Conductor Milanov has maintained a strong commitment to rarely performed 20th-century music during his tenure with the Princeton Symphony, and Czech composer Erwin Schulhoff was an interesting and unique choice for Sunday’s concert.
The weekend was a Milanov doubleheader that included anexcellent all-Brahms concert on Saturday at Rutgers University-Camden with his Symphony in C – suggesting that if this kind of artistic evolution was waiting to happen followinghis 2011 departure from his 11-year associate conductor tenure with the Philadelphia Orchestra, he should have left sooner.
Milanov masterfully framed the piece with a traditional sense of pacing, light and shade, tension and release, beginning and end, that drew you so much into this idiosyncratic world that you no longer needed to probe it for logic. It effectively seeped into your consciousness. By the end, the music no longer seemed difficult, in what was a fully satisfying if rather alternative musical experience.… You couldn’t hope for a more inviting performance.
Milanov stepped out from behind his image as dependable, congenial Rossen to become a conductor who wields demonic power. Though Milanov’s past Tchaikovsky performances have been full of fire, nothing he has done prepared me for his Brahms… The first-movement climax might have been too big to top, but he topped it anyway in the final movement.
Thanks to conductor Rossen Milanov’s careful balance of sweeping gesture and subtle limning of inner voices, even Goossens’s more daring interpolations rarely warranted an incredulous eye roll. And who but a curmudgeon could rail against the battery of percussion that punctuates exultant passages in the “Hallelujah” and “Worthy Is the Lamb” choruses? Milanov also found a way to minimize Victorian bloat by keeping key parts of the score moving at a fleet baroque pace, while indulging romantically molded phrasing with the Washington Chorus.