Mehta and music director Lorin Maazel also outlined the Philharmonic's 2006-07 season, which will include the world premieres of works by Melinda Wagner and Esa-Pekka Salonen; extended visits from conductors Riccardo Muti, David Robertson, and Alan Gilbert; and a semi-staged performance of Stephen Sondheim's Company.
The three-year agreement with Universal calls for the annual release of one CD and four recordings to be sold only through digital download. All will be recorded live at Avery Fisher Hall.
While not completely unprecedented—the Milwaukee Symphony announced last fall that it would sell digital downloads of live performances—the agreement is notable for the involvement of a major record label and one of the world's leading orchestras.
New World, which focuses on new American music, will release two live CDs per year, all of contemporary works commissioned by the Philharmonic. The first release, scheduled for May, will include Stephen Hartke's Symphony No. 3, Augusta Read Thomas's Gathering Paradise, and Jacob Druckman's Summer Lightning.
Both record deals were made possible, Mehta said, when musicians agreed, in their 2004 contract, to accept royalties in lieu of up-front payments for recordings.
"The musicians and we know that this is important to the future of the New York Philharmonic and of classical music," Mehta said of the foray onto the Internet.
Though the Philharmonic has made occasional recordings in recent years—including the Grammy-winning CD of John Adams's On the Transmigration of Souls—it has not recorded regularly since the tenure of music director Kurt Masur, who had his own contract with Teldec.
The 2006-07 season marks the first year of the guest-conducting arrangement with Muti, Gilbert, and Robertson that the Philharmonic announced in 2004, when Maazel extended his contract through 2009. At the time, Mehta suggested that all three would be candidates to succeed Maazel.
Muti will lead four weeks of programs, including Scriabin's rarely heard Le Pome divin; Robertson, who will conduct the U.S. premiere of Kaija Saariaho's Adriana Songs, and Gilbert will each appear for two weeks.
Salonen, who last conducted the Philharmonic in 1986, will lead the world premiere of his own Piano Concerto, with Yefim Bronfman as soloist. Maazel will conduct Melinda Wagner's Trombone Concerto, commissioned for the Philharmonic's Joseph Alessi.
Other premieres on the schedule include the American debuts of Hans Werne Henze's Sebastian im Traum and Daniel B‹rtz's Parados, and the New York premiere of Hindemith's recently rediscovered Piano Music with Orchestra for piano left hand. Leon Fleisher, who performed the world premiere of the Hindemith work in 2004 and the American premiere in San Francisco last fall, will be the soloist.
The Philharmonic will present Sondheim's seminal musical Company in March 2007, directed by Lonny Price and with Paul Gemignani on the podium. The semi-staged performances follow well-received stagings of Sondheim's Follies in 1985 and Sweeney Todd in 2000.
Other highlights include an opening-night gala, broadcast on PBS's Live From Lincoln Center, featuring Emanuel Ax and Yefim Bronfman in Mozart's Concerto for Two Pianos. The Philharmonic's New Year's Eve gala will feature Broadway and classical star Audra McDonald; Broadway veteran Ted Sperling will conduct.
In March 2007, former principal guest conductor Colin Davis will celebrate his 80th birthday with two weeks of concerts focusing on Mozart. (Davis was actually born in September, but, Mehta said, "like Mozart, we will celebrate his birthday year-round.")
The Philharmonic will open a three-year collaboration with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with side-by-side performances of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker and Duke Ellington's arrangement of the work. Mehta is also "going to try to convince" LCJO director Wynton Marsalis to write a new work for a future Philharmonic season, he said.
Maazel will conduct a cycle of Brahms, to include the four symphonies, four concertos, Ein deutsches Requiem, and other works, over six concerts. He will also lead performances at the new Segerstrom Concert Hall at the Orange County Performing Arts Center on October 31 and November 1 and tours to Asia and Europe in November and May 2007.
Maazel prefaced a discussion of the star soloists on the schedule by recalling his experience conducting a performance featuring the great English pianist Solomon Cutner, known simply as "Solomon," in the 1950s. The pianist, he said, did not look at him or speak to him once through all of the rehearsals and performances. Finally, Maazel said, after the final note was sounded, Solomon turned to him in the wings and asked where the exit was.
By contrast, Maazel said, the soloists he chooses for the Philharmonic, including violinist Itzhak Perlman, Bronfman, and cellist Lynn Harrell, are great friends and collaborators: he has performed chamber music as a violinist with Perlman and Bronfman. Harrell, he said, is a close friend, but "he tells me in no uncertain terms what he wants."
Other soloists include violinists Anne-Sophie Mutter and Gil Shaham, pianists Lang Lang and Peter Serkin, and soprano Deborah Voigt, who will sing Strauss songs.