Conductor Stéphane Denève's 10-year history as a Philadelphia Orchestra guest is being officially extended with a new three-year contract that continues his current principal guest conductor activities though the 2019-2020 season. The terms of the new contract, announced Tuesday, call for at least three programs during the orchestra's regular Kimmel Center season plus summertime appearances with the orchestra in Vail and Saratoga.
"It feels like a second wedding," said Denève on Monday by phone, the first wedding being his initial three-year contract that made his principal guest conductor position official.
The mandate allows Denève to continue the kind of specialized programming that has marked the past three years. Of course, that means more John Williams - whom Denève has championed both as a serious composer and for his film work - with the possibility of another in-person appearance by the 84-year-old multi-Oscar winner.
Denève also talks about how his concerts in Europe, where he is chief conductor of the Brussels Philharmonic, contain one modern work - a practice he would like to continue with composers like Philadelphia-based Jennifer Higdon. "A lot of good music is being written today," he said.
He also looks forward to collaborations with Philadelphia theater and dance organizations, as well as less obvious meetings of the minds. "I love the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I adore the Barnes Foundation," he said. "A century ago in Paris you had artists from different forms meeting in salons, and it led to a golden age of creation. It's a mission for our time to not be so specialized."
Official statements from orchestra officials, including president and CEO Allison Vulgamore and music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, praised Denève's enterprising nature and enthusiastic personality. Perhaps most important is that Denève's contribution to the orchestra is not more of what's already there.
He has some things in common with Nézet-Séguin. "We're not so different in age," Denève said. "We both speak French.
"But we're extremely different conductors and have very different repertoire," he said. "I'm so glad that it's continuing."