Next season, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra will balance European classics with local music. Highlighting its 2013-14 subscription season are works by no fewer than eight Pittsburgh composers. Among the works are a Sixth Symphony each by David Stock (Oct. 4-6, premiere) and Leonarda Balada (Nov. 8-10); Nancy Galbraith's "Tormenta del Sur" on March 21 and 23, 2014; and on Feb. 7-9, a five-part commission written by five more Pittsburghers "inspired by Pittsburgh's environmental history and the natural elements of fire, earth, water, air and metal." The composers are Patrick Burke, Bomi Jang, Mathew Rosenblum, Reza Vali and Amy Williams.
But Mozart still will take center stage. A Mozart Festival will take place in April and May with the goal of expanding the audience's view of him as a person and also give a greater understanding of several of his masterworks.
"We will focus, in a broad sense, on the five main 'pillars' of Mozart's music: symphony, concerto, chamber music, opera and sacred music," says Manfred Honeck, PSO music director. "Some, like the 'Jupiter' Symphony and Piano Concerto No. 20, are quite familiar. Others, like the Coronation Mass, have not been heard in Pittsburgh for many years."
The orchestra also will bring in Mozart specialist and pianist Robert Levin, known for his improvisation of cadenzas, to perform the concerto. He will factor into another highlight: On April 25-27, PSO principal William Caballero will solo in Mr. Levin's completion of a Horn Concerto by Mozart that the famed composer died before finishing.
The spirit of delving deeper into a composer, work or concept is a major theme for next season. Two Saturday "Behind the Notes" concerts will begin with in-depth looks at works by Richard Strauss and Ravel that will then be performed fully in the second half.
"There are works that benefit from trying new ways to present them [and] as audiences change, we must also develop new ways to present the PSO and its music," says Mr. Honeck, who will lead the orchestra in 10 of the 21 subscription weekends. Principal guest conductors Leonard Slatkin and Gianandrea Noseda return with one- and two-concert weekends, respectively.
Creating events instead of collections of different works result in several innovative performances. One is Holst's "The Planets" on Feb. 7-9 while a NASA video footage of the celestial spheres runs above it. Another is a performance Dec. 6-8 of Bruckner's Symphony No. 4 prefaced with a capella performances by the acclaimed vocal ensemble Tallis Scholars singing sacred music by Victoria and Allegri.
"Bruckner is so grand and expansive," says Mr. Honeck. "We decided to prepare the audience for his music by presenting the exquisite music of the Tallis Scholars. In the vocal music of the Renaissance, one can hear many influences on Bruckner."
Stars such as violinist Joshua Bell (Feb. 28-March 2), cellist Yo-Yo Ma (performing in the gala Sept. 27) and pianists Helene Grimaud and Rudolf Buchbinder return, accompanied by the debut Nov. 1-3 of the world's hottest pianist, Daniil Trifonov, recent winner of the International Chopin Piano Competition and the International Tchaikovsky Competition. He will perform Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 2.
In fact, it is a season rife with debuting pianists: Yulianna Avdeeva (Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21), Till Fellner (Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4), Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No.5), Michel Camilo (his own Piano Concerto No. 1, "Tenerife") and Mr. Levin (Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20.)
On March 28-30, the PSO will perform the soundtrack to Bernstein's "West Side Story" as the film is screened, with dialogue and original vocals intact.
Another new experience will be a world premiere April 4 and 6 by Christopher Rouse with conductor Juraj Valcuha and violinist Stefan Jackiw.
Several significant programming threads will continue this season. On June 6-8, Mr. Honeck will add another installment in his Mahler cycle by performing Symphony No. 9 and he will return to waltzes of the Strauss family during the Thanksgiving weekend. On Oct. 25 and 27, concertmaster Noah Bendix-Balgley will solo in Bruch's "Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra." June 6-8: Honeck.
The season concludes June 13-15 with a concert centered on Richard Strauss, highlighted by a "new" work by the German composer.
"Next season ends on the 150th anniversary of his birth," says Mr. Honeck. "For this event we have asked composer Milos Bok to extract a concert suite from the opera 'Elektra.' "
Strauss created suites for many operas, but not "Elektra," despite its famed orchestral music. "This will be a historic first," says Mr. Honeck.
Editor's note, posted Feb. 17: The Yo-Yo Ma gala concert date was incorrect an earlier version of this story.