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Originally published Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 12:01 PM

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Seattle Symphony's new season: 'Doctor Atomic' is in there, so is 'Rite of Spring'

Seattle Symphony's 2011-2012 season features bold, eclectic fare as Ludovic Morlot takes over. Guests include Joshua Bell and Emanuel Ax; works include those by Beethoven, Ravel and Gershwin.

Seattle Times arts writer

Get ready for the Seattle Symphony to surge forward in all directions in 2011-12, as French conductor Ludovic Morlot takes the helm. The coming season's musical lineup, the first to be programmed by Morlot, couldn't look fresher or more eclectic.

Big names are part of the picture, whether you're talking performers (Renée Fleming, Joshua Bell, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg) or guest conductors (Roberto Abbado, Robert Spano and Susanna Mälkki, one of the few female conductors on the international circuit).

Gerard Schwarz, in his new role as conductor laureate, will naturally be weighing in with some musical offerings. In his "Made in America Festival," he'll highlight the always lively work of Seattle native William Bolcom.

Revered classics — Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony, Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" and Gershwin's "American in Paris," to name a few — are part of the picture. So are items new to the Symphony's repertoire, including John Adams' "Doctor Atomic Symphony," Friedrich Gulda's jazzily scampering Cello Concerto and a number of works by French composer Henri Dutilleux (his eerie and hypnotic Symphony No. 1 among them). British conductor Oliver Knussen is the other featured composer of the new season.

Morlot kicks things off on Sept. 17 with an opening-night concert and gala featuring former SSO principal cellist Joshua Roman in the Gulda concerto, plus works by Beethoven, Gershwin and Ravel. Morlot will then conduct nine weeks of the Masterworks Season's 21-week schedule.

That includes the season finale, "The Planets — An HD Odyssey," in which Holst's suite is paired with high-definition images from NASA space explorations. Music from Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" is also on the program, offering a rare chance to hear Ligeti's "Atmospheres" live.

The most unusual program may be "Sonic Evolution," created by Morlot with Seattle Symphony board chairwoman Leslie Jackson Chihuly. It's a double bill, pairing Seattle folk-rockers Hey Marseilles with composers using the music of local jazz and rock legends Quincy Jones, Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana as their springboards.

On the baroque front, three Bachs (J.S., C.P.E. and J.C.) and two Mozarts (Leopold and Wolfgang Amadeus) appear on the Baroque & Wine Series roster. The Mainly Mozart Series packages pieces by its namesake composer with works by Haydn and Vieuxtemps.

Chamber music is well-represented by the Distinguished Artist Series (violinist Hilary Hahn performing with pianist Valentina Lisitsa; violinist Julia Fischer and pianist Emanuel Ax performing solo) and the Musician Chamber Series in which Seattle Symphony musicians and guests play works by Chopin, Schnittke, Brahms and others.

The Seattle Pops Series takes on everything from sci-fi film scores and James Bond tunes to holiday fare and an American Songbook showcase assembled by principal pops conductor Marvin Hamlisch. The Count Basie Orchestra also comes back to town.

Some international flavor — Latin American, Asian and Hungarian — will be provided by the Around the World Series, complemented by the Visiting Orchestra Series, which features the Mariinsky Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra.

And that's just skimming the surface. For more information and to order season tickets, visit www.seattlesymphony.org, call 206-215-4747 or visit the box office at 200 University Street (actually on the corner of Union Street and Third Avenue in Seattle).

Michael Upchurch: mupchurch@seattletimes.com

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