Long known as the continuing face of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Rossen Milanov will step down from his position as associate conductor at the end of the 2010-2011 season to pursue other musical interests, nearby as well as in Europe and Japan. He will have been with the orchestra for 11 years.

In confirming his plans on Friday before to leaving for his native Bulgaria (where he conducts the New Symphony Orchestra), Milanov expressed nothing but fondness for the Philadelphia Orchestra. "I've been accepted by the musicians, they make they feel that I'm part of the family," he said.

However, ongoing relationships with the Stockholm Opera and Japan's NHK Symphony, plus his music directorship with the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, are occupying an increasing part of his schedule. Philadelphia will continue to be one of his home bases, though, in part because of his continuing relationship with Camden's Symphony in C. He added that the Princeton Symphony, which appointed him music director in June 2009, is in a period of considerable expansion.

Milanov, 45, has been the Philadelphia Orchestra's most consistent conducting presence over the past decade, providing continuity during a period in which Wolfgang Sawallisch departed in 2003, Christoph Eschenbach had a five-year tenure (2003-2008) and Charles Dutoit became chief conductor in 2009.

Though Milanov had at least one annual subscription concert at the Kimmel Center during his 18 weeks per year with the orchestra, he was known more for more populist summertime concerts during the orchestra's Mann Center and Vail, Colo., residencies, plus outdoor events in neighborhoods around the Philadelphia area. Most of those concerts have been assembled on a single rehearsal, in contrast to the four rehearsals he has for a single program with both Symphony in C and the Princeton Symphony.

His future focus will be events beyond typical symphonic programs. "I always take unusual projects and collaborations," he said Friday. "This is where my interest has always been -- where the arts meet, start to communicate and create something that's never been done before."