The appointment is intended to secure a top-level conductor at the orchestra's helm while management undertakes the years-long process of selecting a permanent music director. "We feel it is vital to have an artistic leader in place who will provide stability for the Philadelphia Orchestra Association as we engage in a thoughtful, thorough and ultimately successful music director search," said a statement from management released today.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Dutoit and orchestra president James Undercofler settled on the title of chief conductor (which is used commonly in Europe but rarely in North America) to signify a position of considerable responsibility short of the full duties which a music director undertakes in the U.S. In addition to conducting eight weeks of subscription concerts each season (as well as performances on tour and during the orchestra's summer residencies), Dutoit will oversee auditions and be involved in administration and fundraising, the paper said; he will not have authority over disciplinary matters or the choice of guest conductors and their programs.
The Swiss-born Dutoit, now 70, does not currently hold a music director post. He served as principal conductor of the Orchestre national de France from 1991 to 2001 and of the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo from 1996 to 2003. Most famously, he spent a quarter-century (1977-2002) as music director of the Montreal Symphony, bringing the orchestra worldwide renown and making a number of award-winning recordings.
Dutoit has had a long relationship with the Philadelphia Orchestra: he was artistic director of the its summer concert series at the Mann Center (in the city's Fairmount Park) from 1990 to 1999, and since 1991 he has been music director of the orchestra's summer residency in Saratoga Springs, New York State. He continues to perform regularly as a guest conductor during the orchestra's main season. In fact, his next such appearances are next week, beginning on March 1 at Carnegie Hall.