Strauss and commissioned works highlight Philadelphia Orchestra new season

The Philadelphia Orchestra will be paying tribute to Richard Strauss, premiering new work written for its musicians, and starting a multi-season series of works by Beethoven next season.

The Orchestra’s new music director, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, is expanding the boundaries of the ensemble in 2014-2015.

One of the planned events is what Nézet-Séguin calls a micro-festival, a long weekend of new music premieres commissioned specifically for a handful of the Orchestra’s principal musicians, including pieces for harp (for Elizabeth Hainen, by Tan Dun), flute (for Jeffrey Khaner, by Behzad Ranjbaran), and bassoon (for Daniel Matsukawa, by David Ludwig).

Nézet-Séguin says new music is an old tradition with the Orchestra.

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“That goes back to the years of Stokowski when he did so many American premieres,” said Nézet-Séguin. “Now we wanted to commission new pieces for the principals. Instead of doing it a little bit over the season — a danger [that it will] be swallowed — we want to make a big event of national potential to have a weekend dedicated to the principals. They can talk about their work, perform them several times, not always the same concert every night.”

Nezet-Seguin, known for his stellar work as a conductor of voice and choir, will be pushing the orchestra into the opera business next season, with a production of Richard Strauss’ “Salome.” The centerpiece of the season will be a commemoration of Strauss’ 150th birthday.

The conductor says he will treat instruments as though they were voices.

“When it’s a great symphony, the oboe is singing and everybody is accompanying. Sometimes first violins,” said Nezet-Seguin, who regards “Salome” as one of the greatest musical scores of the 20th century. “Opera is good to remind us where it comes from. Those great scores of ‘Salome’ benefit by being played by the best instrument — the Philadelphia orchestra.”

That instrument has been tapped to open Carnegie Hall’s season in October. The Fabulous Philadelphians will be the featured orchestra for the opening gala in New York.

Nézet-Séguin will start of multi-season cycle of work by Beethoven, played alongside Shostakovich. He wants to balance proven classics with new materials.

“We go further in second and third season, with more new music, more baroque, more extremes,” said Nézet-Séguin. “And the composers we celebreate — Srauss: he was not a comfortable composer. We try to get back to that spirit.”

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