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Leonard Slaktin picks the best of the DSO season

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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The Detroit Symphony Orchestra is decidedly upbeat as it enters its 2014-15 season.

With Music Director Leonard Slatkin just back from France, where he continued his association with the Orchetre National de Lyon, and entering his seventh season on the podium, the DSO has been bolstered by three straight years of subscription sales growth and four consecutive years of growth in both funds and the number of donors to its Annual Fund. The DSO has also grown its popular Neighborhood Series.

So there's much to celebrate as the orchestra season begins this weekend with Brahms' Symphony No. 1 featuring violinist Sarah Chang and 26 subsequent programs featuring 14 American composers, 20 works brand new to the DSO and the characteristically impressive roster of guest soloists. It's a lot ot choose from, so we asked Slatkin -- who, of course, recommends coming to everything -- for a maestro's list of what not to miss at Orchestra Hall this season, and he offered up this half-dozen...

* The premier of the Slatkin-composed "Endgames" (Nov. 20-22), which he says is "a piece I've been writing for a long time." The 12-minute woodwind-and-string showcase It takes its title -- "and only its title," Slatkin says -- from the Samuel Beckett play and features the six woodwind players who sit at the end of their sections. "The 'games' par is because we're going to have some fun with the sonorities those instruments make," Slatkin explains. "When all six are play together it's a very striking sound. I don't think anybody's tried that sound before, so I thought I'd take a shot at it."

* Slatkin notes that the DSO has played many of his good friend John Corigliano's works over the years, and he's looking forward to presenting the Violin Concerto Nov. 28-30. "This is one of the great concertos, regardless of nationality and time. That should be a big treat."

* After the success of its 2012-13 Beethoven Festival, the DSO is doing the same for Tchaikovsky between Feb. 21 and March 1, playing his six numbered symphonies along with several of his concertos. "It's a unique opportunity for the audience over a three-week period," Slatkin says. We're taking time to feature one composer and really delve into that world with talks and all kinds of other things."

* Slatkin calls the pairing of pieces by Ravel and Ginastera on April 17-18 "very strange on paper," but his says French mezzo-soparano Isabelle Druet, making her American debut, will be key to tying the two men's work together.

* Slatkin is taking a chance with Bruckner's Fourth Symphony, which the DSO will play April 24-25. "For me it's the big challenge of the year," he explains. "It's not for everybody. It's very spacious, very concerned wtih structure. Nobody ever thinks of me in conjunction with that composer but I recently found myself drawn to that world."

* The DSO's presentation of Puccini's opera "Tosca" May 29-31 will end the season with a band, according to Slatkin. "It's been a long time since the orchestra has played anything within the standard operatic canon," he notes. "There's some scores you always want to hear a full symphony orchestra play, and 'Tosca' is one of them even though it's primarily about the vocalist, and we have three very strong vocal leads, so that should be quite something."

Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Samuel Barber's Violin Concerto, William Bolcom's Circus Overture and more, with guest soloist Sarah Chang

10:45 a.m. Friday, Oct. 10, 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 11 and 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 12

Tickets run $15-$100

Call 313-576-5111 or visit www.dso.org

Web Site: www.dso.org

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