In a surprise reversal of what appeared to be a deteriorating relationship between the Philadelphia Orchestra management and outgoing music director Christoph Eschenbach, the orchestra announced late yesterday that Eschenbach will have extended residencies in Philadelphia through the 2009-2010 season.

Though Eschenbach's formal tenure as music director concludes at the end of the forthcoming 2007-2008 season, plus a previously announced tour in winter of 2009, he will also spend "multiple weeks with the orchestra conducting projects under discussion," according to a news release.

In a statement, Eschenbach said, "I am thrilled to continue my collaboration with the musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra. It is such a pleasure to make music with these gifted and dedicated individuals and I look forward to our ongoing relationship as we take on new artistic challenges in upcoming seasons."

"This is clearly something that all of us wanted very much," said the orchestra's CEO and president James Undercofler.

Several aspects of this continued relationship are yet to be determined. In effect, Eschenbach will be principal guest conductor, though Undercofler said any formal titles haven't been discussed. "We haven't gone there yet," he said. The number of weeks Eschenbach will spend here is under discussion.

Also, Eschenbach's recording relationship remains to be determined. His complete cycle of Mahler symphonies in concert is interrupted by a cancellation, also announced yesterday, of his Symphony No. 7 performance with the orchestra in March 2008. The reason was Eschenbach-related scheduling conflicts. (Chief conductor and artistic advisor Charles Dutoit will conduct Holst's The Planets instead). Undercofler said the Mahler is likely to be rescheduled for 2009-2010, but isn't an automatic candidate for a recording. Though Eschenbach is recording several Mahler symphonies with the orchestra, a complete cycle of recordings was never envisioned, Undercofler said.

Though the continuation of Eschenbach's association with the orchestra wasn't foreseen by many of the musicians, the success of the recent 2007 tour is thought to have been a factor in Eschenbach's return visits.

Contact David Patrick Stearns at dstearns@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/davidpatrick

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