Whether or not the Philadelphia Orchestra fills its musical-leadership vacuum this season, 2010-11 looks like another exploration of new conductors, with an impressive grouping of debuts by Fabio Luisi, Vasily Petrenko, Gianandrea Noseda, and Jonathan Nott.
In the pursuit of developing established relationships, Charles Dutoit returns for nine weeks of subscription concerts, plus more summer dates during the orchestra's European festivals tour in 2011.
Vladimir Jurowski returns for one program, Yannick Nézet-Séguin for two. Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos leads two weeks.
Frequent guest Simon Rattle will not visit next season, and neither will Christoph Eschenbach, the immediate-past music director who ended his tenure without a "laureate" title.
"We have a meaningful commitment from Simon Rattle for future years," said artistic vice president Jeremy Rothman. "I think it's fair to say that, averaged out over a number of years, he's going to be here on a regular basis."
Eschenbach, Rothman said, "very much wanted to focus his energies on [his new post as music director of the National Symphony Orchestra] in his first years. We're happy to have him back in Philadelphia. . . ."
Dutoit declined to speak about the season.
The orchestra continues its explanatory Beyond the Score format, whose programs augment the music with point-by-point discussions of Shostakovich, Strauss, and Holst. A new concert format, Sound Waves, is both multimedia and multicultural, featuring Tan Dun's The Map, conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya in Caminos del Inka: A Musical Journey, and, with Michael Tilson Thomas, The Thomashefskys.
Added back to six concerts next season are the image-magnification screens suspended above Verizon Hall's stage. The enhancement, which many audience members like, was dropped this season with budget cuts.
In another breakout from the usual concert format, the orchestra will participate in the Kimmel Center's debut of the Leonore Annenberg-funded spring Philadelphia Festival of the Arts, with a Stravinsky Pulcinella in a first-ever collaboration with the Pennsylvania Ballet.
Ticket prices nudge higher for some seats. For the third straight year, 80 percent remain the same, but for several hundred seats, prices will increase between 3 percent and 75 percent, a spokeswoman said. (Only 90 seats fall into the highest category.)
The orchestra had considered beginning a limited series in the Academy of Music next season, but now will hold off.
"We want to make sure that when we go into the Academy of Music we do it with programs that are thoughtful," Rothman said. "It's too early to tell whether that will be subscription concerts or special events or a festival. There are a lot of programs that can be explored."
Repertoire for next season includes works of 15 living composers - Ranjbaran's Piano Concerto, Pärt's Collage über B-A-C-H, Lindberg's EXPO, the U.S. premiere of MacMillan's Violin Concerto with Vadim Repin, and the world premiere of Jonathan Leshnoff's Flute Concerto with Jeffery Khaner. (Leshnoff, a professor at Towson University near Baltimore, also has been commissioned to write a 50-minute oratorio for the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia as part of the Kimmel Center's arts festival.)
But traditionalists won't be disappointed.
Christoph von Dohnányi leads a program of Brahms' Second and Fourth symphonies. Kurt Masur takes on Shostakovich's Symphony No. 1 and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 ("Pathétique").
A family concert includes Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf. Nézet-Séguin's program pairs Haydn's Symphony No. 100 ("Military") and Mahler's Symphony No. 5.
Dutch maestro Jaap van Zweden makes a second visit, this time with the first Philadelphia Orchestra performance of Johan Wagenaar's Cyrano de Bergerac Overture, Haydn's Cello Concerto in C Major with Han-Na Chang, and Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2.
Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas picks up his renewing relationship with the orchestra in Schubert's Symphony in B minor ("Unfinished"), Bernstein's Suite from a Quiet Place, and Beethoven's Symphony No. 7.
Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto makes its inevitable appearance, this time with Leonidas Kavakos.
In addition to Luisi (Italian), Petrenko (Russian), Noseda (Italian), and Nott (English) - all of whom have prominent European careers - the season is significant for the subscription debut of Russian American Semyon Bychkov, who first led the orchestra in 1986 at the Mann Center and returns in October with Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin, Dutilleux's L'Arbre des Songes for violin and orchestra, with Renaud Capuçon, and Dvorák's Symphony No. 8.
The Dutilleux mini-retrospective is rounded out by a performance of Métaboles, with Stéphane Denève, and Timbres, espace, mouvement, led by Dutoit.
Rothman said that Dutoit was involved in curating the entire season, with a special attention to balance and diversity.
"We're exploring a lot of living composers through the season, and we've done that in a way that is very welcoming for people who are interested in new music. But also, whether it's a presentation with a visual component or in a program that pairs new and old, I think we are able to introduce a lot of new pieces into the [orchestra's] repertoire for this season.
As for the summer, this August will be Dutoit's last at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, and an orchestra spokeswoman said it had not been determined whether the orchestra would continue at its New York summer home since 1966.
"Summer of 2011 just isn't set yet," she said.