Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, 625 Montgomery Ave., Bryn Mawr, $20-$30, 215-569-9067).
You couldn't call it Christmas without a visit from the Vienna Choir Boys, the 500-year-old ensemble of perfect young voices aged 10 to 14 (3 p.m. Saturday, Verizon Hall, $28-$78, 215-893-1999).
Ditto the annual show by the Thomas Jefferson University Choir and Orchestra, a volunteer group that has presented programs for over 25 years under the direction of voice expert and inspiring conductor Dr. Robert T. Sataloff. This year's offering: Vivaldi's "Gloria," Handel's "Hallelujah" chorus and many carols of the season (8 tonight, First Baptist Church, 17th and Sansom streets, free, 800-JEFF-NOW).
Some major visiting pianists are also in town to offer a non-holiday flavor.
The Philadelphia Chamber Music Society is presenting the brilliant pianist Cynthia Raim, once a Philly resident, in a Schumann recital. The bill includes two Novelettes, "Carnaval," "Carnival in Vienna" and "Kreisleriana" (8 p.m. Monday, Fleisher Art Memorial, 719 Catharine St., $15, 215-569-8080). By the way, the Society's Emanuel Ax concert tonight at the Kimmel Center is sold out.
Anne-Marie McDermott, who has distinguished herself with bold performances of Serge Prokofiev's nine challenging piano sonatas, is playing the cycle locally in recitals tonight, Feb. 6 and April 2. On the first bill: Sonatas 1, 8 and 9 (8 tonight, Haverford College's Marshall Auditorium, 370 Lancaster Ave., Haverford, $15, 610-896-1008).
Singers also get their innings this weekend. Opera North is presenting the local premiere (in a concert version) of Philadelphia composer Leslie Burrs' "Vanqui," which starred such eminent singers as Benita Valente and Marietta Simpson in previous productions staged in Columbus and Houston.
Sopranos Carmen Balthrop and Lisa Edwards-Burrs and baritones Brian Johnson and Cailin Manson star in this tale of two slaves and their search for each other two centuries ago. The choral parts are sung by the Voices of Gwynedd Mercy College and the First Presbyterian Senior Choir of Springfield. The conductor of the chamber ensemble and vocal forces is Dr. Kay G. Roberts, with Mercedes Ellington handling the stage direction (8 p.m. Sunday, Prince Theater, 1412 Chestnut St., $40, 215-569-9700).
The Academy of Vocal Arts is also showcasing its excellent young voices. An alumnus now on the Met roster, tenor David Adams, returns to sing arias by Bernstein, Blitzstein, Duparc, Handel and Rossini (7:30 tonight, Helen Corning Warden Theater, 1920 Spruce St., $25, 215-735-1685).
On Tuesday, 12 resident Academy artists will sing an evening of Russian romances, arias and songs by Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Glinka, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Mussorgsky and Vladimir Ryabov.
Ryabov, whose exuberant and beautifully scored "In the Land of the Midnight Sun" was world-premiered to great acclaim by the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia last weekend, will certainly attend (7:30 p.m., Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center, Broad and Spruce streets, $25, 215-735-1685). *