Michael Tilson Thomas

New World Symphony, Founder & Artistic Director
San Francisco Symphony, Music Director Laureate
London Symphony Orchestra, Conductor Laureate


Michael Tilson Thomas is the Founder and Artistic Director of the New World Symphony Orchestra, Music Director Laureate of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, and Conductor Laureate of the London Symphony Orchestra.

As a guest conductor, he works with the world’s leading orchestras, including the Wiener Philharmoniker, Orchestre de Paris, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Cleveland Orchestra.

Mr. Tilson Thomas’s compositions are published by G. Schirmer. In 1991, he and the New World Symphony were presented in a series of benefit concerts for UNICEF in the United States, featuring Audrey Hepburn as narrator of his work From the Diary of Anne Frank, which was commissioned by UNICEF. This piece has since been translated and performed in many languages worldwide. In August 1995, he led the Pacific Music Festival Orchestra in the premiere of his composition Shówa/Shoáh, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. His vocal music includes settings of poetry by Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, which were premiered by Thomas Hampson and Renée Fleming, respectively. In 2016, Yuja Wang premiered his piano piece You Come Here Often?.

Mr. Tilson Thomas co-founded the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, a postgraduate orchestral academy dedicated to preparing young musicians of diverse backgrounds for leadership roles in classical music. The New World Symphony has long been at the forefront of developments in the arts and in education. Since 2011, the campus of the New World Symphony has been the technologically advanced Frank Gehry–designed New World Center.

He has won eleven Grammys for his recordings, is the recipient of the National Medal of Arts (the highest honour for artistic excellence in the United States), which was presented to him by President Barack Obama, and is an Officer in the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. For his lifetime artistic achievements, he was selected to receive the 2019 Kennedy Center Honors.


Performance Schedule

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    18:30 26 May 2021 Barbican Centre, LONDON

    EDVARD GRIEG Elegiac Melodies
    SERGEI RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18
    LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 5 in C minor Op. 67

    Conductor: Michael Tilson Thomas
    Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra
    Piano: Yuja Wang

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    15:30 27 May 2021 Barbican Centre, LONDON

    EDVARD GRIEG Elegiac Melodies
    SERGEI RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18
    LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 5 in C minor Op. 67

    Conductor: Michael Tilson Thomas
    Piano: Yuja Wang
    Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra

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    19:30 03 Jun 2021 venue TBC, city TBC

    DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH Piano Concerto No.2
    PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 2 in C minor Op. 17 ‘Little Russian’

    Conductor: Michael Tilson Thomas
    Piano: Yuja Wang
    Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra

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    19:30 03 Jun 2021 venue TBC, city TBC

    DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH Piano Concerto No.2
    PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 2 in C minor Op. 17 ‘Little Russian’

    Conductor: Michael Tilson Thomas
    Piano: Yuja Wang
    Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra

From The Green Room


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    Absolute Jest

    Label: SFS Media

    Release Date: 29 Oct 15

    Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony join forces with America’s most-performed living composer, John Adams, in a colossal album featuring Adams’ Absolute Jest and Grand Pianola Music.
    San Francisco Symphony
    Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor
    John Adams, composer

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    Label: SFS Media

    Release Date: 11 Nov 14

    An exquisite recording from the Grammy award-winning partnership of Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony.
    “Minutes of pure, shimmering magic” – San Francisco Chronicle
    San Francisco Symphony
    Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor
    Yuja Wang, piano
    All works recorded live at Davies Symphony Hall

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    Label: Discography

    Release Date: 31 Jul 14

    Michael Tilson Thomas’s extensive discography can be viewed on his official website – please click link below.

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    BERNSTEIN: West Side Story

    Label: SFS Media

    Release Date: 16 Jun 14

    Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony present a new recording of the first-ever concert performances of Leonard Bernstein’s complete score for the musical West Side Story.
    Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor
    Alexandra Silber, Maria
    Cheyenne Jackson, Tony
    San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Symphony Chorus
    Recorded live at Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, 27 June – 2 July 2013.
    Selected for the 2014 Clefs d’Or ResMusica awards

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    ADAMS: Harmonielehre, Short Ride in a Fast Machine

    Label: SFS Media

    Release Date: 30 Sep 11

    Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony present John Adams’ Harmonielehre and Short Ride in a Fast Machine.
    This album was the 2013 Grammy® Award Winner for Best Orchestral Performance and the 2013 ECHO Klassik Award Winner for Orchestra of the Year.
    Harmonielehre recorded live at Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, December 8-11, 2010.
    Short Ride in a Fast Machine recorded live at Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, September 7, 2011.

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    Label: SFS Media

    Release Date: 01 Jul 08

    A 17-disc set, with over 18 hours of music including:
    Adagio from Symphony No. 10; Kindertotenlieder; Das klagende Lied; Songs with Orchestra; Das Lied von der Erde; Rückert-Lieder.
    This set’s recordings have been awarded a combined 7 Grammy Awards. Each recording is also available to purchase separately.

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    10 Jan 20 TILSON THOMAS Meditations on Rilke (World Premiere)
    San Francisco Symphony, Davies Hall (San Francisco)

    To the world of musical mashups we can now add the Schubertian cowboy song, a gentle but rhythmically charged ditty full of sentiment. It’s a hybrid that already existed in theory, but it took Michael Tilson Thomas to actually conjure the thing into being.

    The spirits of both Schubert and Mahler infuse the beautiful fourth song in Thomas’ orchestral song cycle “Meditations on Rilke,” which had its world premiere in Davies Symphony Hall on Thursday, Jan. 9. As sung in a glowing performance by mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke with the San Francisco Symphony, this was music of quiet generosity, with lyrical melodies that seemed to caress the text.

    Rilke’s poetry has long been a talisman for Thomas, a repository for a range of emotional responses. But the six songs of “Meditations” seem, on a first encounter, to be shaped even more directly by his catalog of personal musical reference points.

    As Thomas laid them out in a brief preperformance remark, these are chiefly Schubert, Mahler and Berg, all of whom play an influential role in shaping the score. But they do it with an American cast of mind, as exemplified by the burst of honky-tonk piano that opens the cycle.

    The populist frankness that results in some of the songs can at times sit uneasily with Rilke’s fragrant, distinctively German prosody. (Schubert is, perhaps surprisingly, a more congenial American tourist than Rilke, and Mahler actually spent significant time in New York late in life.)

    But when Thomas puts his own distinctive spin on the material, the results are invigorating. This is particularly true in the fifth song, “Imaginärer Lebenslauf” (“Imaginary Biography”), a duet between Cooke and baritone Ryan McKinny, who otherwise alternate songs.

    The song begins with a ferocious swirl of impulsive rhythmic motion, evocative of the energy and freedom of early childhood. Soon, as in the poem, complications set in — struggles, disappointment, doubt — all of which are reflected in the music without losing any of its urgency or vigor. The vocal lines intertwine with winning intricacy, and the surprise ending, a literal deus ex machina, is a doozy.

    Berg’s characteristic blend of Romantic ardor and angular melody is harder to pull off at second hand, and the neo-Bergian writing of the first and last songs struggled to make an effect, especially in McKinny’s somewhat tentative account. But there are other treasures scattered throughout the cycle — the crystalline text-setting of the second song, or the inventive orchestral textures that adorn most of the songs as preludes and postludes.
    Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle

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    09 Dec 18 IVES Holidays Symphony
    Los Angeles Philharmonic, Walt Disney Concert Hall

    “Other than a very occasional “Messiah” or John Adams’ “El Niño,” the Los Angeles Philharmonic doesn’t do holidays. That was obstinately true Friday at a Walt Disney Concert Hall bedecked with a Christmas tree and menorah for a seemingly recalcitrant Michael Tilson Thomas. He ended his program Friday morning with Charles Ives’ “Holidays” Symphony. Ives’ holidays happen to be Washington’s birthday, Decoration Day, Fourth of July and Thanksgiving.

    Yet, in a glorious performance, Tilson Thomas incomparably embodied the good cheer and wonder of the season by going beyond specific holidays. Ives’ four separate pieces, written in the first decade of the 20th century, evoked the holidays as the composer remembered them in his New England childhood and in a manner, sentimental yet startlingly pioneering, that remains stylistically flummoxing even a century later.

    In his introductory remarks, Tilson Thomas reminded that investigations of the unconscious can begin anywhere, as Carl Jung noted. With Ives, they can also go anywhere in any way.

    Each holiday starts out musing on an old hymn and/or popular tunes of the day. Harmonies are unsettled. Music, solemn and fun — marching bands, children’s game, fireworks, funeral marches and sheer hokum — mingle and explode into exuberant musical chaos.

    With the Los Angeles Master Chorale on hand for Thanksgiving’s spiritual apotheosis at the end, Tilson Thomas put the singers to further good use having them sing some of the songs and hymns that Ives sneaked, some familiar (“Good Night Ladies”), some forgotten. Christmas was turned on its head for Decoration (now Memorial) Day with “Adestes Fideles” in its alternate form of “How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord” joined by “Taps.”

    When it came to Thanksgiving, Ives’ intention was, Tilson Thomas said, “one great universal song of mankind,” all these musics rising to one magnanimous zenith. And so it authentically did after nearly an hour of principled sentimentality, riotous playfulness, stylistic irreverence and majestic religiosity verging on downright (or should that be upright?) mysticism. In its versatile element, the L.A. Phil and magnificent Master Chorale embodied Ives’ ideal with an irrefutable rightness.

    Tilson Thomas began the concert roasting two Tchaikovsky chestnuts, the “Romeo and Juliet” Overture-Fantasy” and “Rococo” Variations. He got from the orchestra a sound as rich as the most lavish holiday feast. Cellist Gautier Capuçon brought his stunningly beautiful tone to “Rococo” Variations, adding what sounded like new glory to every phrase.”
    Mark Swed, LA Times

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    02 Dec 18 TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 6
    Los Angeles Philharmonic, Walt Disney Concert Hall

    “Tilson Thomas brings a nostalgic wistfulness to the symphony. His Tchaikovsky of the Technicolored melancholy of an old Hollywood tearjerker. A Talmudic Tchaikovsky, questioning every gesture, but always with the knowing reserve that sadness and beauty are the way of the world. A Tantric Tchaikovsky, cyclically doling out pleasure and suffering. And finally, a Thomashevsky Tchaikovsky, as earthily expressive as the Yiddish theater of MTT’s grandparents, until that burst of distress in the Finale, releasing a wealth of pent-up wrath before grudgingly opening the door
    for fate.”
    Mark Swed, LA Times

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    12 Oct 18 The Week in Classical Music: San Francisco Symphony (Tilson Thomas, Fleming, McDonald) Carnegie Hall
    The New York Times

    “During the gala concert that opened Carnegie Hall’s season last week, Renée Fleming and Audra McDonald sang a classic mash-up: “Children Will Listen,” from Sondheim’s “Into the Woods,” and “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught,” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific.” The messages of these songs, Ms. McDonald told the audience, are especially pertinent during these troubling times. “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” is a bitter denunciation of racism. No one is born with prejudices, the song argues: You have to be taught “to hate and fear.” “Children Will Listen” offers a wise warning to parents — and all adults, really: “Careful the things you say,/Children will listen.” The medley was a powerful moment in an otherwise festive evening featuring the San Francisco Symphony, and beautifully performed.

    I keep thinking back to the arresting performance of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” that the San Francisco Symphony, led by Michael Tilson Thomas, presented at Carnegie Hall recently. How does a conductor make this music seem as shocking as it did at the raucous 1913 premiere? Many just overemphasize every blazing climax and drive tempos frantically. Mr. Thomas, with his keen theatrical instincts, knew when to keep the lid on things to maintain suspense. So when the hellbent stretches came, the effect was truly terrifying. To me, the performance suggested this ritual — a ceremonial rite culminating with a human sacrifice — was performed every spring. It may be horrific, but the members of this tribe are used to it, and there’s a sense of dogged routine.”
    Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, 12 October 2018

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    03 Mar 18 Review: Tchaikovsky and Tilson Thomas, Philadelphia Orchestra Verizon Hall
    The Philadelphia Inquirer

    “It was a concert about final statements. Tilson Thomas programmed the second half with a strong if not revelatory Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 notable for an impetuous dash here and there in the first movement and a bright tempo in the second. The woodwinds glowed – not only with the velvet of flute unisons led by David Cramer, but also the tight interplay among Cramer, clarinetist Ricardo Morales, oboist Richard Woodhams and bassoonist Daniel Matsukawa.

    The star of the program, though, was the Four Preludes, and it is a knockout. Tilson Thomas draws on multiple musical styles. Funk seems not far off, and rock rears its head. Saxes, brass, rock guitars, and bass guitars line the back of the ensemble. A tender orchestral section curdles into dissonance and sweetens again. Sandburg’s lines are taken by three singers, who appeared on stage in dark robes and then stripped them off to reveal slinky gold gowns. The lead singer, Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman, prowled the stage, sometimes teasing players in the orchestra with a mocking seductive look or gesture. The two other vocalists, Mikaela Bennett and Kara Dugan, were particularly effective at the end, lit in the conductor’s circle while singing the humbling reminder that it has all happened before.

    It’s hard to imagine this piece having as much impact with anyone but Brueggergosman, who had to deploy the vocal techniques of Jan DeGaetani within the smooth package of a Las Vegas lounge singer.

    Tilson Thomas, with assistance from orchestrator Bruce Coughlin, has written dire stuff. The piece has moments of light, a patch in a conciliatory movie-music vein. But for the most part, the composer takes Sandburg’s words and colors them darkly.

    The singers sing and warble. A cash-register ka-ching! rings out and a wind machine stirs. When civilization is all finished, though, only the rats and the lizards are around to listen, and the poet says that not even the writing of the rat footprints tells us anything about the “greatest city, the greatest nation.”

    If Sandburg’s view at the time was salient or bracing, Tilson Thomas tolls in a key more chilling still.”

    Peter Dobrin, Philadelphia Inquirer, 03 March 2018

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    18 Feb 18 Review: Stravinsky and Debussy, New World Symphony The New World Center
    South Florida Classical Review

    “The music of Igor Stravinsky has always brought out the best in Michael Tilson Thomas and the conductor was in prime form on Saturday night, leading the New World Symphony in early and middle period Stravinsky scores. 

    Prior to the commencement of the concert, Tilson Thomas asked the audience at the New World Center in Miami Beach to stand for a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the school shooting on Friday in Parkland. (The names and ages of the victims were projected on the hall’s video screens.)

    Turning to Stravinsky’s Scènes de ballet, Tilson Thomas noted that his composition teacher Ingolf Dahl helped the busy Stravinsky complete the work in time for its Broadway premiere in December, 1944. He added that he too was busy at that time getting ready to be born (which happened later that month.) Scènes de ballet represents the populist side of Stravinsky, just as the jazz suites and film scores of Shostakovich demonstrate a lighter side of that composer.

    Originally composed for the revue “The Seven Lively Arts” (which also featured songs by Cole Porter and performances by Bert Lahr and Beatrice Lillie), the 18-minute divertissement runs the gamut from Tchaikovsky inflected dance melody to a parody of the cowboy tunes of the era. Along the way there are sly references to Gershwin’s “The Man I Love” and Stravinsky’s own Petrushka. With touches of Stravinsky’s neo-classical style from that era and repeated opening and closing chords of mock pomposity, the work radiates considerable wit and charm.  The score was a great showcase to display every section of the New World at top strength and Tilson Thomas conducted it with idiomatic flair.

    While Stravinsky’s Broadway concoction occasionally appears on concert programs, Debussy’s Fantaisie for piano and orchestra is a seldom-performed rarity. Debussy completed the work in 1890 but withdrew the score prior to the scheduled premiere, revising it repeatedly over several decades but refusing to allow publication or performance. It was finally premiered in 1919, a year after Debussy’s death) but not published in complete form until 1968. This work is as close as Debussy came to writing a piano concerto and it demands a soloist with formidable technique and musicianship. 

    The Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes is that and more. Andsnes is an artist who puts a distinctive stamp on everything he plays. And the Debussy Fantasie needs that kind of artistic salesman to make it work.

    While the score is not an unforgettable masterpiece, it deserves to be played more often. The opening oboe solo of the first movement suggests typical Debussy impressionistic languor but the music soon morphs into a more romantic vein. The fleet-fingered Andsnes conveyed a full range of pianistic colors. A master at sweeping, big-boned whirls of melody and pyrotechnics, he played the Rachmaninoff-like sections at full power. In this stylistic mélange, Tilson Thomas drew opulent playing and brought out Debussy’s kaleidoscopic instrumental timbres. 

    The Lento and Allegro molto finale sound more like Ravel, Debussy’s contemporary. Andsnes’ bursts of tonal heft brought some clarity to the wispy theme of the slow movement (with two harps adding to the orchestral shimmer). The finale is jazzy in the manner of the last movement of Ravel’s Concerto in G Major, written three decades later. Jazz had not even been conceived as a popular art form in the late nineteenth century so Debussy was literally inventing a musical language. Andsnes attacked this final showpiece with virtuosity but also displayed a sensitive touch in a central episode that could have come right out of Debussy’s Preludes.

    A cheering ovation brought Andsnes back for an encore ” Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum” from Debussy’s Children’s Corner Suite. Vigorous, fistfuls of notes and hand crossings at the outset gave way to pearly toned elegance in the lyrical episode. Andsnes’ gradual buildup of the final crescendo was masterful, keeping the pulse and avoiding bombast. This terrific pianist needs to be heard more often in South Florida.

    The suite from Stravinsky’s The Firebird is a concert staple but Tilson Thomas chose to play the complete ballet score in the original 1910 version. With a doubled number of winds, no less than three harps and extra brass on the hall’s terraces and rear, the performance was an exciting display of the orchestra’s firepower and the auditorium’s splendid acoustic. 

    From the barely audible rumbles of the seven basses in the first bars to the blazing finale, Tilson Thomas emphasized a wide sonic palette with sharp contrasts of tempo and dynamics. Fast sections were very fast. Yet Tilson Thomas’s conception lso returned the dance to this ballet score. “The Dance of the Firebird” had an edginess that differed from more sedate versions. Strings played with a dark tonal cast and the large wind contingent was outstanding. Special kudos to Elizabeth Lu’s solo flute which was agile, exquisite and bright in perfect balance.

    Tilson Thomas brought out the violence of the “Infernal Dance” in brisk strokes with high contrasts of timbres leaping forth from the ensemble. The big climaxes were augmented by hard-driving percussive whacks and brass eruptions from around the hall. The warm tone of Brenton Foster’s bassoon set the stately pace of the “Lullaby.” Here Tilson Thomas drew out the music’s romantic Russian roots and its indebtedness to Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky’s teacher. The gradual coalescing of the principal theme of the finale was thrilling with the conclusion perhaps setting a new decibel level for an orchestral performance at the New World Center.

    All credit to Tilson Thomas for presenting The Firebird as Stravinsky first conceived it in a performance that brought out the music’s richness and originality with such striking brilliance.”

    Lawrence Budmen, South Florida Classical Review, 18 February 2018 

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    12 Feb 18 'From Boston To Miami And San Francisco, Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas' Legacy Is Far-Reaching'
    The ARTery

    “You don’t think of his legacy when you look at Michael Tilson Thomas.

    The eternally boyish conductor, at 73, seems decades younger. Fit, handsome, energetic and engaging, you wonder instead what his next unusual project will be like — not his retirement.

    But he is retiring — in 2020, from his 25-year directorship of the San Francisco Symphony — leaving an orchestra that he has turned into one of America’s most popular. But as almost anyone who approaches a certain age will quickly tell you, MTT’s retirement has little to do with long-distance RV trips or shuffleboard cruises.

    MTT’s Boston connections run deep — including his splashy debut, filling in for William Steinberg mid-concert in 1969, and staying on until 1974 as as associate conductor for Boston Symphony Orchestra; his formative Tanglewood experiences before that, especially his relationship with Leonard Bernstein; and his occasional guest appearances. These seem distant, but remain vivid when he discusses them.

    For Boston, he is the one who got away. It’s easy to paint the long Seiji Ozawa years at the BSO with one brush — at the end of his tenure (1973-2002), the conductor and the organization were clearly tired of each other. But the beginning was much different: beaded, long-haired and exotic, Ozawa seemed like a perfect match for the BSO. For a long time he was.

    But MTT could have made that match as well. By the time Ozawa was named music director in 1973 (ironically, after a stint in San Francisco), MTT had already conducted the BSO dozens of times, and recorded prolifically. One glimpse at the repertory list of Deutsche Grammophon’s mammoth BSO box set shows Tilson Thomas conducting William Schuman, Carl Ruggles, Tchaikovsky, Debussy, Stravinsky, Ives — a sense of involvement that stands in contrast to the very few engagements he’s had with the orchestra since those years.

    He was a Tanglewood wunderkind — but so was Ozawa. He had already stepped in for the orchestra in need — Steinberg’s years at the BSO were much like the subsequent James Levine years, full of absences. He was in Boston as assistant conductor when Ozawa was off to San Francisco (and other orchestras).

    But Ozawa got the job, and stayed — for a long time. MTT led many orchestras after that — Buffalo, Los Angeles, San Francisco, the London Symphony Orchestra and most influentially, his own New World Symphony, which he founded 30 years ago. If he had stayed in Boston, the BSO’s past few decades might look much different. The innovative programming and community connections that NWS has established in Miami — certainly reflected in its younger, more diverse audience — could have transformed concert-going in Boston into a less stodgy affair.

    Tilson Thomas comes back to Tanglewood this summer, making multiple appearances, most notably on the star-studded final weekend celebration of Bernstein’s centenary. He joins Andris Nelsons, Keith Lockhart and John Williams on the podium, conducting Yo-Yo Ma, Audra McDonald, Midori, Susan Graham, Thomas Hampson and others in a gala concert of Bernstein’s music.

    It is more than symbolic that when the BSO wants to remember Bernstein’s connections to Tanglewood, it is Tilson Thomas who comes back to the podium. MTT also conducts a major program in the Shed (Aug. 12), which includes a work of his own, “Agnegram,” and pianist Igor Levit performing Rachmaninov’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.”

    He will definitely not be leaving Miami’s New World Symphony — not anytime soon. The ensemble, which he founded to provide post-doc training for top-flight conservatory graduates, will continue to benefit from his leadership, and his programming initiatives. The New World Symphony is the cornerstone for the arts in Miami Beach; MTT took his talents here, and he’s staying.

    NWS’s glittering, Frank Gehry-designed New World Center stands as a versatile monument to MTT’s energy, his artistry and his ability to bring others — read, donors — along with him. Completed in 2011, the New World Center mirrors the orchestra: flexible, somewhat brash, able to accommodate any of the art forms and facilitate an interesting conversation. The hall itself dismisses the notion of fussy manners that haunts classical music performances — no clapping, how to dress, all that. In fact, NWC sometimes turns itself into a late-night club with its PULSE series.

    There is no doubt that the New World Center is built for the future. The performance hall comes with five overhead video screen “clouds” available for simple things like supertitles, and for complex things like multiple film montages. A huge outside façade serves the WALLCAST series — live outdoor screenings of the music being performed inside.

    Apart from the indoors and outdoors video capabilities, the stage itself swivels, separates and lifts, providing functional adjustments to seat the orchestra and the parade of actors, dancers and spoken-word artists that collaborate with NWS.

    Musicians audition for NWS, and the lucky few — 35 new fellowships each year, selected from more than 1,500 applicants — are housed by the organization, and trained at the highest levels for three seasons. Then they are off to the real world with a new top line on their resumés. Training is varied and challenging.

    The symphony plays a concert season, with plenty of the standard repertory. But the emphasis is on collaboration. A Saturday evening concert featured one premiere with a conductor/composer (MTT) reading from a memoir; another world premiere — but a play about PTSD; and a third piece, a crowd-sourced film with orchestral score. No other professional symphony would dare mount such an evening.

    It was a chaos of art forms, fully representing MTT’s notions about teaching musicians. “The first six months at New World Symphony can be different than anything they have ever done,” he says. “I encourage them to color outside the lines, and I work with them as a director would work with actors. I don’t tell them what to do; I want them to recognize things intuitively, about themselves, in pieces.”

    The performance itself had direct hits and clear misses. MTT’s three short pieces from “Glimpse of the Big Picture” may someday be a major work that encapsulates his career, “but I’m not even thinking like that now,” he says. The stage was then turned topsy-turvy — an overlong delay for a non-intermission interlude — for Christopher Wall’s affecting “The Inherent Sadness of Low-Lying Areas,” a touching short play with a harrowing undercurrent.

    “Miami in Movements,” a slight revision of an October premiere, used technology developed at MIT’s Media Lab to crowdsource a symphonic pastiche about Miami’s vast neighborhoods. Ted Hearne’s score was inventive, alert to the possibilities in the film montage. Most of the crowd-sourcing showed up as spoken-word reminiscences by Miamians. Filmmaker Jonathan David Kane treated his city — he is a native — like a living organism, emphasizing its neighborhood’s intersections, not its divisions.

    All three works were specific to Miami, and to the NWS. It would be hard to imagine them performed anywhere else — a shortcoming for the future of these pieces, but not of the performance. It was both well-attended and received, brilliantly played and acted.

    MTT knows that NWS has grown from his original vision — a vision that was formulated at Tanglewood long ago, when he was a young conducting star. “I wanted this to be a continuation of the idea of Tanglewood,” he says. “I remember the end of one summer there. So many of the students there had only a sketchy idea of what to do afterward. One percussionist — a fantastic player — told me he was getting a job at Dominos just so he could keep practicing. That was really the genesis of what this is.”

    “When it started 30 years ago, I knew absolutely everything that was going on here,” he says of NWS. That certainly has changed. But even with the San Francisco retirement, and his claim that he wants to compose more — “I’ve spent so much time making other people’s music work” — there is no notion that a succession plan at NWS is in the offing.

    When asked what kind of person might replace him — conductor, composer, educator — he changes the subject to his next performance, Stravinsky’s “Firebird.” “That’s all I’m focused on now,” he insists, launching into an enthusiastic treatise on differing ways to approach the classics. Typical: no talk of legacy, just on to the next project.”

    Keith Powers, The ARTery, 12 February 2018

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    06 Jan 18 CD Review: Schumann: Symphonies 1-4 San Francisco Symphony SFS Media
    The Arts Desk

    “This lavishly produced orchestra-own-label live set of Schumann’s symphonies is best compared with Simon Rattle’s enjoyable Berlin cycle. Though Michael Tilson Thomas’s San Francisco Symphony package has the edge: it’s more reasonably priced, better recorded and takes up much less shelf space. There’s a pleasing transparency to the orchestral sound and the textures never become clogged. Tilson Thomas doesn’t tinker with Schumann’s scoring but he does vary the number of players at any given point: “there’s a difference between hearing eighteen people in a chamber music kind of style, and hearing eighty people playing quietly.” Symphony No 1’s intro is button-bright, Schumann’s “world turning green” magically realised. The pick of the bunch is this team’s Symphony No 2, the uneasy mixture of heartbreak and ecstasy balanced to perfection. This “Adagio espressivo” plumbs the depths, the clouds lifting in an exultant, effervescent finale.

    Trumpets and horns are excellent throughout. Especially in the affable Third Symphony, its scherzo a bucolic, stately romp. There’s no bludgeoning bombast in the last movement’s closing minutes but plenty of exuberance. No 4’s darker moments aren’t shied away from: the grinding brass pileups roar, and the last movement’s Brucknerian intro is spine-tingling. Everything falls into place: this is a supremely intelligent, affectionate set of performances, immaculately played. Tilson Thomas’s sleeve note is an enjoyable read. Applause is retained, though audiences are commendably silent throughout.”

    Graham Rickson, The Arts Desk, 06 January

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    19 Dec 17 Review: Mozart and Bruckner. Los Angeles Philharmonic Walt Disney Concert Hall
    LA Weekly

    Much of the month of December at Disney Hall is given over to holiday pop shows, but the L.A. Philharmonic matinee on Sunday, Dec. 17, was the last presentation of serious classical music of the year, and it was a fittingly stirring finale to the orchestra’s wide-ranging adventures over that time.

    The guest stars for an afternoon of Mozart and Bruckner were dexterous Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili and the eminent Michael Tilson Thomas, returning to his hometown and the band he used to serve as principal guest conductor in the 1980s. Tilson Thomas was a providential replacement when the originally scheduled conductor, former longtime L.A. Phil music director Zubin Mehta, had to step down after injuring his shoulder — the conducting profession’s dreaded equivalent to a baseball pitcher blowing out an elbow.

    Tilson Thomas turned out to be a good choice to take over the four-day program at Disney Hall, which began last Thursday. Not only is the calm, 72-year-old San Francisco Symphony music director less likely to hurt himself than the more animated Mehta but Tilson Thomas also shares with Mehta a longtime affinity for the music of Austrian composers such as W.A. Mozart, Anton Bruckner and especially Gustav Mahler.

    Aside from a stage manager who briefly prowled the stage in red, oversize wooden elf shoes, there was no hint of oppressive holiday cheer inside the hall. Disney Hall wasn’t quite sold out, but a large afternoon crowd filled much of the higher balconies.

    About three dozen members of L.A. Phil — string, wind and horn musicians, with no percussionists — assembled behind a black, open-top Steinway piano for the first work on the program, Mozart’s idyllic Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488. The women of the orchestra were dressed in formal black blouses and pants or dresses, and the male musicians were similarly outfitted in black jackets and pants with white shirts and a variety of ties (black, white, gray, striped). Conductor Tilson Thomas also wore a black suit and white shirt, with a slate-blue tie.

    With everyone else in black, Khatia Buniatishvili stood out like a vintage movie star when she swept onstage in a breathtaking white, floor-length, sleeveless satin gown. The 30-year-old native of Batumi, Georgia, sat down at the Steinway, facing stage left, and Tilson Thomas gently provoked the concerto’s opening allegro. A pastoral, typically lovely Mozartian weaving of string and wind instruments unfolded for a couple minutes before Buniatishvili entered with airy curlicues of piano.

    The strings picked up, becoming jauntier and bolder, before subsiding into intimate passages inlaid with Mozart’s fast yet delicate piano filigrees, which Buniatishvili released with a whirring-hummingbird-wing touch. The pianist wasn’t overly theatrical but sometimes, while playing with her left hand, she’d raise her right arm slowly above her head, pausing midair before pouncing catlike on the keys again.

    Playing by memory without sheet music, Buniatishvili always maintained a light, veiled touch instead of a bright attack as she spun through Mozart’s cascading melodies. She didn’t seem to favor a heavy, low-end approach, but Amadeus’ playful lark rarely required it. Buniatishvili maintained a somber distance in the slower adagio, a mournful exchange of strings and wind instruments with spare, unflashy piano.

    Tilson Thomas was restrained and poised, keeping his hands low and demeanor steady, even as the pace picked up when Buniatishvili plunged right into the allegro assai, the third and closing section of the concerto. The rest of the orchestra gave chase to the pianist’s scampering melodies, and it was about as overtly sweet and joyful as music gets.

    After intermission, Tilson Thomas stepped forward to introduce Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7, in E major. “We are happy to play this mighty symphony, which has … a complete worldview,” he explained. “In a symphony like this, everything in it is part of an organic whole. … Perhaps in his mind, [Bruckner] was creating a kind of emotional cathedral. … I think of these big symphonies as natural parks,” Tilson Thomas said. He also touched on composer Richard Wagner’s influence on Bruckner’s symphony, which featured four musicians huffing and puffing on rarely heard Wagner tubas.

    The four Wagner tuba players were part of a very large horn section, and the roughly 90 members of the orchestra who swarmed the stage for the Seventh Symphony also included multiple percussionists. Bruckner’s work had the grandeur and epic scale of a long sea journey, beginning in the allegro moderato with a brooding simmering of strings that had a lushly romantic, cinematic sweep. Leading a large group of musicians through such an ambitious piece, Tilson Thomas became a little more physically demonstrative but maintained his cool, only spreading his arms wide and outward for the grandest surges of the horns.

    Those sumptuous horn blasts were offset by interludes in which flutists Denis Bouriakov and Elise Shope Henry twined together eerily keening melodies against an upwelling of strings, before the adagio culminated with all the musicians onstage building up to a physically exhilarating explosion of sound, pushed along by Joseph Pereira’s prolonged, thunderous timpani rolls.

    The horns took on even more prominence in the adagio, the mighty trumpets and trombones giving way to bigger blasts from the various tubas. Yet this section closed with an unexpectedly gentle wallowing of tuba, which faded out in an achingly beautiful golden glow like a burnished sunset. There would be other peaks and valleys in Bruckner’s Seventh, with a majestic retreat of the elephantine horns holding back long enough at times for Burt Hara’s clarinet to wind through. Even with nine basses, the very bottom end wasn’t always deep enough, but the violins, violas and cellos were richly layered.

    Tilson Thomas jerked his torso and twisted his hips to wring out even more power from the collective horns for one last triumphant blare during the dramatic finale, and that was it. Despite a standing ovation from at least half the audience, there would be no encore. It was difficult to imagine anything following Bruckner’s mind-clearing climax.

    Over the past year at Disney Hall and the Hollywood Bowl, L.A. Philharmonic has tumbled deep into a rabbit hole (appearing with the fearlessly provocative vocalist Barbara Hannigan to debut composer Gerald Barry’s tongue-twisting and brilliantly frenetic operatic reimagining of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures Under Ground), re-established diplomatic relations with John Adams (in a dramatic visual production of Nixon in China) and helped save the planet from a Martian invasion (Annie Gosfield’s persuasively foreboding music for War of the Worlds, even if it was overshadowed by the Industry’s inventive but campy multisite staging). In between, Gustavo Dudamel and L.A. Phil obsessed over Mozart’s final moments, found the connection between Schubert and Mahler, kicked back with Tony Bennett, unlocked all three of Béla Bartók’s knotty piano concertos with daring pianist Yuja Wang, and even inspired a sense of noble rage from mild-mannered Vin Scully during a passionate, politically timely rendition of Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait.

    In the coming year, L.A. Phil continues its celebration of the Leonard Bernstein centennial, and Dudamel cycles through Robert Schumann’s symphonies. The orchestra also interacts with violinist-conductor Itzhak Perlman, former leader Esa-Pekka Salonen and Irish songwriter Glen Hansard (Once), and hosts recitals by legendary pianists Martha Argerich and Yuja Wang and a visit by Tilson Thomas’ San Francisco Symphony.”

    Falling James, LA Weekly, 19 December 

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    20 Dec 17 Review: Mozart and Bruckner, Los Angeles Philharmonic Walt Disney Concert Hall
    Huff Post

    “Saturday night at Walt Disney Concert Hall Michael Tilson Thomas conducted LA Phil in Mozart’s 23rd Piano Concerto and Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony, substituting on short notice for Zubin Mehta. His presence on the podium and the nurturing quality of the music he and the orchestra made recalled dreams Angelenos once had of Thomas becoming LA Phil music director himself at some time during his career.

    He would have been the first LA Phil music director born in Los Angeles. In the USA. So far they have all been imports (and men). Even Andre Previn was born in Berlin. Legends like Otto Klemperer, Eduard van Beinum, and Carlo Maria Giulini. Esa-Pekka Salonen and Gustavo Dudamel now. Imports all of them.

    During the concert at Disney Hall Saturday night, Thomas worked as efficiently and self-effacingly as he had in the rehearsal of the Mozart I had attended the day before. There was little jumping around to signal sudden adjustments of volume or speed, no theatrical effects to show who was in charge. Aside from the minimum showmanship every audience expects, deserves, and adores, Thomas let the musicians speak as they wanted to.

    In Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23, however, Thomas and a small complement of strings and winds were Khatia Buniatishvili’s slave as she gave a sweeping, romantic, at times brash performance which left the audience breathless.

    Wherever there was an opportunity to show off the dazzling colors of her touch Buniatishvili sculpted the phrase to match, and with the Phil’s sleek woodwind section partnering her with some of Mozart’s most charming tunes and responses the results were intoxicating; the flutes, bassoons and clarinets, as they would be all night, were devastatingly brilliant, even daring to throw in an improvised grace note here and there. This worked wonderfully in the Concerto’s emotionally secretive opening two movements and it reaped a whirlwind in the last which Buniatishvili took faster than she could play it – but not faster than LA Phil who never missed a beat The audience went wild.

    Of course this was not Mozart except in name. The Technicolor effects and the insane speeds are not what Mozart had in mind. As Paul Badura-Skoda told me recently, “Mozart was an angel of such perfection that he seemed to be perfectly satisfied with the limits of the instrument.” And when you have heard Mozart’s concertos played on fortepianos of Mozart’s own time you will understand that the music is not the same.

    What was most remarkable about the Mozart was not that such an anti-Mozartian interpretation happened but that it actually worked with almost no ragged edges – it felt as if Thomas and the Phil had Buniatishvili’s back no matter what. There had been a few discussions during the rehearsal but they were so muted and over so quickly that the flow of working on the music by actually playing it was barely interrupted. When Buniatishvili ripped into the third movement it raised a few eyebrows but the eyebrows and the players adjusted in a nanosecond. At the concert even the nanosecond gap had disappeared.

    I didn’t hear the rehearsal for Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony but the performance was similar in that Thomas didn’t seem to be imposing an interpretation on the music but rather let the orchestra go where they felt comfortable. And since the Seventh Symphony, alone among Bruckner’s symphonies, flows along so naturally that satisfaction is practically guaranteed when it is performed by an orchestra of LA Phil’s calibre, it was not surprising that the conductor often seemed to be absorbed in listening along with the audience.”

    Huff Post, Laurence Vittes, 20 December 


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    18 Dec 17 Review: Mozart and Bruckner. Los Angeles Philharmonic Walt Disney Concert Hall
    San Francisco Classical Voice

    The Los Angeles Philharmonic had a sudden problem. The orchestra’s former music director, Zubin Mehta was supposed to have led his old band in Mozart and Bruckner last weekend, but he had to cancel suddenly due to a shoulder operation that will put him out of action for at least three months.

    What to do? Well, in one of those miracles of serendipitous availability, the L.A. Phil was able to replace one superstar conductor with another.

    The San Francisco Symphony’s Michael Tilson Thomas had some free time the week before his 73rd birthday (Dec. 21), so he traveled south to Walt Disney Concert Hall to fill in. It was as if the Giants had sent Madison Bumgarner to start in place of an injured pitcher on the Dodgers. Fortunately, the historically fierce L.A.-vs.-S.F. rivalry on the baseball field and elsewhere doesn’t exist for the cities’ orchestras, and MTT received a hero’s welcome in his old hometown on Thursday night.

    Tilson Thomas inherited the composers on Mehta’s program but made one switch; while Mehta was scheduled to conduct Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9, MTT chose Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 instead. The originally planned Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A, K. 488, with the Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili, stayed in place.

    MTT and the L.A. Phil, of course, go back a long way. He was a co-principal guest conductor here from 1981 to 1985, and after nearly two decades of estrangement, their occasional collaboration resumed when the L.A. Phil moved into Disney Hall. (Indeed, MTT will have a two-week residency during the Phil’s centennial season in 2018–2019).

    Their present rapport is such that in the opening of the Mozart concerto, MTT was able to summon from his L.A. forces something resembling the glowing, polished, beautiful sound that he has been cultivating in San Francisco, with elegant phrasing even at the fastest tempos. Buniatishvili is known for her delicate feather-like touch — at times, she veered close to the threshold of inaudibility — yet she provided enough dynamic contrast elsewhere to prevent Mozart from sounding precious or effete.

    Even though Bruckner and Mahler are often paired together — not always accurately — on the historical timeline, Mahler conductors in general are not known for their Bruckner and vice-versa. There are exceptions who are equally comfortable in both camps, like Bernard Haitink and Zubin Mehta, but not many. In the case of MTT, this seems to ring true; there is no Bruckner at all in this Mahler man’s discography and I don’t remember him conducting Bruckner when he was in L.A.

    Yet now having reached the grand-old-maestro stage of his long career, Tilson Thomas is venturing more into Bruckner’s world; he led the Seventh Symphony in San Francisco in 2013 and again there and on the San Francisco Symphony Asia tour a year ago. He has his own ideas, bringing to the Seventh a fresh, extroverted, almost American sound. He also displayed a more physically mobile podium manner with the L.A. Phil than in his San Francisco concerts that I have attended recently — more like the way he was over 30 years ago here.

    Once MTT had surmounted the first aborted climax in the opening movement, he took off at a Scherzo’s pace, with fascinating quirks in phrasing here and there. There was no lingering at the outset of the great expansive Adagio, and the trip to the summit of the movement was relentless. Just before the climax, MTT held back for a split second before letting the famous cymbal crash rip, fulfilling the dramatic impact of the moment. The third movement was straight-ahead, vigorous, with good rhythm that became even stronger upon the repeat of the material, and the finale mostly blazed at a galloping pace.

    You won’t find the monumental constructions of old Brucknerians like Günter Wand, Eugen Jochum, or Herbert von Karajan in MTT’s Bruckner, nor the cosmic spells of Wilhelm Fürtwangler. But for ears attuned to his passionate advocacy of Mahler, MTT’s way will find some satisfying common ground.”

    San Francisco Classical Voice, Richard S Ginell, 18 December 

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    15 Dec 17 Review: Mozart and Bruckner. Los Angeles Philharmonic Walt Disney Concert Hall
    LA Times

    “The Los Angeles Philharmonic is not known as a Bruckner orchestra. No American orchestra other than the brassy Chicago Symphony is. The Austrian composer’s main body of work, his nine spiritually effusive, lyrically languorous and climactically clangorous symphonies that last an hour or more (sometimes much more) are a hard sell. Like certain cheeses, they might seem an acquired taste best suited to German-speaking lands.

    Yet L.A. does have a Bruckner tradition that goes back to its close relationship with two of the great Brucknerians of the last century: Otto Klemperer (a former L.A. Phil music director) and Bruno Walter (who spent his later years in Beverly Hills). The Bruckner tradition was further burnished, big time, by Zubin Mehta, the L.A. Phil music director in the ’60s and ’70s whose ideal sound was nothing less than a glorious Viennese Bruckner sound.

    For that matter, Bruckner is the essence of the Hollywood symphonic sound as well. Many of the German and Austrian émigré composers who helped to invent the film soundtrack (during the Klemperer era at the L.A. Phil) had an ear for Bruckner.

    By a curious quirk of fate Thursday night, an Angeleno who grew up during the late Walter years and who was surrounded by Hollywood, Michael Tilson Thomas, led a sumptuous performance of Bruckner’s most lyrical symphony, the Seventh, at Walt Disney Concert Hall. The program was originally to have been Bruckner’s Ninth under Mehta, but shoulder surgery is keeping him off the podium for three months.

    With Tilson Thomas jumping in at the last minute, the orchestra was luckily able to keep it all in the L.A. Phil extended family. (Tilson Thomas was a principal guest conductor in the 1980s.) But Bruckner is for him a late career interest. He most recently conducted the Seventh with his own orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, a year ago, so he stuck with that in a program that also included Mozart’s sunniest piano concerto, No. 23, with Khatia Buniatishvili as soloist.

    The A-Major Piano Concerto proved a delight. The orchestra was chamber sized, but there was nothing chamber-sized about Buniatishvili’s style. She touts a ravishingly romantic approach to all she plays (Liszt is one of her specialties). Her tone is ever robust. She lingers lovingly when she can, and Tilson Thomas decided she could. She is also splashy when she can be, and she was certainly that too. With a big Bruckner symphony coming up next, she clearly knew she needed to make an impression.

    There is not much likelihood that Tilson Thomas will suddenly make Bruckner a priority. Still, he has found the perfect solution in his Seventh for serving up a full-sized symphonic meal for hard-core Brucknerians while delivering something that could possibly turn those who can’t stomach the bombast.

    That recipe is for a Bruckner creamily smooth yet grand in a way true to both Vienna and Hollywood. It has Walter’s humanely lyrical touch but goes even deeper and is even more soulful. Textures are rich. with Bruckner’s chromatic harmonies handed out like high-calorie treats. Melodic lines are layered though each, a towering layer cake’s delicious stratum to be savored.

    Still, you never want to underplay Bruckner, and Tilson Thomas has no problem with grandeur. A conductor who has long championed Steve Reich and John Adams, he controls Bruckner’s hypnotic repetitions with a Minimalist’s capacity to subtly build rhythmic complexity into powerfully convincing climaxes that seem unstoppable. For Bruckner, the symphony is motion of nature operating one dimension beyond what we can see or understand, and only feel and imagine. And that’s this Seventh.

    With the L.A. Phil full of centennial thoughts — the orchestra turns 100 in 2019 — and with Tilson Thomas stepping down from the San Francisco Symphony in 2020, the year he turns 75, the talk and hope is of him once more developing a close relationship with his hometown band. His willingness to substitute for Mehta on short notice is a promising sign.

    The playing of the L.A. Phil on Thursday was an even better sign. It was, from the top of the ensemble to the bottom, magnificent. The brass may seem to matter most in Bruckner, thus giving the section license to take over. Here the brass was not brash but a golden complement to rich strings, especially cellos and basses. Joseph Pereira, the orchestra’s principal timpanist, proved an especially important agent of elevation by giving the rhythmic drive at the center of Bruckner an extra lift.

    If a hardy Bruckner symphony hardly seems holiday fare, think again. You are not likely to find a more warmly inspiring example of goodwill on a concert stage for the remainder of the year.”

    LA Times, Mark Swed, 15 December

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    14 Dec 17 Review: SoundBox, San Francisco Symphony
    The Bay Area Reporter

    “SoundBox, the San Francisco Symphony’s experimental performance venue and live music nightclub, launched a fourth season of fashionably-later “curated” concerts last week with no one less than enduring and endearing Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas, hosting and performing in an aptly named evening, “Connections.”

    Detractors of the SoundBox experience may grumble about increasing difficulty in pouncing on tickets online (which are often sold out in less than 15 minutes) then waiting in long queues to get in. Arriving super-early to assure a good spot indoors also offers no guarantees. Loyalists don’t seem to mind. If you have ever lined up for brunch or sought entry to an obscure music club, you doubtless already know it can actually factor into the fun.

    The congenial spirit is communicable from the get-go, and once inside the spectacular space, with a brew or cocktail in hand, SoundBox offers an immersive way to enjoy great music. Art installations, marvelous projection screens and shifting stage areas go well with drinks and tapas.

    The remarkable Meyer Sound Constellation system has transformed a cavernous rehearsal space into an amazing acoustic environment. The interior design is minimalist and industrial-chic. For “Connections,” video designer Adam Larsen and lighting designer Luke Kritzeck further enhanced the exciting atmosphere with their kaleidoscopic visuals.

    “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge was playing as exit music after the show ended, but the spirit of the song was threaded throughout the whole night. Instrumentalists of the SFS joined with actual family members and friends for an encouraging and satisfying display of musical legacy and inheritance.

    If SoundBox is pitched primarily to culturally adventurous new listeners, “Connections” made a good case for the future of the project. Nothing too long or terribly “difficult” was presented, but the scope and range of the compositions showed how interesting and appealing the classical repertoire can be when it is imaginatively packaged.

    Seeing fathers and mothers performing with their sons and daughters, and Big Daddy MTT making his devotion apparent, was not only heart-warming, but also artistically exciting. The warmth of the interactions cheered the audience, too; conversation during the frequent intermissions was lively and enthusiastic.

    German conductor Christian Reif, Resident Conductor and Wattis Foundation Music Director of the SFS Youth Orchestra, served with MTT and later played some piano. Fearless Leader also played piano in the first set, and it was good to see him at the keyboard too.

    Principal Flute of the SFS Tim Day paired with his son Britton Day in some Faure and Ibert. Young cellist Oliver Herbert joined a devotedly supportive MTT for the complete Debussy Cello Sonata in D minor.

    Principal Bassoon Stephen Paulson wowed with some up-close and personal solo Bach, then bounded to the main stage for a wildly kinetic duet with his son Greg Paulson, guitarist for Progressive Death Metal band Arkaik. Starting to get the picture?

    Veteran Associate Principal Cello of the SFS Peter Wyrick and wife Amy Hiraga, SFS Violin Member since 2005, sat with their daughter, violinist Mayumi Wyrick; SFS Viola Nancy Ellis; and cellist Oliver Herbert for an excerpt from Schubert’s String Quintet in C Major. Making an amusing and affectionate introduction to the Scherzo movement about to be performed, Wyrick impishly said the entire piece runs about an hour, hastily adding they would not be performing the entire score. The audience audibly exhaled with relief. If SoundBox is more about tasting than going through an entire meal, that doesn’t lessen the impact.

    The longest set, composer Sam Post’s “Sketches from Kazakhstan,” based on themes by late dombra player Karshyga Akhmedyarov rearranged for chamber orchestra, held the eager crowd’s attention without strain. Akhmedyarov’s daughter, SFS Violin since 2006 Raushan Akhmedyarova, was soloist in the flashy and tuneful piece. The “connections” were clear in the commissioning of Post’s thrilling score, and the performance highlighted how closely allied folk-music traditions are between world nations. Synthesizing the legendary dombra master’s themes into his own music, Post has created a breathtaking musical joy ride.

    Chunming Mo, SFS Violin Member since 1991, joined Alina Kobialka (daughter of former SFS principal second violinist Daniel Kobialka) and Christian Reif at the piano for an arrangement of the Praeludium from Five Pieces for 2 Violins & Piano by Shostakovich. The violinists also navigated Ligeti’s agreeably folksy Ballad and Dance.

    “Connections” was certainly a family affair for performers and listeners alike, but another theme song, with MTT in mind, might also have applied. Anyone remember Crispian St. Peters’ “Follow me, I’m the Pied Piper?”

    The Bay Area Reporter, Philip Campbell, 14 December

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    06 Dec 17 Review: Schumann Symphonies, Nos. 1-4 San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas, Music Director Davies Symphony Hall
    The Mercury News

    “Anyone who heard these performances of Robert Schumann’s complete symphonies in Davies Symphony Hall  will tell you that Michael Tilson Thomas and his orchestra achieved something rare. In this double-disc set, recorded live during the 2015-16 season and released last month, the conductor delved into these scores with a remarkable sense of the composer’s expressive range. Tilson Thomas calls Schumann’s music ‘a preserve for endangered emotions,’ and the results are tender and vivacious, shapely and affecting. And if you haven’t already, check out the Symphony’s 2016 disc, ‘Debussy: Images, Jeux, and La plus que lente.’ Last week, it received a well-deserved Grammy nomination for best orchestral performance.”

    Mercury News, Georgia Rowe, 06 December 

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    13 Jun 14 BRITTEN FESTIVAL June 2014
    Davies Symphony Hall


    “Smart programming started the impressive evening with authentic gamelan performance, and ended it with Britten’s beautiful synthesis of East and West with the enchanting sounds of Balinese music embedded in a symphony orchestra”.

    Bay Area Reporter, Phil Campbell, 26 June 2014

    “Flair, fervor in Britten’s ‘Pagodas’…the headline component of Thursday’s superb matinee concert by Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony”.
    San Francisco Chronicle, Joshua Kosman, 13 June 2014

    SERENADE for Tenor, Horn, and Strings
    “As John Keats’ words died away and the sound of a distant horn completed Britten’s achingly beautiful 1943 Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings, Op. 31, there was a rare sense of musical bliss in Davies Symphony Hall Thursday night. And yet, there was more, much more to come.
    In a lifetime of concerts, there are many to be treasured, but few that stand out so prominently as this current subscription event by Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony on fire.”

    San Francisco Classical Voice, Janos Gereben


    “San Francisco Symphony’s belated centennial celebration of Benjamin Britten comes to a triumphant end this weekend with a stunning semi-staged production of the composer’s first great opera success, Peter Grimes.

    San Francisco Chronicle, David Wiegand, 27 June 2014

    “The high point of San Francisco’s summer opera season wasn’t at the War Memorial Opera House, but just across the street at Davies Symphony Hall, where Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony capped their season-ending Britten Centennial Celebration with the composer’s Peter Grimes…At the center of it all was Tilson Thomas, whose forays into semi-staged performances in recent years — Der fliegende Holländer and Fidelio among them — have affirmed his credentials in opera. Even so, this performance was extraordinary. The conductor strove for, and achieved, remarkable clarity from his players, illuminating the nuance and unrelenting invention in Britten’s majestic score and supporting the singers throughout. The ebb and flow of the interludes came across with stark specificity, and the ensemble numbers roared. At the end of the performance, the conductor and his forces assembled onstage, and the audience roared back its approval.”
    Opera News, Georgia Rowe, 30 June 2014 (online review)

    “Benjamin Britten triumphs in San Francisco”
    Los Angeles Times, Mark Swed

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    15 Aug 14 2014-15 season
    San Francisco Symphony

    The 2014-15 season of the San Francisco Symphony, which begins with the traditional gala concert on Sept. 3, marks Michael Tilson Thomas’ 20th year as the orchestra’s music director. That’s a landmark that is simultaneously admirable and potentially unnerving.

    Admirable, because this partnership between orchestra and conductor — who also, coincidentally, turns 70 in December — continues to be an astonishingly fertile and productive one. The level of musicianship on display in Davies Symphony Hall week after week, year after year, remains a marvel, and the unspoken communication between podium and stage only seems to become deeper and more effortless with each passing day.

    To read the full article please follow the link below

    San Francisco Chronicle / Joshua Kosman / August 15, 2014

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    03 Sep 14 INTERVIEW
    20th San Francisco Symphony season

    “One recent sun-drenched morning, music poured from the windows of a stately home with a million-dollar view of the bay. It was Michael Tilson Thomas at the piano: MTT, as he is known, entertaining his neighbors by playing a little Liszt — a piece he soon will perform at his 70th-birthday concert at Davies Symphony Hall, part of his 20th season with the San Francisco Symphony.”

    To read the full article please click the link below.

    San Jose Mercury News, Richard Scheinin, 31 August 2014

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    03 Sep 14 Jeremy Denk's tales of Michael Tilson Thomas
    San Francisco

    “My relationship with MTT has been one of the great gifts of my musical life — in a straightforward career sense, but more profoundly as advisor and mentor.”
    Please click the link below to read the full story.
    Richard Scheinin, San Jose Mercury News

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    14 Nov 14 INTERVIEW
    Approaching MTT's 70th birthday
    A Boyish Patriarch Leaps Over Boundaries – Michael Tilson Thomas Seeks Musical Adventure as He Nears 70

    To read the full article please follow the link below

    New York Times, Anthony Thommasini, 14 November 2014

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    20 Nov 14 United States tour, November 2014
    San Francisco Symphony & Michael Tilson Thomas

    “The orchestra achieved a range of emotion and dynamics, a presence as formless as mist or as staunch as granite, the generated sound a perceptible force and making for thrilling experience.”
    The Kansas City Star, Libby Hanssen, 13 November 2014

    “The San Franciscans opened with a near-perfect performance of Franz Liszt’s “Mephisto Waltz No. 1.” Tilson Thomas’s tempo was relaxed, but there was no relaxation of rhythmic tension, which made for an exemplary reading of the score”
    The Plain Dealer, Mark Satola, 17 November 2014

    Miami Herald Profile of Michael Tilson Thomas
    To read the interview, please click the link below
    Miami Herald, Lawrence A. Johnson, 13 November 2014

    “…the complete simpatico between orchestra and music director was nowhere more evident than in the last “official” piece on the program, the Suite no. 2 from Daphnis and Chloe.”
    The Arts Fuse, Jonathan Blumhofer, 18 November 2014

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    02 Dec 14 INTERVIEW
    With Allan Ulrich, Financial Times

    “The California-born musician on what continues to drive him after more than 40 years on the podium”

    To read the article please click the link below

    Financial Times, Allan Ulrich, 28 November 2014

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    12 Dec 14 SoundBox concerts
    Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco

    “And just like that, San Francisco has a superb new performance venue for music.  Saturday night’s tremendous opening event of SoundBox — the term does double duty for the space itself, in the rear of Davies Symphony Hall, and the concert series that the San Francisco Symphony has installed in it — was as exciting for what it offered as for what it promised.”
    Please click the link to read the full article.
    San Francisco Chronicle / Joshua Kosman / 14 December 2014

    “The classical music establishment has been wringing its hands for years, trying to figure out how to attract younger audiences.
    They can stop now. Michael Tilson Thomas has found the solution.”
    Please click the link to read the full article.
    San Jose Mercury News, Georgia Rowe, 14 December 2014

    “The inaugural SoundBox presentation last weekend suggested that even habitués of the conventional concert experience will find much to engross them in the project. The planners have converted a drab rehearsal hall into an environment awash in video projections and surround sound, a room where banquettes and an open bar, two stages and multiple intermissions propose a more casual, if no less significant musical adventure than usual. The entrance, humming with John Cage’s amplified plants, prepared us for the unclassifiable.”
    Please click the link to read the full article. 
    Financial Times, Allan Ulrich, 15 December 2014

    “SoundBox succeeds on every level, both demographically and artistically. The brainchild of Symphony music director and conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, it’s simultaneously a concert series, warehouse party, experimental workshop, nightclub and sound immersion. It takes classical music from all eras and presents it squarely in the modern day, with cocktails, freedom to wander about and phone and tablet use encouraged. It’s the most comfortable way for many to experience classical music. It’s also the perfect date night. And yes, it’s the coolest thing on the block.”

    Please click the link to read the full article

    KQED, Gabe Meline, 15 December 2014

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    09 Jan 15 BEETHOVEN Missa Solemnis, January 2015
    Los Angeles Philharmonic, Walt Disney Hall
    “For Michael Tilson Thomas, it all started right here in Los Angeles…So it’s no surprise that he chose his hometown to launch what promises to be an audacious 70th birthday year with one of his more audacious projects, a semistaged reimagining of Beethoven’s mighty, complex – some say impenetrable – Missa Solemnis at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Jan. 9.
    To read the full article please follow the link below

    Musical America, Richard S. Ginell, 12 January 2015

    “Tilson Thomas emphasized transparent orchestral textures. He maintained a subtle, fluid approach to rhythm, illuminating Beethoven’s flowing syncopations as if precursors to jazz and John Adams. He used the Disney acoustics to great advantage, with varied placements of singers and instrumentalists. He conducted with lightening speed.”

    To read the full article please click the link below.

    Los Angeles Times, Mark Swed, 11 January 2015

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    14 Jan 15 INTERVIEW
    Gramophone, January 2015
    “Maverick Tilson Thomas”
    To read the full article, please click the link below

    Gramophone, Richard S. Ginell, January 2015

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    15 Jan 15 MTT's 70th Birthday Concert
    Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco
    “These are the rewards of a life in music: Hit a milestone birthday, and some of the greatest artists in the world will turn out to serenade you.
    At least, that’s what happens if you’re Michael Tilson Thomas, who turned 70 in December and celebrated on the stage of Davies Symphony Hall surrounded by a crush of eager musical collaborators Thursday night.”
    Please click the link to read the full review

    San Francisco Chronicle, Joshua Kosman, 16 January 2015

    “A message from President Obama wished MTT ‘and everyone celebrating with you the very best for an enjoyable evening,’ and it was realized raucously and memorably.
    Please click the link to read the full article
    SF Examiner, Janos Gereben, 16 January 2015

    “Among the many gifts he has showered on this orchestra over his 20 years as music director, Tilson Thomas’ wit and sense of humor, both personally and musically, were on full display in front of a sold-out house.”
    Please click the link to read the full article.

    SF Classical Voice, Steven Winn, 21 January 2015

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    04 Feb 15 Article
    Wall Street Journal, David Mermelstein
    At 70, the Beat Goes On
    In mentoring, outreach and repertoire, Michael Tilson Thomas believes in inclusiveness…
    Please click the link to read the full article

    David Mermelstein, Wall Street Journal, 3 February 2015

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    31 Dec 14 Interview in Miami Herald
    with Jane Wooldridge

    “The Maestro in Miami: Though he will soon turn 70, New World Symphony Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas is playing for the future”
    Please click the link below to read the article, which starts on page 150
    Miami Herald INDULGE, Jane Wooldridge, January 2015{

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    08 Mar 15 INTERVIEW
    MTT in conversation with Mark Pullinger

    Playing the hall like an instrument: MTT on life and touring with the LSO.
    Mark Pullinger, Bachtrack, 8 March 2015

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    16 Mar 15 MTT's 70th Birthday Concerts in London
    London Symphony Orchestra, Barbican Hall

    “Michael Tilson Thomas is in town to celebrate his 70th birthday. And he’s with old friends – he’s been working with the London Symphony since 1970, including six years as principal conductor.”
    Gavin Dixon, The Arts Desk, 13 March 2015

    “No British orchestra can mimic an American accent as well as the LSO. In the first half of last night’s concert, led by American conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, that talent for sassiness and full-throated expressiveness was fully displayed. The second was at the opposite pole, tragic and weighty, a contrast so brutal that even a 20-minute interval couldn’t soften it.”
    Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph, 13 March 2015

    “Ahead of its US tour with Michael Tilson Thomas, the London Symphony Orchestra flexed its muscles in a display of orchestral strength on home turf in the Barbican.”
    Mark Pullinger,, 16 March 2015

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    23 Mar 15 MTT & London Symphony Orchestra
    Tour of USA

    “They’re having fun, too — I haven’t seen an orchestra enjoy itself like this in some time.”
    David Allen, New York Times, 19 March 2015

    While some may dread reaching the age of 70, Michael Tilson Thomas apparently revels in it. After all, this, for most conductors, is early middle age. Mr. Tilson Thomas in particular has expanded his Biblical “three score and ten” into three-thousand scores and more. The conductor has become the master of so many styles that each performance is like a new revelation.”
    Harry Rolnick,, 19 March 2015

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    25 Apr 15 New World Symphony / Michael Tilson Thomas
    Carnegie Hall, New York

    “The New World Symphony, a wonderful collection of youthful musicians training for symphonic careers, brought a long, uncompromisingly arduous programme to Carnegie Hall on Tuesday. Obviously inspired by a pair of superstars on duty — Michael Tilson Thomas and Anne-Sophie Mutter — the players reaped ovations at the close of every movement. Happiness reigned on both sides of the stage apron.”

    To read the full review please click the link below

    Financial Times, Martin Bernheimer, 29 April 2015

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    16 May 15 JOHN CAGE tribute: 16 May 2015
    MTT / San Francisco Symphony

    “San Francisco Symphony interprets John Cage, with great results”
    Los Angeles Times, Mark Swed, 17 May 2015

    “Michael Tilson Thomas led a celebration of the work of the master of musical provocation”
    Financial Times, Allan Ulrich, 18 May 2015

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    10 Jun 15 BEETHOVEN Missa Solemnis (semi-staged), June 2015
    Davies Symphony Hall

    “The orchestra sounded great: lithe, responsive to Tilson Thomas’s eager gestures, as lights pulsed and glowed in response overhead.”
    Washington Post, Anne Midgette, 13 June 2015

    “The greatness of Michael Tilson Thomas’ multimedia treatment of the “Missa,” which he introduced to local audiences in a largely thrilling San Francisco Symphony concert Wednesday night, lies in the expansive cunning with which he opens out those strands for the listener. By deploying the full expanse of Davies Symphony Hall and ingeniously redistributing some of the vocal assignments, Thomas injects a wonderful sense of spaciousness into the Beethovenian landscape. Add to that a performance of fervor and power by the orchestra and a superb army of choral and solo singers, and the result was an evening whose finest moments cast new light on a work that can too often seem daunting”

    San Francisco Chronicle, Joshua Kosman, 11 June 2015

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    27 Aug 15 Edinburgh Festival 2015
    Usher Hall
    SCHOENBERG Theme and Variations for Orchestra
    J. ADAMS Absolute Jest (SLSQ)
    MAHLER Symphony No. 1
    “One almost needs sunglasses when listening to the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) as their distinctive sound is so bright and dazzling. Together with conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, the orchestra delivered a superlative reading of Mahler’s Symphony No 1 with the horn and trumpet sections easily stealing the show. The highlight though was the funereal transformation of the children’s song, Frère Jacques into the minor key making for a sinister “round” that eerily drifted through the different sections of the orchestra.”



    IVES  Decoration Day
    BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto no. 4 (Yuja Wang)
    TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 5

    “After 20 years at the helm of the San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas commands his players like the long-standing captain of a great ocean liner.The quality of orchestral sound, from the burnished unanimity of the strings to the distinctive piquancy and precision of the wind and brass, was to die for. And it allowed Tilson Thomas to shape the frenetic spirit of the Ives with an intoxicating mix of impressionistic beauty and crisp explosions of colour and wit.”

    The Scotsman/Ken Walton

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    31 Aug 15 BBC Proms 2015
    Royal Albert Hall


    SCHOENBERG  Theme and Variations for Orchestra
    COWELL Piano Concerto (Jeremy Denk)
    MAHLER Symphony No. 1
    “It was Mahler’s First Symphony that showcased the rapport this conductor and orchestra have built up during Tilson Thomas’s 20 years as music director. The melodic lines tumbled out in one long, easy flow, the violins sounding sweet, the trumpets very prominent from their position above the rest, but still part of the blend. There was no grandeur, no posturing in Tilson Thomas’s interpretation, unless you count a slight underlining of the radiant final climax; the second movement had an unforced boisterousness, and the funeral march of the third dissolved into a series of tender, half-remembered songs. No west coast brashness here, just a golden, late-summer, Californian glow.”

    The Guardian/Erica Jeal


    SCHOENBERG  Theme and Variations for Orchestra
    COWELL Piano Concerto (Jeremy Denk)
    MAHLER Symphony No. 1
    “Pianist Jeremy Denk and the San Francisco Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas’s direction gave this work (Cowell’s Piano Concerto) the best possible run, and it really is extraordinary. One might have expected the result to be shambolic, but the reverse was the case: with the orchestra playing tonally and the piano in seeming opposition, the result was a highly organised and strikingly lyrical work.”
    “This was the first of two Proms by the San Francisco Symphony, who further showed their mettle with Schoenberg’s deceptively subtle Theme and Variations Opus 43b and with a heart-warmingly resonant performance of Mahler’s Symphony No 1.”

    The Independent/Michael Church

    IVES Decoration Day
    BARTOK Piano Concerto No 2 (Yuja Wang)
    BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 3
    “Michael Tilson Thomas and his San Francisco players opened their second Prom with an American classic: Charles Ives’s Decoration Day… Its overall mood is one of ruminative, misty-eyed nostalgia – something perfectly captured in this sensitive performance, as notable for the unflawed sheen of the San Francisco string tone as for the delicacy and distinctive character of the many small solos offered up by the woodwind and brass.”
    “Once David Wallis Reeves’s showbizzy Second Regiment Connecticut National Guard March got under way, Tilson Thomas was in his element, as he was, too, leading the orchestra through the vibrant, complex and often fiercely modernist gestures of Bartók’s Second Piano Concerto.”

    The Guardian/George Hall

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    29 Mar 16 Soundbox 26/3/2016
    Davies Hall San Francisco

    “With Tilson Thomas guiding the audience on a path from Gregorian chant to Latin Samba, it was an engaging lineup, just the kind of musical tasting menu that this conductor excels at serving up. His musical insights and amusing asides, delivered with a showman’s verve, illuminated each piece.”

    “Tilson Thomas led an instrumental ensemble in a zesty performance …(of Les Elemens by Rebel) on the main stage…”
    “Tilson Thomas introduced Olivier Messiaen’s “Couleurs de la cite celeste” (Colors of the celestial city), calling it “a rain forest of a piece” and launching an energized reading of the French composer’s score. With Orion Weiss as the excellent piano soloist, the orchestra’s percussionists, playing bells, gongs, drums, and mallet instruments, made the most of the work’s musical depictions of nature, birdsong, and colors linked to sound. It was thrillingly vibrant, at once otherworldly and down to earth.”

    Contra Costa Times/Georgia Rowe

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    04 Apr 16 Copland / Schumann 01 April 2016
    San Francisco Symphony
    “Michael Tilson Thomas conducted Copland and Schumann with startling panache.”
    “The Symphony No. 2 is the penultimate entry in Tilson Thomas’s traversal of the Schumann cycle (recorded live) and the one that offers most pitfalls for the interpreter, but the conductor’s intellectual and technical grasp yielded a pulsing, inspired reading. Details that seem diffuse in other hands reacquired their place in Schumann’s scheme. The orchestral textures and the voicing were models of clarity, dynamics were astutely judged, while the conductor let the supreme lyricism of the Adagio unfurl almost organically. The East Coast has a treat in store.”

    The Financial Times/Allan Ulrich

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    06 Apr 16 Mahler Das Lied von der Erde
    Davies Hall San Francisco

    “Tilson Thomas’s own 2007 recording of Das Lied, as it happens, is one of the most moving on record – perhaps the best performance of all in his massive “Mahler Project” – and that was reason enough to trek up to San Francisco to hear him tackle it again at Davies Hall with the San Francisco Symphony Apr. 6.”

    “Everything was painstakingly inflected, the rhythms swung firmly, the introverted passages flowed lushly and deeply with dark undercurrents, the SFS made a glorious, minutely-controlled helter-skelter out of the central escapade of “Von der Schönheit.””
    “She (Sasha Cook) grew even more impassioned and commanding as “Der Abschied” unfolded, with MTT hurtling headlong through the more emotional passages without spilling over into schmaltz, making a marvelously suspenseful transition into the final magical stanza.”
    “And there, in the final repeated words, “Ewig … ewig,” Cooke and Tilson Thomas levitated ever higher, drawing the music out to such an otherworldly degree…You can’t say anything after such a performance, and shouldn’t even try. Just walk out into the unseasonably warm San Franciscan night, caught in Mahler’s grip.”

    Classical Voice America/Richard S. Ginell

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    25 May 16 Bernstein On the Town
    Davies Hall San Francisco (May/June 2016)
    “What Michael Tilson Thomas and a cast of wonderfully gifted singers have created is nothing less than a bolt of pure concentrated euphoria, one of the zippiest and most delightful theatrical presentations the Symphony has put forward in years — and yes, that includes the previous “On the Town” from 20 years back, which marked the first U.S. performances of the uncut score.On Wednesday, Leonard Bernstein’s jazzy, hyperventilating music sounded even more brilliant and expansive than ever.”
    “What came through most strikingly in Thomas’ lively, loosey-goosey conducting was the way Bernstein’s rhythmic palette takes its cues from the rhythms of an urban landscape — the jolts of the subway, the breathless energy of the crowds — being gulped up whole.”
    “In a performance this sure-footed, you can feel all the work’s emotional cross-currents in their full richness.That sure-footedness was a result of Thomas’ remarkable gifts — not witnessed here quite often enough — as a theatrical conductor, and of the vivacious, rhythmically alert work by the Symphony players.”

    Joshua Kosman/SFGate

    “What worked most of all was Tilson Thomas’ conducting. This is what you could never get on Broadway. He found the richest implications in Bernstein’s orchestral writing, whether jazz or neo-Prokofiev. Who knew that there were even Mahlerian echoes in a score written long before Bernstein had ever conducted Mahler?”
    “It has always seemed impossible, even for Bernstein, for it all be to be taken together, as Tilson Thomas’ latest “On the Town” finally does. His inspiration was in inviting the leads from the excellent cast of singers and dancers in the 2014 revival that ran on Broadway.”

    LA Times/Mark Swed

    “…his (Tilson Thomas’s) semi-staged ventures into musical theatre have generated some of the conductor’s greatest triumphs with the orchestra; nobody can forget his seismic Britten centennial Peter Grimes. More commercial musical projects, especially those composed by Tilson Thomas’s mentor, Leonard Bernstein, have inspired a particularly acute response.”
    “Hearing Tilson Thomas conduct the many dance episodes in the score with a lushness and urgency you do not hear from the standard Broadway pit orchestra may have well been the most cherishable element of the evening.”

    The Financial Times/Allan Ulrich

    “Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony made the point with considerable style and flair Wednesday evening at Davies Symphony Hall, reviving Leonard Bernstein’s exuberant 1944 musical in a semistaged production that felt about as fully realized as this great American classic can get.”
    “At Wednesday’s performance, which repeats through Sunday afternoon, Tilson Thomas was at the center of a production distinguished by dazzling musical episodes. Leading a well-calibrated orchestra and a cast comprised of principals from the show’s 2014 Broadway revival, a handful of opera artists and the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, the conductor brought the show’s thrilling dance sequences, jazzy interludes, comic songs and wistful ballads into high relief, savoring every rhythmic nuance and snappy turn of phrase along the way.”

    Mercury News/Georgia Rowe>

    “The orchestra performed the score splendidly, capturing the music’s jazz-inflected verve, balladic sweetness, and parodic slants
    On the Town, with its Aristotelian unities of place and time, is both eternal and evanescent, timeless and completely of its era, with wartime America in a desperate, exuberant embrace of the unknown.Wednesday’s San Francisco Symphony performance caught a wide swatch of all that. For Thomas it was another proud instance of stretching the envelope and proving what an orchestra can do when it thinks big and tries the improbable.”

    SF Classical Voice/Steven Winn ttps://

    “The great luxury of seeing this musical at the symphony is, of course, hearing the music (including a number usually cut). It’s rare for musicals to be played by full orchestras, especially of this caliber, and Bernstein’s rich writing shines in such a setting. The songs range from classical to jazzy in style, with lots of opportunities for the brass of the San Francisco Symphony to show off their sturdy tone and impeccable timing…conductor Michael Tilson Thomas kept the pace dramatic and the sections well coordinated. The long orchestral introduction to Coney Island in the second act was especially masterful, with a catchy beat handed off cleanly between the brass, percussion, and strings.”
    “This is one helluva show!”

    Bachtrack/Ilana Walder

    “Anchors Aweigh! When does a Broadway show get a pit band made up of first-class symphony musicians? Easy answer: when Michael Tilson Thomas produces the show with the San Francisco Symphony.  “
    “With MTT at the helm, the starry cast of singer-dancers, and the orchestra playing with lush and vibrant sound, the show scores on all counts, and the chorus, all wearing sailor hats, sings lustily and obviously enjoys their foray onto the Great White Way.”

    Bay City News/Caroline Crawford

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    07 Sep 16 Reich/Rossini/Puccini/Mozart Season Opening Gala 8th September 2016
    San Francisco Symphony/Davies Hall
    “Wednesday’s sleekly enjoyable program suggested that Thomas has this treacherous genre down to a science.”
    “Steve Reich…was on hand to hear Thomas lead the orchestra in a fluid, strong-boned rendition of his “Three Movements.” And the overture to Rossini’s “William Tell” — which may be the best 10-minute encapsulation there is of that composer’s extraordinary creative genius — opened the program in a performance of vigor and grace.”
    “There was something, in other words, for everyone, and all of it done splendidly. Let me take a moment to kiss my fingers like a French chef.”
    “But the part of the evening that inspired the most anticipation for the season to come was the Rossini, delivered with a wonderful blend of clarity and dramatic vigor…Thomas lent the performance much-needed depth. This was the kind of music making that lingers on after the confetti has all been cleared away.”

    San Francisco Chronicle/Joshua Kosman

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    11 Sep 16 Steve Reich Celebratory Concert of Steve Reich
    San Francisco Symphony/Davies Hall September 2016
    “We were something like three minutes into the Steve Reich concert when the ecstasy began to take hold.”
    “The concert was presented by the San Francisco Symphony, with Michael Tilson Thomas — who has been an ardent and impassioned champion of Reich’s music for more than 40 years — serving as the genial emcee.”
    “And there was a gorgeous and touching surprise addition to the program, as these two longtime collaborators took the stage to perform Reich’s simple yet fertile rhythmic etude, “Clapping Music.” It was not the most disciplined rendition you’ll ever hear, but it had the warmth and easygoing charm of two old friends swapping yarns on a porch — which, in its way, was not too far from the truth.”

    SFS Chronicle/Joshua Kosman

    “Celebration was the order of the day in this all-Reich concert marking the great American composer’s 80th birthday. With Tilson Thomas acting as congenial host, the predominant mood was one of exuberance.”
    “There was one unannounced performance: Partway through the program. Reich and Tilson Thomas came onstage and sat side by side to perform the composer’s “Clapping Music.” Scored for four hands clapping, it was quintessential Reich: fast, propulsive, and rhythmically engaging, it made a terrific bonus track to a memorable evening.”

    The Mercury News/Georgia Rowe

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    14 Sep 16 Beethoven/Hadyn/Sibelius San Francisco Symphony/September 2016
    San Francisco Symphony/Davies Hall
    “Haydn’s Symphony No. 69 in C, subtitled “Laudon,” began the evening in a burst of sheer exuberance.”
    “With the onset of the scherzo (Beethoven Symphony no.5), though..things got real in a hurry. The coiled tension in that movement verged on the unbearable, and the potent blasts of the brass — arriving on the scene to herald the finale like some gleaming rescue squad — brought a flood of relief.”
    “In between comes the heart of this wonderful symphony — an extended, ruminative dance that keeps shifting emphasis and tone in an elusive play of harmony and color. The orchestra’s rendition was well-nigh perfect.”

    San Francisco Chronicle/Joshua Kosman

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    04 Jan 17 CD Debussy: Images, Jeux, etc
    San Francisco Symphony
    “These new versions, though, with the bonus of Debussy’s own orchestral arrangement of his piano piece La Plus Que Lente, not only benefit from superlative state-of-the-art sound but from the astonishing rapport that Tilson Thomas has developed with the San Francisco orchestra during his 20 years as its music director.”

    Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 8 December 2016

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    04 Feb 17 Webern/Berg/Schubert 4 February 2017
    New World Symphony Orchestra, New World Center, Miami
    “Tilson Thomas’ immaculate and supple detailing and instrumental balance drew out Webern’s delicate orchestral colors. The concluding fade-out of harp and celesta was exquisitely assayed.  …  Tilson Thomas brought Viennese lushness and shrieking power to Berg’s dramatic writing with the orchestra playing in peak form. …  Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 in C Major (The “Great”) was dubbed a “symphony of heavenly length” by Robert Schumann but there was nothing long-winded about Tilson Thomas’ performance. … Tilson Thomas’ taut tempo was quite exhilarating. … With Tilson Thomas at his interpretive best, the music of both Viennese schools was vividly brought to life.”

    Lawrence Budmen, South Florida Classical Review, 5 February 2017

Keeping Score

Founded by Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Keeping Score provides innovative, thought-provoking classical music content on PBS television, the radio, the web, and through an education program, a national model for classroom arts integration for teachers.

Through nine one-hour documentaries, Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony trace the lives of eight influential composers from around the world. Michael Tilson Thomas explores the motivations and influences behind major classical works by Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Copland, Stravinsky, Berlioz, Ives, Shostakovich, and Mahler. Each episode is accompanied by a one-hour concert program by the San Francisco Symphony.

For more information please visit the Keeping Score website.