Dallas Symphony Orchestra music director Jaap van Zweden will extend his current four-year contract, stretching his commitment to the orchestra through the 2015-2016 season. This after just one season on the podium. The pact, the orchestra notes, will "mark eight years at its conclusion." By today's standards, the Dutch conductor is giving the orchestra a good number of weeks: he will lead 15 weeks each season through May, 2012 and 16 weeks per season after that.
Why do orchestras peer so far into the future? Conductors have commitments with multiple orchestras, so their schedules have to be nailed down as early as possible. It makes it easier to plan repertoire and hire soloists. It's smart on the public-message front, especiallly when it comes to fund-raising; donors want to know they are giving to stability. And determining an end-date for a maestro's tenure allows an orchestra to begin looking for the next music director on the orchestra's timetable, which is what you want in a process that often takes several years.
Here's one critic's view of the relationship in Dallas: a review by Scott Cantrell of a recent Beethoven 9th.