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A monthlong Brahms festival and six world premieres — including one by Music Director Leonard Slatkin — will define the Detroit Symphony Orchestra's 2015-2016 season, just announced today.

Building on the popular success of the Beethoven Festival in 2013 — and the presumed success of next month's devoted to Tchaikovsky — the DSO in February 2016 will focus on everyone's favorite composer, Brahms.

Still, filling an entire month with major Brahms performances was a bit of a challenge.

"The assumption is that Brahms wrote a lot of music for orchestra," Slatkin said by phone from Lyon, France, "but he didn't, at least if you leave out the choral works. So we're doing all four symphonies, plus a couple pieces others have subsequently orchestrated, including the Piano Quartet in G Minor," arranged by Arnold Schönberg.

Making the Winter Festival an annual event advances the DSO's strategy for pulling in new audience.

"We chose February because a lot of our regular patrons have left for warmer weather," Slatkin said. "With the festivals, we try to attract an audience that's not used to coming to concerts, at least not in the traditional way."

Other significant orchestral performances in the new season will include Gershwin's Piano Concerto in F (Oct. 2-4), Debussy's "La Mer" (Nov. 13-14), Ravel's "Boléro" (Jan. 21-23), Elgar's Violin concerto No. 5 (May 6-7) and Strauss' "Salome" (June 3 & 5).

Both composer Tod Machover and DSO composer-in-residence Gabriela Lena Frank will premiere works based, at least in part, on the city of Detroit. Machover's "Symphony in D" takes an intriguingly daring approach, integrating sound clips of the city itself into the musical portrait.

Frank is writing an as-yet-untitled piece based in part on her impressions of Detroit that will be performed May 26-27 in the new season. (For those who don't want to wait that long to hear Frank's work, the DSO will play her Andean-inspired "Concertino Cusqueño" May 21-23.)

Slatkin's elegy to his late father, "Kinah," will have its World Premiere Dec. 5-6. Felix Slatkin, a professional violinist who died in 1963 when his son was just 19, would have been 100 years old in December.

"The elegy is based on Brahm's Double Concerto, which my father and mother played, or at least rehearsed, once," Slatkin said. "They were supposed to play it on a Saturday, but my father died the night before." (Slatkin's mother was a cellist.)

Another reason to look forward to the new season, Slatkin notes, is that by 2015-2016, many of the orchestra's remaining open chairs should be filled.

"If we continue to be as fortunate as we've been with auditions," Slatkin said, "you will see the DSO with almost all its principal players in place." Those should include, among others, a new principal viola, principal second violin, and principal oboe.

They will be added to this year's new hires, which included principal clarinet, principal cello, principal bass, principal timpani, assistant principal percussion, third horn, and four violins. By 2015-2016, Slatkin said, the orchestra should assume the shape he has envisioned for the last five years.

In addition, he said, "This all points toward something very important for the orchestra — stability."

MHodges@detroitnews.com

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