Michael Tilson Thomas today announced plans to conclude his tenure as Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony at the end of the 19/20 season, which marks both his 75th birthday season and the 25th anniversary season of the MTT-SFS partnership. Following the 19/20 season, MTT will assume the title of Music Director Laureate, and will continue to conduct the orchestra a minimum of four weeks each season, in addition to other special projects.
MTT made his San Francisco Symphony debut in 1974, conducting Mahler’s Symphony No. 9, and became their 11th Music Director in September 1995. He is currently the longest-tenured music director at any major American orchestra.
In anticipation of this special 25th anniversary season, the next two years will feature signature recording projects, festivals, commissioning of new works, staged productions, a two-week tour of the US in 18/19, and a three-week European tour in 19/20.
MTT said: “Looking back over these decades I am filled with gratitude for the extraordinary artistic partnership I have had with the members of the Orchestra and for the warm and generous style of music making we have shared with all of our audiences. Having been a Music Director of an orchestra for most of my adult life and as I approach my 75th birthday, I feel this is an appropriate moment to set aside some of my administrative responsibilities and begin a new period of creative possibilities. Fortunately my new and unique relationship as Music Director Laureate of the San Francisco Symphony will allow me to continue to work with my esteemed colleagues for years to come on projects close to my heart.”
A lasting legacy
“Under Michael Tilson Thomas’ leadership, the worldwide artistic reputation of the Orchestra has experienced a trajectory of unprecedented growth. His vision, energy, and ideas have excited and engaged both new and long-time audiences and have attracted 50 extraordinary musicians who have joined the Orchestra during his tenure. The MTT-SFS partnership is unparalleled and will only continue to strengthen over time.” SFS Executive Director Mark C. Hanson
MTT has, over the past 23 years, built a lasting legacy with the orchestra, being praised for innovative programming, enhancing the orchestral concert experience with multimedia and creative staging, showcasing the works of American composers, and attracting new audiences to orchestral music. He has championed works by American music pioneers, formed commissioning relationships with composers including John Adams, Robin Holloway, Meredith Monk and Steve Reich, and established new bonds with young composers such as Samuel Adams, Mason Bates and Ted Hearne.
Guided by MTT’s lifelong commitment to music education, the SFS has significantly expanded its education and community programs to reach more than 100,000 children, students, educators, and families annually. Its Adventures in Music programme now ensures that every child in grades 1–5 in San Francisco’s public elementary schools receives free and equitable access to music education for five consecutive years; while their landmark Keeping Score PBS television series and multimedia project – designed to make classical music more accessible to people of all ages and musical backgrounds – has been viewed by more than six million Americans.
Together, MTT and the SFS have released over 35 recordings, with their most recent due for release on 10 November 2017. Recorded live at Davies Symphony Hall over the course of the 2015/16 season, the disc features Schumann’s complete symphonies, Nos. 1-4.