Classical music lovers around here know well that the gold standard in this region for presenting major artists and orchestras continues to be set by the Washington Performing Arts Society.

The 2012-2013 season offers further reiteration of that point.

The biggest news on the WPAS lineup is the return of the sensational Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, the cream of that country's much-discussed music education program, El sistema.

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The orchestra is led by the most famous alum of that program, Gustavo Dudamel (who is also music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic). He'll conduct Strauss' Alpine Symphony and works by Carlos Chaves and Julian Orbon.

The WPAS orchestral series at the Kennedy Center also offers the ...

top-drawer Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam performing Mahler's Symphony No. 1 with conductor Mariss Jansons on a program that includes Bartok's Violin Concerto No. 2 with soloist Leonidas Kavakos.

Mahler's Ninth will be performed by the San Francisco Symphony with its longtime music director Michael Tilson Thomas.

And the Philadelphia Orchestra will be back, this time with its new music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting Bruckner's Seventh on a program that also features Baltimore's own Hilary Hahn playing the Korngold Violin Concerto.

Another great orchestral attraction is on tap at the WPAS Stathmore series -- the Dresden Staatskapelle in an all-Brahms program led by Christian Thielemann and featuring violinist Lisa Batiashvili.

Also scheduled for Strathmore appearance: stellar violinists Anne-Sophie Mutter, Joshua Bell and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg (she'll perform with and lead the New Century Chamber Orchestra); pianists András Schiff and Simone Dinnerstein.

Back to the Kennedy Center series. Among the starry entrants on the roster: Yo-Yo Ma playing solo Bach; pianist Evgeny Kissin; baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky; Hahn performing items from her 27 Encores Project on a program with pianist Valentina Lisitsa; and flutists James Galway and Jeanne Galway (appropriately, on St. Patrick's Day).

The action-packed WPAS calendar has a lot more, from pianists Richard Goode and Shai Wosner to cellist (and Peabody faculty artist) Amit Peled. And that's just the classical side.

WPAS covers other waterfronts as well; for 2012-13, the offerings include Ute Lemper, Wynton Marsalis with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, and Brian Stokes Mitchell with the Choral Arts Society of Washington.

PHOTO OF GUSTAVO DUDAMEL COURTESY OF SIMONBOLIVARORCHESTRA.COM; FILE PHOTO OF YO-YO MA

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