Your eyes don't deceive you. Yes, that's Nathalie Stutzmann, the distinguished French contralto, conducting Handel's Messiah with the Philadelphia Orchestra at 2 p.m. next Sunday at the Kimmel Center. Like soprano Barbara Hannigan, Stutzmann is serious about conducting - to judge from the radio broadcast of her St. Louis Symphony Orchestra guest-conducting date this year. Her rendition of Dvorák's Symphony No. 7 exuded insight, intelligence, strategy, and the kind of heat one associates with Gustavo Dudamel. How those virtues translate into Handel's Messiah remains to be seen. But it's a fair bet the performance won't be routine. Information: 215-893-1999 or www.philorch.org.
- David Patrick Stearns
The Crossing is everywhere! Let's see, there's the Grammy nomination for its recording of Thomas Lloyd's Bonhoeffer, the Christmas concert at 8 p.m. Friday at the Church of the Holy Trinity, and, now, the group's newest recording, this one on the fashionable ECM label, of Gavin Bryars' The Fifth Century. Commissioned by the Crossing, the Bryars piece employs the writings of English theologian and poet Thomas Traherne with music of exquisitely restrained beauty, accompanied by the saxophones of the PRISM Quartet at their most muted. Recorded at the Curtis Institute, the sound quality is radiant. The Crossing's Friday Christmas program, presented by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, features Kevin Puts' To Touch the Sky and David Lang's last spring. Information: 215-569-8080 or www.pcmsconcerts.org.