The next Philadelphia Orchestra season, its 105th, will also focus on "late great works" - that is, pieces written late in life that somehow express the essence of their composers' artistic journeys.
Among such works are Mahler's Symphony No. 9, a concert presentation of Act III of Wagner's Parsifal, Berio's Stanze, the Mozart Clarinet Concerto, and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6, the "Pathtique."
"For some, like Wagner in Parsifal or Mozart in the Clarinet Concerto, [the music] goes into a metaphysical transformation, and with other pieces, like the Tchaikovsky, it stays very much on Earth," said Eschenbach last week by phone from Paris, where he has an apartment. "Nevertheless, I think the whole late-works series will show the very strong spiritual side of composers."
Eschenbach said the entire season constitutes a "personal statement" for him: the new music, the spiritualism, the guest artists chosen, as well as the concentration on Czech music.
"It's a very personal feeling for me being from very near there, from a middle-European mix of ethnics," he said. "My mother's family comes from Hungary, my father's family has Polish roots. I feel a little German [he laughs]. So I am from that area."
Eschenbach says the idea for a "late works" festival "somehow appeared in my head."
The orchestra once again will adjust its pricing structure for seats in Verizon Hall next season. More $10 tickets will be available for weekday performances. Previously, 72 seats at $10 were set aside for each performance; next season, it will be 205 seats on weekdays, with no change on Saturday nights.
The $5 processing fee per subscription order will double to $10.
Lowest and highest ticket prices will not change for subscribers or single-ticket buyers. For other seats, "overall, ticket prices are going up 3 percent," said J. Edward Cambron, the orchestra's marketing chief.
Eschenbach will hardly abandon his interest in new music in 2004-05, though he says he has purposely doled out world and local premieres to visiting maestros "because it's important to show that other conductors have my point of view [on new music]. I want to make clear that it's not only my idea to keep people informed of new, living music, but it is also the idea of my colleagues, conductors and soloists."
David Robertson will preside over the world premiere of Richard Danielpour's Songs of Solitude, a Philadelphia Orchestra commission; Charles Dutoit will give the U.S. premiere of MacMillan's Symphony No. 3, "Silence"; and assistant conductor Rossen Milanov will lead the first performance of Nicholas Maw's new English horn concerto, also an orchestra commission.
But Eschenbach's signature is everywhere next season, with him leading pieces he has commissioned for or premiered with other orchestras, and importing young soloists with whom he has developed relationships elsewhere.
He leads opening night by hosting an old friend: Rene Fleming, who, by singing Strauss' Four Last Songs, makes up for canceling her performance of the work here in 2001.
The Strauss will be reprised - and the orchestra's national profile raised - when Eschenbach and the orchestra open Carnegie Hall's 2004-05 season Oct. 6 with a concert that will also be aired at a later date on PBS's Great Performances series. The program continues the Strauss specialty established by previous director Wolfgang Sawallisch; in addition to the Four Last Songs, Eschenbach will lead the orchestra in Don Juan, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma will join in Don Quixote.
The orchestra's five-year cycle of Mahler symphonies continues for a second season: the Symphony No. 5 in November and No. 9 in January, both led by Eschenbach.
In his quest to challenge the traditional orchestra presentation format, Eschenbach points to the appearance of Chinese-born composer Tan Dun leading his The Map: Concerto for Cello, Video and Orchestra, "which shows a new way to deal with symphonic music," and the elision on a single program of Schoenberg's A Survivor From Warsaw and Brahms' A German Requiem.
"Christopher Maltman, the English baritone, will narrate the text of the Survivor, which will go with the Brahms Requiem, and it will be nonstop," said Eschenbach. "The narrator will sing the prayer at the end of the Survivor, and then it goes immediately into the Brahms."
Eschenbach is scheduled to lead 14 weeks of concerts in Philadelphia, plus a three-week tour that, at this early point in the planning, is expected to take the orchestra to Japan; Singapore; Hong Kong; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Taiwan.
Laureate Sawallisch is slated to return for four weeks of concerts, conducting Beethoven, Hindemith, and Schubert's expansive Symphony in C major (Great).
Ten soloists are to make their Philadelphia Orchestra debuts in 2004-05, including sopranos Barbara Bonney and Michaela Kaune, cellists Anssi Karttunen and Daniel Mller-Schott, pianist Andreas Haefliger, and bass-baritone Andreas Schmidt.
Pianist Yundi Li makes his subscription-concert debut, following his local debut with the orchestra at the Mann Center in 2003.
One likely high point in the season comes from within the orchestra's ranks: Ricardo Morales, the principal clarinetist hired away from the Metropolitan Opera, makes his solo debut in January in Mozart's Clarinet Concerto.
As for conductors, Prague-born Jir Belohlvek, composer Tan Dun, and San Francisco Opera music director Donald Runnicles are scheduled to make their orchestra debuts during the 2004-05 subscription season. Simon Rattle will not return next season, but is slated to lead the orchestra again in 2005-06 (he typically guest-conducts in Philadelphia every other year).
Eschenbach will make his debut at the orchestra's Academy of Music Anniversary Concert and Ball in January 2005, with another young artist he has championed, violinist Julia Fischer.
Contact music critic Peter Dobrin at 215-854-5611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information: 215-893-1955 or www.philorch.org.
Orchestra programs, 2004-05
9/21, Wagner, Strauss and Dvork, conductor Christoph Eschenbach and soprano Rene Fleming; 9/23-25, Strauss, Dvork and Augusta Read Thomas, Eschenbach and cellist Daniel Mller-Schott; 9/30-10/9, Martinu and Dvork, conductor Jir Belohlvek and violinist Sarah Chang; 10/6, Carnegie Hall season-opener, all-Strauss program, Eschenbach, Rene Fleming and cellist Yo-Yo Ma; 10/13-16, Dvork, Ullmann and Rachmaninoff, conductor James Conlon and pianist Yefim Bronfman; 10/21-23, Copland, Danielpour world premiere and Sibelius, conductor David Robertson and baritone Thomas Hampson; 10/28-30, Bach, Handel and Rameau, conductor Nicholas McGegan; 10/31, Halloween concert; 11/8, Marian Anderson Award concert; 11/11-16, Tan Dun, Shostakovich and Borodin, conductor Tan and cellist Anssi Karttunen; 11/19-22, Pintscher and Mahler, Eschenbach; 11/26-30, Mendelssohn and Rachmaninoff, Eschenbach with violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg; 12/3-7, Brahms and Schoenberg, Eschenbach, baritone/narrator Christopher Maltman, soprano Michaela Kaune, Philadelphia Singers Chorale; 12/9-16, "Glorious Sound of Christmas" concerts with the American Boychoir and Singing City; 12/12-13, Messiah, conductor Nicholas McGegan, soprano Susan Gritton, mezzo Marietta Simpson, tenor John Tessier, bass Philip Cutlip, the Philadelphia Singers; 12/18-19, "Holiday Brass" with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra and Canadian Brass; 12/31, New Year's Eve concert; 1/6-8, Late Great Works Festival Week One, Mahler Symphony No. 9 conducted by Eschenbach; 1/10, Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute; 1/14-15, Late Great Works Festival Week Two, Berio Stanze and Wagner Act III from Parsifal Eschenbach conducts tenor John Keyes, bass Matthias Hlle, bass-baritone Andreas Schmidt, Philadelphia Singers Chorale; 1/20-22, Late Great Works Festival Week Three, Mozart Overture to The Magic Flute, Strauss Oboe Concerto, Strauss Metamorphosen, Mozart Piano Concerto No. 27 (K. 595), Eschenbach, pianist Emanuel Ax and oboist Richard Woodhams; 1/25-28, Late Great Works Week Four, Mozart Clarinet Concerto, Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 (Pathtique), Eschenbach and clarinetist Ricardo Morales; 1/29, Academy of Music 148th Anniversary Concert and Ball, Eschenbach and violinist Julia Fischer; 2/3-8, Beethoven and Elgar, conductor Donald Runnicles and pianist Andreas Haefliger; 2/10-15, Dvork and Beethoven, conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch and violinist Leonidas Kavakos; 2/14, Valentine's Day concert, conductor David Hayes, in collaboration with the Philadelphia Shakespeare Festival, actor David Howey; 2/17-22, Hindemith, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven, Sawallisch and violinist David Kim; 2/24-3/1, Grieg and Schubert, Sawallisch and pianist Yundi Li; 3/3-8, Weinberger, Mozart and Mendelssohn, Sawallisch and pianist Andr Watts; 3/10-15, Smetana, Grieg and Dvork, Eschenbach and soprano Barbara Bonney; 3/17-19, Ravel, Sierra, Salonen, Eschenbach, violinist Andrs Crdenes and violist Roberto Daz; 3/23-26, Dvork, Barber and Shostakovich, conductor Yakov Kreizberg and violinist Hilary Hahn; 3/31-4/5, Elgar, Haydn and Vaughan Williams, conductor Roger Norrington; 4/7-9, Faur, MacMillan, Beethoven, conductor Charles Dutoit and pianist Martha Argerich; 4/14-16, Stravinsky, Jancek and Beethoven, Dutoit; 4/27-5/3, Delius, Maw and Rimsky-Korsakov, conductor Rossen Milanov and English hornist Elizabeth Starr Masoudnia; 5/5-10, Martinu, Shostakovich and Bartk, Eschenbach and violinist Vadim Repin; 5/12-14, Tchaikovsky with Eschenbach and pianist Lang Lang.