Eschenbach's first subscription concerts as music director, Sept. 18-23, are emblematic of his interests: The program includes a new work by a living composer (Philadelphian Gerald Levinson), a Brahms symphony (the First), and representation from an American (Bernstein, with his first symphony, The Jeremiah).
The season also imports several guest artists in Eschenbach's orbit, including pianist Tzimon Barto, the young and highly praised German violinist Julia Fischer, and baritone Matthias Goerne.
Two popular podium figures will return to lead the orchestra for several weeks. Sawallisch will come back as conductor laureate for five programs, leading Bruckner's Symphony No. 5 and Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra, plus works by Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann and Weber.
And Simon Rattle will return for three weeks of concerts in January and February, to include Brahms and Sibelius, and with the promise of some rare musical substance at the Academy of Music's Anniversary Concert, on Jan. 31, with soprano Audra McDonald.
The orchestra will perform premieres of two works it commissioned: Ned Rorem's Flute Concerto and a new work by Levinson, who studied with Messiaen. The orchestra will also give the U.S premieres of Hans Werner Henze's Symphony No. 10 (a musical portrait of Rattle) and Oliver Knussen's Symphony in One Movement.
The dose of Messiaen will come over four weeks, in October, February and May, and includes the (relatively) familiar Turangalla Symphony, L'Ascension, and clairs sur l'Au-del (one of his last works, from 1992), as well as his seminal and oft-performed chamber work Quartet for the End of Time.
The Mahler cycle will cover five seasons, and, according to the orchestra, is its first ever. All of the symphonies and song cycles will be performed by 2008. Next season's Mahler will come in four weeks in February and March, and include the Symphony No. 3 with mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, who will be making her debut with the orchestra.
Eschenbach will expand the normal two-hour concert format on two occasions with "postlude recitals." After concerts with Lieberson and pianist Lang Lang, there will be a 15-minute break, and then Eschenbach, at the keyboard, will join the soloist for a mini-recital lasting about 30 minutes.
Orchestra president Joseph H. Kluger said the orchestra had no definitive plans for recordings next season.
Information: 215-893-1999 or www.philorch.org.
Contact music critic Peter Dobrin at 215-854-5611 or email@example.com.