Maybe innovation is habit-forming. Next season marks the end of the Boston Symphony's centennial commission cycle, in which the orchestra has commissioned 12 new works. The last of these, Olly Wilson's ''Sinfonia,'' premieres Oct. 16, the regular season-opening concert. And the season that follows appears to contain more new works and seldom-heard pieces than any in recent memory.
In an era when most major orchestras have all but abandoned the serious task of broadening their audiences' tastes and stimulating their appetite for unfamiliar ideas, the BSO's 104th season comes as a breath of fresh air.
Such unaccustomed names as Adams, Takemitsu, Knussen, Dutilleux, dot the 104 th season schedule. They are joined by Schoenberg, Pone, Honnegger, Poulenc, Elgar, Delius, and Nielsen. In addition, the orchestra will honor the 100th anniversary of Alban Berg with performances of his Seventh Symphony and the suite from ''Lulu.''
The tercentenary anniversaries of Bach and Handel will be marked by performances of Handel's ''Acis and Galatea,'' his ''Ode to St. Cecilia's Day,'' and several works by Bach. The Handel performances amount to a departure for the Boston Symphony, which has never played these two works in their entirety. The orchestra will also tackle Honegger's seldom-heard ''Jeanne d'Arc au Bucher,'' featuring Meryl Streep as Jeanne.
We are hardly talking about a return to the fabled Koussevitsky era, in which this orchestra pioneered pieces that have since dominated the concert schedule. But the proposed season reverses a give-them-what-they-want philosophy at Symphony Hall. In light of the fact that nearly half the audience walked out of the premiere of Tippett's ''Mask of Time'' a couple of weeks ago, the decision shows some courage on the part of BSO programmers.
There is no guarantee, with Seiji Ozawa at the podium for most of these performances, that the works in question will be done well. The orchestra's playing has suffered in recent seasons from a slowly spreading apathy, occasioned in large measure by Ozawa's frequently flaccid conducting, which seems to become more foggy as time goes by.
But the fact the orchestra is assaying such unaccustomed territory reverses a long-standing habit of taking the well-traveled road, and offers large reason for rejoicing.